Abstract

A fuzzy c-means clustering method (FCM) is applied to cluster tropical cyclone (TC) tracks. FCM is suitable for the data where cluster boundaries are ambiguous, such as a group of TC tracks. This study introduces the feasibility of a straightforward metric to incorporate the entire shapes of all tracks into the FCM, that is, the interpolation of all tracks into equal number of segments. Four validity measures (e.g., partition coefficient, partition index, separation index, and Dunn index) are used objectively to determine the optimum number of clusters. This results in seven clusters from 855 TCs over the western North Pacific (WNP) from June through October during 1965–2006. The seven clusters are characterized by 1) TCs striking the Korean Peninsula and Japan with north-oriented tracks, 2) TCs affecting Japan with long trajectories, 3) TCs hitting Taiwan and eastern China with west-oriented tracks, 4) TCs passing the east of Japan with early recurving tracks, 5) TCs traveling the easternmost region over the WNP, 6) TCs over the South China Sea, and 7) TCs moving straight across the Philippines. Each cluster shows distinctive characteristics in its lifetime, traveling distance, intensity, seasonal variation, landfall region, and distribution of TC-induced rainfall. The roles of large-scale environments (e.g., sea surface temperatures, low-level relative vorticity, and steering flows) on cluster-dependent genesis locations and tracks are also discussed.

1. Introduction

A tropical cyclone (TC) is one of the most devastating natural disasters in the countries located in TC-prone areas. During each TC season, TC landfalls cause a great amount of social and economic damage because of the accompanying strong wind gust, heavy rainfall, and storm surge. TC landfalls depend on typical TC tracks that show the seasonal, interannual, and interdecadal variations (e.g., Chan 1985; Harr and Elsberry 1991; Ho et al. 2004, 2005; Kim et al. 2005a,b). To predict the probability of TC landfalls effectively and mitigate the damage caused by them in advance, it is necessary to understand the characteristics of various TC tracks and the large-scale environments that affect them.

Previous researchers noted that an effective way to elucidate the characteristics of various TC tracks is to classify TC trajectories into definite number of patterns (e.g., Hodanish and Gray 1993; Harr and Elsberry 1991, 1995a,b; Lander 1996; Elsner and Liu 2003; Elsner 2003; Hall and Jewson 2007 ,Camargo et al. 2007a,b, 2008; Nakamura et al 2009). Exploratory studies classified TC tracks into a limited number of patterns over various ocean basins. Hodanish and Gray (1993) focused on the western North Pacific (WNP) and stratified tracks into four patterns according to differences in the recurving process: sharply recurving, gradually recurving, left-turning, and nonrecurving TCs. Harr and Elsberry (1991, 1995a,b) classified WNP TC tracks based on anomalous large-scale circulation regimes associated with the activity of the monsoon trough and the subtropical ridge. Their patterns were separated into three classes: straight, recurving south (recurving TCs that formed south of 20°N), and recurving north (recurving TCs that formed north of 20°N). Lander (1996) also considered categorization of TC tracks into four major patterns: straight moving, recurving, north oriented, and staying in the South China Sea.

Numerical clustering has recently become the technique of choice to classify TC tracks. Numerical clustering has merit in that it is objective because it excludes the analyst’s subjective determination as much as possible. Elsner and Liu (2003) showed that k-means clustering could be applied to TCs using their position at maximum intensity and final position. This method was also applied to Atlantic hurricanes (Elsner 2003) and extratropical cyclone tracks (Blender et al. 1997) in the North Atlantic. Camargo et al. (2007a, hereafter C07a) pointed out that the analysis using the k-means clustering cannot cover all points in a track because it requires data vectors with equal lengths. As a way to overcome this limitation, they suggested the probabilistic clustering technique based on the regression mixture model. Patterns classified using this model represented various TC characteristics and physical relationships with large-scale environments (C07a; Camargo et al. 2007b, hereafter C07b; Camargo et al. 2008). In another way, Nakamura et al. (2009) suggested the first and second mass moments of TC tracks that approximate the shapes and lengths of TC tracks. They showed a reliable clustering result for the Atlantic hurricanes by applying the mass moments to the k-means clustering. This study also resolves the problematic issue (i.e., clustering of data vectors with different lengths) that made it difficult to apply the numerical clustering method as pointed out by C07a.

