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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Monitoring and understanding changes in extremes: Extratropical storms, winds, and waves


Weather and climate extremes profoundly affect society and the environment, resulting in the loss of life, property, and habitat. The extremes discussed herein are causally related: extratropical storms account for the majority of extreme winds during the cold season, and extreme waves are largely driven by extreme winds. For assessment purposes, extremes are defined based on meteorological principles rather than physical destructiveness. Nevertheless, each of these extremes can result in substantial societal impacts. Estimates of extratropical storm activity primarily derive from two sources: atmospheric reanalyses and pressure-based indices. Reanalysis products have the advantage of uniform space and time fields on which to locate pressure minima or vorticity maxima, facilitating the identification of storm tracks. In contrast, pressure-based indices have the advantage of being directly computed from in situ observations, which often extend further back in time than most reanalyses.

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