(Paper) Higher ocean wind speeds during marine cold air outbreaks **

Scientific documentation

Kolstad, E. W. (2017), Higher ocean wind speeds during marine cold air outbreaks. Q.J.R. Meteorol. Soc.. doi:10.1002/qj.3068

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Marine cold air outbreaks (MCAOs) are large-scale events in which cold air masses are advected over open ocean. It is well-known that these events are linked to the formation of polar lows and other mesoscale phenomena associated with high wind speeds, and that they therefore in some cases represent a hazard to maritime activities. However, it is still unknown whether MCAOs are generally conducive to higher wind speeds than normal. Here this is investigated by comparing ocean near-surface wind speeds during MCAOs in atmospheric reanalysis products with different horizontal grid spacings, along with two case-studies using a convection-permitting numerical weather prediction model. The study regions are the Labrador Sea and the Greenland–Iceland–Norwegian (GIN) Seas, where MCAOs have been shown to be important for air–sea interaction and deep water formation. One of the main findings is that wind speeds during the strongest MCAO events are higher than normal and higher than wind speeds during less severe events. Limited evidence from the case-studies suggests that reanalyses with grid spacings of more than 50 km underestimate winds driven by the large ocean–atmosphere energy fluxes during MCAOs. The peak times of MCAOs usually occur when baroclinic waves pass over the regions. Therefore, the strong wind episodes during MCAOs generally last for just a few days. However, MCAOs as defined here can persist for 50 days or more.