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ESRL/PSD Seminar Series

Super Storm Desmond: A process-based assessment

Tom Matthews
School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University, UK


“Super” Storm Desmond broke meteorological and hydrological records during a record warm year in the British-Irish Isles (BI). The severity of the storm may be a harbinger of expected changes to regional hydroclimate as global temperatures continue to rise. Here, we adopt a process-based approach to investigate the potency of Desmond, and explore the extent to which climate change may have been a contributory factor. Through an Eulerian assessment of water vapour flux we determine that Desmond was accompanied by an Atmospheric River (AR) of severity unprecedented since at least 1979, on account of both high atmospheric humidity and high wind speeds. Lagrangian air-parcel tracking and moisture attribution techniques show that long-term warming of North Atlantic sea surface temperatures (SSTs) has significantly increased the chance of such high humidity in ARs in the vicinity of the BI. We conclude that, given exactly the same dynamical conditions associated with Desmond, the likelihood of such an intense AR has already increased by 25% due to long-term climate change. However, our analysis represents a first-order assessment, and further research is needed into the controls influencing AR dynamics.

Thursday Jan 18, 2018
2:00 pm
Seminar Coordinator: Robbie Desen (

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