The study investigates the local climatological minimum of tropical cyclogenesis over the eastern Caribbean Sea. This area, colloquially known by forecasters as the “hurricane graveyard,” is located within the deep tropical easterlies. Tropical disturbances emerging from the African continent usually pass through the Lesser Antilles and into the eastern Caribbean. Satellite imagery shows disturbances that frequently exhibit decreasing convection in an area bounded by the islands to the north and east, Venezuela to the south, and roughly 75°W longitude to the west. Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT)-derived surface winds during clear-sky conditions frequently show the presence of accelerating easterlies in the central Caribbean as part of the Caribbean low-level jet (CLLJ). Analysis of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP–NCAR) reanalysis project wind fields suggests the presence of an area of persistent low-level mass divergence over the eastern Caribbean. This implies a subsident regime that would weaken convection. Climatologically, this phenomenon reaches peak intensity in July, and then shifts toward the east and weakens during the latter half of the Atlantic hurricane season. This is reflected by the local minimum of tropical cyclogenesis points in the National Hurricane Center's best-track data in the early part of the season. The intensity of the low-level divergence in the eastern Caribbean is shown to be correlated with the Southern Oscillation index. The divergent low-level easterly flow can also enhance the vertical wind shear and help lower sea surface temperatures, further inhibiting tropical cyclogenesis. The local minimum of tropical cyclogenesis in this region has important implications to operational forecasting, because the vast majority of tropical cyclones in the Caribbean eventually affect surrounding landmasses.
School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York