EGU21-7737, updated on 04 Mar 2021
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Polar Lows - Moist Baroclinic Cyclones Developing in Four Different Vertical Wind Shear Environments

Patrick Stoll1, Thomas Spengler2, and Rune Grand Graversen1
Patrick Stoll et al.
  • 1Department of Physics and Technology, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway (
  • 2Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen, and Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway

Polar lows are intense mesoscale cyclones that develop in polar marine air masses. Motivated by the large variety of their proposed intensification mechanisms, cloud structure, and ambient sub-synoptic environment, we use self-organising maps to classify polar lows.

We identify five different polar-low configurations which are characterised by the vertical wind shear vector, the change of the horizontal-wind vector with height, relative to the propagation direction. Four categories feature a strong shear with different orientations of the shear vector, whereas the fifth category contains conditions with weak shear. This confirms the relevance of a previously identified categorisation into forward and reverse-shear polar lows. We expand the categorisation with right and left-shear polar lows that propagate towards colder and warmer environments, respectively.

For the strong-shear categories, the shear vector organises the moist-baroclinic dynamics of the systems. This is apparent in the low-pressure anomaly tilting with height against the shear vector, and the main updrafts occurring along the warm front located in the forward-left direction relative to the shear vector. These main updrafts contribute to the intensification through latent-heat release and are typically associated with comma-shaped clouds.

Polar low situations with a weak shear, that often feature spirali-form clouds, occur mainly at decaying stages of the development. We thus find no evidence for hurricane-like intensification of polar lows and propose instead that spirali-form clouds are associated with a warm seclusion process.

How to cite: Stoll, P., Spengler, T., and Graversen, R. G.: Polar Lows - Moist Baroclinic Cyclones Developing in Four Different Vertical Wind Shear Environments, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7737,, 2021.

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