In this study, we revisit the clustering of TC tracks in the WNP by suggesting the use of another method—the fuzzy clustering technique. A map of numerous TC tracks may be represented by its spaghetti-like shape, which is too complex to use to determine the few possible boundaries dividing different patterns (Kim 2005). This kind of data is better fitted using the fuzzy clustering method considering its fuzzy characteristic (Kaufman and Rousseeuw 1990; Zimmermann 2001). Other partitioning methods (such as k-means clustering or hierarchical clustering) produce hard (crisp) partitions directly; that is, each data object is assigned to one cluster. In contrast, the fuzzy clustering technique does not directly assign a data object to a cluster, but allows the ambiguity of the data to be preserved. In this method an object initially belongs to all clusters with different membership coefficients that range from 0 (totally excluded from a cluster) to 1 (totally included in a cluster). The membership coefficient is a kind of probability of how strongly a data object belongs to a certain cluster. Because of this property, the fuzzy clustering technique is thought to produce a more general classification of a fuzzy dataset, that is, a set of numerous TC tracks.

Using the fuzzy clustering technique, we try to find optimum cluster centers from the set of 855 TC tracks in the WNP during the 42 (1965–2006) TC seasons (June through October). As a result, TC tracks are objectively classified to have both the similarity of track shape and contiguity of geographical path. Similar to the regression mixture model of C07a, this technique also produces a finite number of clusters despite its difference from C07a in its mathematics and the analysis period. With this finding, we suggest that the fuzzy clustering is another useful method for probabilistic-type clustering of numerous TC tracks.

We begin with a description of the datasets and the fuzzy clustering in section 2. In section 3, the optimum cluster number is determined and the characteristics of the clustered TC track patterns are discussed. The large-scale environmental conditions associated with each cluster are examined in section 4. Finally, the summary and discussion of this study are given in section 5.

2. Data and method

a. Data

TC information is obtained from the best-track data archived by the Regional Specialized Meteorological Centers (RSMC)-Tokyo Typhoon Center. The best-track data contain 6-hourly locations, minimum central pressures, and maximum sustained wind speeds (υmax) of TCs. The WNP TCs are divided into three stages according to their υmax, namely, tropical depressions (υmax < 17 m s−1), tropical storms (17 m s−1υmax < 33 m s−1), and typhoons (υmax ≥ 33 m s−1). TCs refer to tropical storms and typhoons, so the genesis and decaying location of each TC is defined as the first and last observation with tropical storm intensity, respectively. While the RSMC best-track data are available from 1951, we exclude presatellite years (before 1965) to avoid the reliability problem (Chu 2002). We also restrict our analysis to the TC season (June–October) during which about 80% of total TCs form in this region. The period of analysis is 1965–2006.

To show the large-scale environments associated with clustered track patterns, we utilize the daily horizontal winds and geopotential height reanalyzed by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP–NCAR) (Kalnay et al. 1996) and the weekly optimum interpolation sea surface temperature (SST) version 2 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (Reynolds et al. 2002). The horizontal resolutions are 2.5° × 2.5° for the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis and 2° × 2° for the NOAA SST. The TC’s impact on rainfall distribution is investigated using the daily rainfall observed at weather stations (in China, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea) and the pentad gridded (on 2.5° × 2.5°) rainfall data archived by the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) Merged Analysis of Precipitation (CMAP) (Xie and Arkin 1997). Because the SST (1981 to the present) and CMAP (1979 to the present) data cannot cover the entire analysis period, the analyses are done within their available periods.

b. Fuzzy clustering algorithm

The clustering algorithm applied in this study is the fuzzy c-means clustering method (FCM) (Bezdek 1981), which is one of the most widely used methods in fuzzy clustering. The FCM is based on minimizing an objective function called the c-means functional (J). It is defined as

 
formula

where

 
formula

and

 
formula

Here μik is the membership coefficient of the kth data object to the ith cluster, m is the fuzziness coefficient greater than 1, xk is the kth data object, ci is the ith cluster center, C is the number of clusters, and K is the number of data objects. The symbol ‖ ‖ denotes any vector norm that represents the distance between the data object and the cluster center. In this study, we use the 2-norm (Euclidean norm), which is widely used in the FCM. To minimize the c-means functional J, it is subject to two constraints μik ≥ 0 and . The fuzziness coefficient m represents the degree of overlap of clusters; that is, if we set m to a smaller value, more (less) weight is given to the objects that are located closer to (farther from) a cluster center. As m is close to 1, μik converges to 0 for the objects that are far from a cluster center or 1 for those close to a cluster center, which implies less fuzziness (i.e., clearer cut). Here m is set to 2, which is a common value used in the FCM.

