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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 18, issue 11 | Copyright
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 2991-3006, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 12 Nov 2018

Research article | 12 Nov 2018

The role of serial European windstorm clustering for extreme seasonal losses as determined from multi-centennial simulations of high-resolution global climate model data

Matthew D. K. Priestley1, Helen F. Dacre1, Len C. Shaffrey2, Kevin I. Hodges1,2, and Joaquim G. Pinto3 Matthew D. K. Priestley et al.
  • 1Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, UK
  • 2NCAS, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, UK
  • 3Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany

Abstract. Extratropical cyclones are the most damaging natural hazard to affect western Europe. Serial clustering occurs when many intense cyclones affect one specific geographic region in a short period of time which can potentially lead to very large seasonal losses. Previous studies have shown that intense cyclones may be more likely to cluster than less intense cyclones. We revisit this topic using a high-resolution climate model with the aim to determine how important clustering is for windstorm-related losses.

The role of windstorm clustering is investigated using a quantifiable metric (storm severity index, SSI) that is based on near-surface meteorological variables (10m wind speed) and is a good proxy for losses. The SSI is used to convert a wind footprint into losses for individual windstorms or seasons. 918 years of a present-day ensemble of coupled climate model simulations from the High-Resolution Global Environment Model (HiGEM) are compared to ERA-Interim reanalysis. HiGEM is able to successfully reproduce the wintertime North Atlantic/European circulation, and represent the large-scale circulation associated with the serial clustering of European windstorms. We use two measures to identify any changes in the contribution of clustering to the seasonal windstorm loss as a function of return period.

Above a return period of 3 years, the accumulated seasonal loss from HiGEM is up to 20% larger than the accumulated seasonal loss from a set of random resamples of the HiGEM data. Seasonal losses are increased by 10%–20% relative to randomized seasonal losses at a return period of 200 years. The contribution of the single largest event in a season to the accumulated seasonal loss does not change with return period, generally ranging between 25% and 50%.

Given the realistic dynamical representation of cyclone clustering in HiGEM, and comparable statistics to ERA-Interim, we conclude that our estimation of clustering and its dependence on the return period will be useful for informing the development of risk models for European windstorms, particularly for longer return periods.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
This study investigates the role of the clustering of extratropical cyclones in driving wintertime wind losses across a large European region. To do this over 900 years of climate model data have been used and analysed. The main conclusion of this work is that cyclone clustering acts to increase wind-driven losses in the winter by 10 %–20 % when compared to the losses from a random series of cyclones, with this specifically being for the higher loss years.
This study investigates the role of the clustering of extratropical cyclones in driving...