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ENSO’s Impact on Regional U.S. Hurricane Activity

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  • 1 Center for Ocean–Atmospheric Prediction Studies, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
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Abstract

Regional variations in North Atlantic hurricane landfall frequency along the U.S. coastline are examined in relation to the phase of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). ENSO warm (cold) phases are known to reduce (increase) hurricane activity in the North Atlantic basin as a whole. Using best-track data from the U.S. National Hurricane Center, regional analysis reveals that ENSO cold-phase landfall frequencies are only slightly larger than neutral-phase landfall frequencies along the Florida and Gulf coasts. However, for the East Coast, from Georgia to Maine, a significant decrease in landfall frequency occurs during the neutral ENSO phase as compared to the cold phase. Along the East Coast, two or more major (category 3 or above) hurricanes never made landfall in the observational record (1900–2004) during a single hurricane season classified as an ENSO neutral or warm phase.

Corresponding author address: Mr. Shawn R. Smith, Center for Ocean–Atmospheric Prediction Studies, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-2840. Email: smith@coaps.fsu.edu

Abstract

Regional variations in North Atlantic hurricane landfall frequency along the U.S. coastline are examined in relation to the phase of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). ENSO warm (cold) phases are known to reduce (increase) hurricane activity in the North Atlantic basin as a whole. Using best-track data from the U.S. National Hurricane Center, regional analysis reveals that ENSO cold-phase landfall frequencies are only slightly larger than neutral-phase landfall frequencies along the Florida and Gulf coasts. However, for the East Coast, from Georgia to Maine, a significant decrease in landfall frequency occurs during the neutral ENSO phase as compared to the cold phase. Along the East Coast, two or more major (category 3 or above) hurricanes never made landfall in the observational record (1900–2004) during a single hurricane season classified as an ENSO neutral or warm phase.

Corresponding author address: Mr. Shawn R. Smith, Center for Ocean–Atmospheric Prediction Studies, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-2840. Email: smith@coaps.fsu.edu

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