Physical models of extreme marine weather events caused by climate change in the Arctic zone in the first half of the 21st century

Climate change in the Arctic zone is closely related to episodes of unfavorable weather conditions, in particular an abnormally strong wind. On the one hand, extreme cyclones, which in winter invade the Arctic zone from the North Atlantic, increase the flow of heat and moisture to high latitudes, and cause a reduction in the ice cover. On the other hand, the decrease in the sea ice extent causes a change in the climatology of polar lows (PLs) or polar mesocyclones, intense atmospheric vortices formed during incursions of cold air from the central regions of the Arctic or from land in the ocean region free from ice. Reducing their number in the western sector of the Arctic due to changes in atmospheric circulation is accompanied by their appearance over the seas in the Eastern sector of the Arctic, which were previously covered with ice. For arctic storms, intense precipitation is typical, sharply reducing visibility, high waves and extreme storm loads, which pose a great threat to commercial and passenger navigation, as well as for oil production from offshore platforms. Similar episodes of unfavorable weather conditions due to their rapid development are poorly predicted by modern models.

Project aims
The project is aimed at the development and verification of physical models of marine extreme weather events in the Arctic zone, associated with climate change in the first half of the 21st century.

Expected project resultsAs a result of the project, a multilayered through-description of the properties of extreme weather phenomena in high latitudes at various scales will be proposed. In this case, the features and unknown properties of elementary physical phenomena in the boundary layers of the atmosphere and the ocean will be determined at low temperatures, including taking into account the complex dynamics associated with the formation of sea spray and foam during the surface wave breakings in strong winds, as well as the presence of precipitation and ice cover. New parametrizations of turbulent flows and roughness parameters for momentum, heat and moisture will be proposed taking into account the complex rheology due to multiphase and phase transitions (evaporation and condensation, crystallization and fusion). Specifics of surface waves in Arctic conditions under extreme wind will be revealed, it will be clarified how ice of different cohesion affects surface waves, and under what conditions waves can destroy ice. Based on the new models of turbulence closure and parametrization of turbulent flows, new tools will be created for approximating turbulence and the planetary boundary layer in numerical models of weather and climate forecasting. The parametrization of turbulent flows and the roughness of heat and momentum developed in the project will be applied to modeling atmospheric phenomena using mesoscale models of atmospheric circulation and to assess the climatic effects associated with extreme weather events in the Arctic zone.

The new fundamental results of the project are primarily related to the elucidation of the unknown physical properties of small-scale processes in low-temperature conditions responsible for the transport processes between the ocean and the atmosphere in strong winds. From an applied point of view, the expected results are aimed at improving the predictability of the Arctic climate and episodes of adverse weather, and therefore, to improve the safety of Arctic development.

Duration of the project: 2018 onwards

Project coordination & contact information

Project partners


In early 2018, the Government of Russian Federation adopted the state program “Socio-economic development of the Arctic zone belonging to Russian Federation for the period up to 2020 “. One of its major priorities is “improving the system of state management of socio-economic development including through spreading out fundamental and applied scientific research in the Arctic.” In February 2018, Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) issued a call for proposals on “Fundamental Problems in Exploration and Development of the Russian Arctic: Natural and Social Environment”. The projects selected for financial support aim to assess what changes are expected in the arctic environments in view of the planned economic activities and ongoing natural processes; and what can be social consequences of these changes. Results from the assessment will provide scientific basis for environmentally and socially safe human activities in the Arctic. This project is one of the funded projects of this call.