The poleward shift of storm tracks under global warming: A Lagrangian perspective

T. Tamarin, Y. Kaspi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Comprehensive models of climate change projections have shown that the latitudinal band of extratropical storms will likely shift poleward under global warming. Here we study this poleward shift from a Lagrangian storm perspective, through simulations with an idealized general circulation model. By employing a feature tracking technique to identify the storms, we demonstrate that the poleward motion of individual cyclones increases with increasing global mean temperature. A potential vorticity tendency analysis of the cyclone composites highlights two leading mechanisms responsible for enhanced poleward motion: nonlinear horizontal advection and diabatic heating associated with latent heat release. Our results imply that for a 4 K rise in the global mean surface temperature, the mean poleward displacement of cyclones increases by about 0.85° of latitude, and this occurs in addition to a poleward shift of about 0.6° in their mean genesis latitude. Changes in cyclone tracks may have a significant impact on midlatitude climate, especially in localized storm tracks such as the Atlantic and Pacific storm tracks, which may exhibit a more poleward deflected shape.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10,666-10,674
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number20
StatePublished - 28 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Lagrangian
  • climate change
  • cyclone tracking
  • storm tracks

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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