Understanding and predicting changes in storm tracks over longer time scales is a challenging problem, particularly in the North Atlantic. This is due in part to the complex range of forcings (land–sea contrast, orography, sea surface temperatures, etc.) that combine to produce the structure of the storm track. The impact of land–sea contrast and midlatitude orography on the North Atlantic storm track is investigated through a hierarchy of GCM simulations using idealized and “semirealistic” boundary conditions in a high-resolution version of the Hadley Centre atmosphere model (HadAM3). This framework captures the large-scale essence of features such as the North and South American continents, Eurasia, and the Rocky Mountains, enabling the results to be applied more directly to realistic modeling situations than was possible with previous idealized studies. The physical processes by which the forcing mechanisms impact the large-scale flow and the midlatitude storm tracks are discussed. The characteristics of the North American continent are found to be very important in generating the structure of the North Atlantic storm track. In particular, the southwest–northeast tilt in the upper tropospheric jet produced by southward deflection of the westerly flow incident on the Rocky Mountains leads to enhanced storm development along an axis close to that of the continent’s eastern coastline. The approximately triangular shape of North America also enables a cold pool of air to develop in the northeast, intensifying the surface temperature contrast across the eastern coastline, consistent with further enhancements of baroclinicity and storm growth along the same axis
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