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Extratropical Transition of Southwest Pacific Tropical Cyclones. Part I: Climatology and Mean Structure Changes

Mark R. SinclairEmbry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, Arizona

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Abstract

A database of tropical cyclone best track and intensity information for the southwest Pacific Ocean basin is used to construct a 28-year climatology for tropical cyclones that move into middle latitudes. Of the nine or so tropical cyclones that form each year, an average of about three can be expected to migrate south of 35°S, with the greatest fraction in March. Storms entering the Tasman Sea west of New Zealand (NZ) move almost due south on average and retain greater intensity than those to the east of NZ, where storms decay quickly while moving rapidly away to the southeast. Storms east of NZ are embedded in a stronger, more zonal flow than those to the west, which move poleward ahead of a larger-amplitude trough. During El Niño years, tropical cyclones that move into middle latitudes exhibit stronger zonal motion and occur over a wider range of longitudes than during La Niña years. Storm intensity is only weakly correlated with concurrent SST anomalies, suggesting that atmospheric circulation is the dominant influence on storm properties.

Average structure changes during extratropical transition (ET) are identified using the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis dataset, for a subset of 33 transitioning storms during 1980–97. Composites are used to construct a three-dimensional conceptual model of the transformation from a mature hurricane to an asymmetric baroclinic midlatitude cyclone. Southwest Pacific tropical cyclones encounter the baroclinic westerlies early in their lives, accounting for their average eastward (and poleward) motion. At maximum average intensity near 20°S, baroclinic effects are already important, with warm frontogenesis appearing in the southeast quadrant and outflow aloft into a downstream subtropical wind maximum that moves poleward with the storm. By 25°S, the average TC has lost the characteristic symmetric anticyclonic outflow aloft and acquired the characteristics of a baroclinic midlatitude storm, including regions of warm and cold frontogenesis, a vertical motion dipole and a westward tilt with height. From about 30°S poleward, a second upper-tropospheric wind maximum appears west of the storm, with strengthening cyclonic vorticity advection aloft. Below about 400 hPa, the storm retains the vertical, warm cyclonic core as it migrates poleward.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Mark R. Sinclair, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, 3800 Willow Creek Road, Prescott, AZ 86301. Email: sinclam@pr.erau.edu

Abstract

A database of tropical cyclone best track and intensity information for the southwest Pacific Ocean basin is used to construct a 28-year climatology for tropical cyclones that move into middle latitudes. Of the nine or so tropical cyclones that form each year, an average of about three can be expected to migrate south of 35°S, with the greatest fraction in March. Storms entering the Tasman Sea west of New Zealand (NZ) move almost due south on average and retain greater intensity than those to the east of NZ, where storms decay quickly while moving rapidly away to the southeast. Storms east of NZ are embedded in a stronger, more zonal flow than those to the west, which move poleward ahead of a larger-amplitude trough. During El Niño years, tropical cyclones that move into middle latitudes exhibit stronger zonal motion and occur over a wider range of longitudes than during La Niña years. Storm intensity is only weakly correlated with concurrent SST anomalies, suggesting that atmospheric circulation is the dominant influence on storm properties.

Average structure changes during extratropical transition (ET) are identified using the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis dataset, for a subset of 33 transitioning storms during 1980–97. Composites are used to construct a three-dimensional conceptual model of the transformation from a mature hurricane to an asymmetric baroclinic midlatitude cyclone. Southwest Pacific tropical cyclones encounter the baroclinic westerlies early in their lives, accounting for their average eastward (and poleward) motion. At maximum average intensity near 20°S, baroclinic effects are already important, with warm frontogenesis appearing in the southeast quadrant and outflow aloft into a downstream subtropical wind maximum that moves poleward with the storm. By 25°S, the average TC has lost the characteristic symmetric anticyclonic outflow aloft and acquired the characteristics of a baroclinic midlatitude storm, including regions of warm and cold frontogenesis, a vertical motion dipole and a westward tilt with height. From about 30°S poleward, a second upper-tropospheric wind maximum appears west of the storm, with strengthening cyclonic vorticity advection aloft. Below about 400 hPa, the storm retains the vertical, warm cyclonic core as it migrates poleward.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Mark R. Sinclair, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, 3800 Willow Creek Road, Prescott, AZ 86301. Email: sinclam@pr.erau.edu

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