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Subtropical Cyclogenesis over the Central North Pacific

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  • 1 Department of Meteorology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii
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Abstract

The occurrence of subtropical cyclones over the central North Pacific Ocean has a significant impact on Hawaii’s weather and climate. In this study, 70 upper-level lows that formed during the period 1980–2002 are documented. In each case the low became cut off from the polar westerlies south of 30°N over the central Pacific, during the Hawaiian cool season (October–April). The objectives of this research are to document the interannual variability in the occurrence of upper-level lows, to chart the locations of their genesis and their tracks, and to investigate the physical mechanisms important in associated surface development. Significant interannual variability in the occurrence of upper-level lows was found, with evidence suggesting the influence of strong El Niño–Southern Oscillation events on the frequency of subtropical cyclogenesis in this region. Of the 70 upper-level lows, 43 were accompanied by surface cyclogenesis and classified as kona lows. Kona low formation is concentrated to the west-northwest of Hawaii, especially during October and November, whereas lows without surface development are concentrated in the area to the east-northeast of Hawaii. Kona low genesis shifts eastward through the cool season, favoring the area to the east-northeast of Hawaii during February and March, consistent with a shift in the climatological position of the trough aloft during the cool season. Consistent with earlier studies, surface deepening is well correlated with positive vorticity advection by the thermal wind. Static stability and advection of low-level moisture are less well correlated to surface deepening. These results suggest that kona low formation, to first order, is a baroclinic instability that originates in the midlatitudes, and that convection and latent-heat release play a secondary role in surface cyclogenesis.

* School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology Contribution Number 6678

Corresponding author address: Prof. Steven Businger, Dept. of Meteorology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2525 Correa Rd., Honolulu, HI 96822. Email: businger@soest.hawaii.edu

Abstract

The occurrence of subtropical cyclones over the central North Pacific Ocean has a significant impact on Hawaii’s weather and climate. In this study, 70 upper-level lows that formed during the period 1980–2002 are documented. In each case the low became cut off from the polar westerlies south of 30°N over the central Pacific, during the Hawaiian cool season (October–April). The objectives of this research are to document the interannual variability in the occurrence of upper-level lows, to chart the locations of their genesis and their tracks, and to investigate the physical mechanisms important in associated surface development. Significant interannual variability in the occurrence of upper-level lows was found, with evidence suggesting the influence of strong El Niño–Southern Oscillation events on the frequency of subtropical cyclogenesis in this region. Of the 70 upper-level lows, 43 were accompanied by surface cyclogenesis and classified as kona lows. Kona low formation is concentrated to the west-northwest of Hawaii, especially during October and November, whereas lows without surface development are concentrated in the area to the east-northeast of Hawaii. Kona low genesis shifts eastward through the cool season, favoring the area to the east-northeast of Hawaii during February and March, consistent with a shift in the climatological position of the trough aloft during the cool season. Consistent with earlier studies, surface deepening is well correlated with positive vorticity advection by the thermal wind. Static stability and advection of low-level moisture are less well correlated to surface deepening. These results suggest that kona low formation, to first order, is a baroclinic instability that originates in the midlatitudes, and that convection and latent-heat release play a secondary role in surface cyclogenesis.

* School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology Contribution Number 6678

Corresponding author address: Prof. Steven Businger, Dept. of Meteorology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2525 Correa Rd., Honolulu, HI 96822. Email: businger@soest.hawaii.edu

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