A conventional empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis is performed on summertime (May–October) western North Pacific (WNP) tropical cyclone (TC) track density anomalies during 1970–2012. The first leading EOF mode is characterized by a consistent spatial distribution across the WNP basin, which is closely related to an El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-like pattern that prevails on both interannual and interdecadal time scales. The second EOF mode is represented by a tripole pattern with consistent changes in westward and recurving tracks but with an opposite change for west-northwestward TC tracks. This second EOF pattern is dominated by consistent global sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) patterns on interannual and interdecadal time scales, along with a long-term increasing global temperature trend. Observed WNP TC tracks have three distinct interdecadal epochs (1970–86, 1987–97, and 1998–2012) based on EOF analyses. The interdecadal change is largely determined by the changing impact of ENSO-like and consistent global SSTA patterns. When global SSTAs are cool (warm) during 1970–86 (1998–2012), these SSTAs exert a dominant impact and generate a tripole track pattern that is similar to the positive (negative) second EOF mode. In contrast, a predominately El Niño–like SSTA pattern during 1987–97 contributed to increasing TC occurrences across most of the WNP during this 11-yr period. These findings are consistent with long-term trends in TC tracks, with a tripole track pattern observed as global SSTs increase. This study reveals the potential large-scale physical mechanisms driving the changes of WNP TC tracks in association with climate change.

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