Objective climatology of cyclones in the Mediterranean region: a consensus view among methods with different system identification and tracking criteria

Piero Lionello, Isabel F. Trigo, Victoria Gil, Margarida L. R. Liberato, Katrin M. Nissen, Joaquim G. Pinto, Christoph C. Raible, Marco Reale, Annalisa Tanzarella, Ricardo M. Trigo, Sven Ulbrich & Uwe Ulbrich
Dynamic Meteorology and Oceanography, 68:1, 29391. doi: 10.3402/tellusa.v68.29391

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The Mediterranean storm track constitutes a well-defined branch of the North Hemisphere storm track and is characterised by small but intense features and frequent cyclogenesis. The goal of this study is to assess the level of consensus among cyclone detection and tracking methods (CDTMs), to identify robust features and to explore sources of disagreement. A set of 14 CDTMs has been applied for computing the climatology of cyclones crossing the Mediterranean region using the ERA-Interim dataset for the period 1979-2008 as common testbed. Results show large differences in actual cyclone numbers identified by different methods, but a good level of consensus on the interpretation of results regarding location, annual cycle and trends of cyclone tracks. Cyclogenesis areas such as the north-western Mediterranean, North Africa, north shore of the Levantine basin, as well as the seasonality of their maxima are robust features on which methods show a substantial agreement. Differences among methods are greatly reduced if cyclone numbers are transformed to a dimensionless index, which, in spite of disagreement on mean values and interannual variances of cyclone numbers, reveals a consensus on variability, sign and significance of trends. Further, excluding ‘weak’ and ‘slow’ cyclones from the computation of cyclone statistics improves the agreement among CDTMs. Results show significant negative trends of cyclone frequency in spring and positive trends in summer, whose contrasting effects compensate each other at annual scale, so that there is no significant long-term trend in total cyclone numbers in the Mediterranean basin in the 1979-2008 period.