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El Niño–Southern Oscillation’s Impact on Atlantic Basin Hurricanes and U.S. Landfalls

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado
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Abstract

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has been shown in many previous papers to impact seasonal levels of Atlantic basin tropical cyclone activity. This paper revisits this relationship by examining a longer period (1900–2009) than has been examined in earlier analyses. Alterations in large-scale climate parameters, especially vertical wind shear, are shown to be the primary reasons why tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic is reduced in El Niño years. Climate signals are found to be somewhat stronger in the Caribbean than for the remainder of the tropical Atlantic. The focus of the paper then shifts to U.S. landfalls, confirming previous research that U.S. landfalls are reduced in El Niño years. The reduction in landfall frequency is greater along the Florida peninsula and East Coast than it is along the Gulf Coast, especially for major hurricanes. The probability of each state being impacted by a hurricane and major hurricane is given for El Niño, La Niña, and neutral years. The most dramatic probability differences between warm and cold ENSO events lie along the East Coast and, in particular, the state of North Carolina. The relationship between ENSO and the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) is also examined. In general, the negative phase of the AMO is characterized by a stronger ENSO modulation signal than a positive phase of the AMO.

Corresponding author address: Philip J. Klotzbach, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523. Email: philk@atmos.colostate.edu

Abstract

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has been shown in many previous papers to impact seasonal levels of Atlantic basin tropical cyclone activity. This paper revisits this relationship by examining a longer period (1900–2009) than has been examined in earlier analyses. Alterations in large-scale climate parameters, especially vertical wind shear, are shown to be the primary reasons why tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic is reduced in El Niño years. Climate signals are found to be somewhat stronger in the Caribbean than for the remainder of the tropical Atlantic. The focus of the paper then shifts to U.S. landfalls, confirming previous research that U.S. landfalls are reduced in El Niño years. The reduction in landfall frequency is greater along the Florida peninsula and East Coast than it is along the Gulf Coast, especially for major hurricanes. The probability of each state being impacted by a hurricane and major hurricane is given for El Niño, La Niña, and neutral years. The most dramatic probability differences between warm and cold ENSO events lie along the East Coast and, in particular, the state of North Carolina. The relationship between ENSO and the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) is also examined. In general, the negative phase of the AMO is characterized by a stronger ENSO modulation signal than a positive phase of the AMO.

Corresponding author address: Philip J. Klotzbach, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523. Email: philk@atmos.colostate.edu

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