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A Pressure-Based Analysis of the Historical Western North Pacific Tropical Cyclone Intensity Record

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  • 1 NOAA/National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, North Carolina
  • | 2 NOAA/Center for Satellite Applications and Research, Fort Collins, Colorado
  • | 3 Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, California
  • | 4 University of North Carolina Asheville, Asheville, North Carolina
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Abstract

The western North Pacific Ocean is the most active tropical cyclone (TC) basin. However, recent studies are not conclusive on whether the TC activity is increasing or decreasing, at least when calculations are based on maximum sustained winds. For this study, TC minimum central pressure data are analyzed in an effort to better understand historical typhoons. Best-track pressure reports are compared with aircraft reconnaissance observations; little bias is observed. An analysis of wind and pressure relationships suggests changes in data and practices at numerous agencies over the historical record. New estimates of maximum sustained winds are calculated using recent wind–pressure relationships and parameters from International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship (IBTrACS) data. The result suggests potential reclassification of numerous typhoons based on these pressure-based lifetime maximum intensities. Historical documentation supports these new intensities in many cases. In short, wind reports in older best-track data are likely of low quality. The annual activity based on pressure estimates is found to be consistent with aircraft reconnaissance and between agencies; however, reconnaissance ended in the western Pacific in 1987. Since then, interagency differences in maximum wind estimates noted here and by others also exist in the minimum central pressure reports. Reconciling these recent interagency differences is further exasperated by the lack of adequate ground truth. This study suggests efforts to intercalibrate the interagency intensity estimate methods. Conducting an independent and homogeneous reanalysis of past typhoon activity is likely necessary to resolve the remaining discrepancies in typhoon intensity records.

Current affiliation: Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Florida.

Corresponding author address: Kenneth R. Knapp, 151 Patton Ave., Asheville, NC 28801. E-mail: ken.knapp@noaa.gov

Abstract

The western North Pacific Ocean is the most active tropical cyclone (TC) basin. However, recent studies are not conclusive on whether the TC activity is increasing or decreasing, at least when calculations are based on maximum sustained winds. For this study, TC minimum central pressure data are analyzed in an effort to better understand historical typhoons. Best-track pressure reports are compared with aircraft reconnaissance observations; little bias is observed. An analysis of wind and pressure relationships suggests changes in data and practices at numerous agencies over the historical record. New estimates of maximum sustained winds are calculated using recent wind–pressure relationships and parameters from International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship (IBTrACS) data. The result suggests potential reclassification of numerous typhoons based on these pressure-based lifetime maximum intensities. Historical documentation supports these new intensities in many cases. In short, wind reports in older best-track data are likely of low quality. The annual activity based on pressure estimates is found to be consistent with aircraft reconnaissance and between agencies; however, reconnaissance ended in the western Pacific in 1987. Since then, interagency differences in maximum wind estimates noted here and by others also exist in the minimum central pressure reports. Reconciling these recent interagency differences is further exasperated by the lack of adequate ground truth. This study suggests efforts to intercalibrate the interagency intensity estimate methods. Conducting an independent and homogeneous reanalysis of past typhoon activity is likely necessary to resolve the remaining discrepancies in typhoon intensity records.

Current affiliation: Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Florida.

Corresponding author address: Kenneth R. Knapp, 151 Patton Ave., Asheville, NC 28801. E-mail: ken.knapp@noaa.gov
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