Modulation of North Atlantic Polar Low Activity and Associated Flow Patterns by Sudden Stratospheric Warmings

Chuan Chieh Chang, Zhuo Wang, John Walsh, PATRICK J. STOLL

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Polar lows (PLs) are intense maritime mesoscale cyclones that can pose hazards to coastal communities and marine operation in the Arctic. This study examines the impacts of sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs) on PL activity in the subarctic North Atlantic. The 20 days following SSWs are characterized by tropospheric circulation anomalies resembling the negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation. PL activity decreases significantly over the Labrador Sea, which can be attributed to the infrequent occurrence of low static stability and strong environmental baroclinicity, as well as reduced surface turbulent heat fluxes. These results suggest that a skillful prediction of SSWs can improve the extendedrange forecast of PL activity over the Labrador Sea. For the Nordic seas, the results imply that the spatial structure of an SSW event is important for the PL modulation through different tropospheric circulation patterns. Situations with increased PL frequency in the Nordic seas are characterized by SSWs centered close to northern Greenland occurring over a smaller area, and a tropospheric response featuring enhanced cold-air outbreaks over the Norwegian Sea. Conversely, PL activity is suppressed over the Nordic seas when the SSW favors the formation of a tropospheric anticyclone above Greenland and Scandinavia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4013-4026
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


  • Polar lows
  • Stratosphere-troposphere coupling
  • Stratospheric circulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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