Changes in Characteristics of Rapidly Intensifying Western North Pacific Tropical Cyclones Related to Climate Regime Shifts

Haikun Zhao Key Laboratory of Meteorological Disaster, Ministry of Education, and Joint International Research Laboratory of Climate and Environment Change, and Collaborative Innovation Center on Forecast and Evaluation of Meteorological Disaster, and Pacific Typhoon Research Center, and Earth System Modeling Center, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, China

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Xingyi Duan Key Laboratory of Meteorological Disaster, Ministry of Education, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, China

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G. B. Raga Centro de Ciencias de la Atmósfera, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Mexico

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Philip J. Klotzbach Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

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Abstract

A significant increase in the proportion of tropical cyclones undergoing rapid intensification at least once during their lifetime (RITCs) over the western North Pacific (WNP) is observed since 1998 when an abrupt climate regime shift occurred. Changes of large-scale atmospheric and oceanic conditions affecting TC activity are compared between two subperiods: one before and one since 1998. Results suggest that both a significant decrease in the number of TCs and a nearly unchanged number of RITCs since 1998 caused a significant increase in the frequency of RITCs. The decrease in TC numbers is likely driven by considerably increased vertical wind shear and decreased low-level vorticity. In contrast, the unchanged RITC counts and thus increased ratio of RITCs during the recent decades are largely attributed to the dominance of a more conducive ocean environment with increased TC heat potential and warmer sea surface temperature anomalies. These associated decadal changes are closely associated with the recent climate regime shift. During the recent decades with a mega–La Niña–like pattern, stronger easterly trade winds have caused increased vertical wind shear and a weakened monsoon trough, thus hampering TC formation ability over the WNP. In addition, a steeper thermocline slope that hampered the eastward migration of warm water along the equatorial Pacific has generated a more favorable thermodynamic environment supporting TC rapid intensification over the WNP.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Dr. Haikun Zhao, zhk2004y@gmail.com

Abstract

A significant increase in the proportion of tropical cyclones undergoing rapid intensification at least once during their lifetime (RITCs) over the western North Pacific (WNP) is observed since 1998 when an abrupt climate regime shift occurred. Changes of large-scale atmospheric and oceanic conditions affecting TC activity are compared between two subperiods: one before and one since 1998. Results suggest that both a significant decrease in the number of TCs and a nearly unchanged number of RITCs since 1998 caused a significant increase in the frequency of RITCs. The decrease in TC numbers is likely driven by considerably increased vertical wind shear and decreased low-level vorticity. In contrast, the unchanged RITC counts and thus increased ratio of RITCs during the recent decades are largely attributed to the dominance of a more conducive ocean environment with increased TC heat potential and warmer sea surface temperature anomalies. These associated decadal changes are closely associated with the recent climate regime shift. During the recent decades with a mega–La Niña–like pattern, stronger easterly trade winds have caused increased vertical wind shear and a weakened monsoon trough, thus hampering TC formation ability over the WNP. In addition, a steeper thermocline slope that hampered the eastward migration of warm water along the equatorial Pacific has generated a more favorable thermodynamic environment supporting TC rapid intensification over the WNP.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Dr. Haikun Zhao, zhk2004y@gmail.com
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