Interannual variability of high-wind occurrence over the North Atlantic is investigated based on observations from the satellite-borne Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I). Despite no wind direction being included, SSM/I data capture major features of high-wind frequency (HWF) quite well. Climatology maps show that HWF is highest in winter and is close to zero in summer. Remarkable interannual variability of HWF is found in the vicinity of the Gulf Stream, over open sea south of Iceland, and off Cape Farewell, Greenland. On interannual scales, HWF south of Iceland has a significant positive correlation with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). An increase in the mean westerlies and storm-track intensity during a positive NAO event cause HWF to increase in this region. In the vicinity of the Gulf Stream, HWF is significantly correlated with the difference between sea surface temperature and surface air temperature (SST 2 SAT), indicative of the importance of atmospheric instability. Cross-frontal wind and an SST gradient are important for the instability of the marine atmospheric boundary layer on the warm flank of the SST front. Off Cape Farewell, highwind occurs in both westerly and easterly tip jets. Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) data show that variability in westerly (easterly) HWF off Cape Farewell is positively (negatively) correlated with the NAO.
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