As previously mentioned, the membership coefficient (μik) represents how closely the kth data object (xk) is located from the ith cluster center. It varies from 0 to 1 depending on the distance (‖xkci2). Thus, a higher membership coefficient indicates stronger association between the kth data object to the ith cluster. This is the main factor that distinguishes the FCM from the k-means clustering method. Table 1 shows the difference between the two clustering algorithms. It is noted that, while the data objects in the k-means clustering are allocated to one cluster that is the closest to the object, those in the FCM are able to belong to all clusters with different membership coefficients. To determine cluster centers, the simple sum of the distances between a cluster center and the objects in the cluster is minimized in the k-means clustering algorithm, whereas the membership coefficient-weighted sum of the distances between all cluster centers and all objects is minimized in the FCM algorithm. The cluster center (ci) in the FCM is also defined as a membership coefficient-weighted mean of all objects. This property of the FCM is more relevant when attempting to classify widespread data with ambiguity in its cluster boundaries, such as the set of TC tracks.

The FCM also needs equal data length for all the target objects like the k-means clustering. To cope with the different lengths between tracks, previous studies using the k-means clustering adopted only several observed TC locations in specific states (maximum and final intensity) (Elsner and Liu 2003; Elsner 2003) or approximated information of TC tracks using mass moments (Nakamura et al. 2009). In contrast to these methods, our goal is to design a rather straightforward method to incorporate entire TC tracks into the FCM directly. To accomplish this, we artificially interpolate every TC track into M segments (M + 1 data points) with equal length1 by leaving out time information. Although the velocity information, which changes every moment, is lost by this artificial interpolation, it causes less concern because the most critical information for the FCM is the shape of the tracks. For any single TC, the distance between 6-hourly segments of the original best-track data is defined as disti = for i = 1, … , N − 1, where (xi, yi) are ith longitude and latitude of the TC and N is the number of 6-hourly observed TC locations. The length of interpolated segments is , where M is the number of interpolated segments. The interpolated positions (, ) are calculated as follows:

 
formula
 
formula

where l is an integer that satisfies the condition for j = 2, … , M. This procedure can determine new positions along the line connecting the original 6-hourly positions.

The interpolated TC tracks retain the shape, length, and geographical path information covering the TC tracks. Because the mean TC lifetime in the WNP is about five days, we simply choose M = 20 segments (e.g., four times daily × five days) as the points of interpolated TC tracks. We found that the interpolation keeps the original track shapes nearly perfect (Fig. 1). The interpolation procedure creates new points densely between the original positions for the very short tracks (Figs. 1a–c), while it make sparse points by skipping the several contiguous positions for the long tracks (Figs. 1e,f). The interpolation technique shows credible performance for various shape and length of tracks including the abnormal TC track such as the 2002 Fung-Wong (Fig. 1d). To test the sensitivity arising from the length of interpolated data segments, we also examine the results using different segment numbers ranging from 18 to 22. The results confirm that the interpolated segment number does not significantly affect the clustering results.

To organize the data object for the FCM, the longitude and latitude points of the interpolated TC tracks are set to column vectors as follows:

 
formula

where xk is a column vector for the kth TC, and and are the interpolated longitude and latitude, respectively. Here K is the number of TCs used, which is 855. This column vector serves as the data object in Eq. (1). Then, the c-means functional J is minimized while optimizing the membership coefficients and the cluster centers. In this study, an iterative method is used for minimizing J. The process of the FCM using the iterative method is given in appendix A.

3. Clustering results

a. Optimum cluster number

Determining the optimum cluster number [i.e., C in Eq. (1)] is the most crucial process in any clustering analyses. The FCM result depends highly on the number of cluster centers (cluster number), which must be given in advance before carrying out the clustering algorithm. In this study, the cluster number is determined objectively by four scalar validity measures: partition coefficient (Bezdek 1981), partition index (Bensaid et al. 1996), separation index (Xie and Beni 1991), and Dunn index (Dunn 1973). The formulas and detailed explanations for these indices are given in appendix B. The partition coefficient measures the overlapping of the fuzzy clusters. The fuzzy clustering result is more optimal at the larger value of the partition coefficient. In contrast, the other indices (partition index, separation index, and Dunn index) measure the degree of compactness and separation of the clusters. Smaller measures indicate better clustering. Note that none of the measures are perfect by themselves. Accordingly, the optimum cluster number should be determined by synthesizing all available measures (Abonyi and Feil 2007). Figure 2 shows the values of four scalar validity measures as a function of the cluster number. The partition coefficient monotonic decreases as the cluster number increases, indicating the optimal cluster number is two. However, the choice only based on the partition coefficient is not recommended because it is not directly connected to the geometrical property of the object data (e.g., Xie and Beni 1991; Bensaid et al. 1996). The partition index also shows a monotonic decrease as the cluster number increases; however, the decrease ratio becomes smaller around the six to eight clusters. On the other hand, the separation index and Dunn index show the lowest value at seven clusters. Therefore, these results serve as a rationale that the optimum cluster number is seven for fuzzy clustering of WNP TC tracks during the TC season. It is interesting to note that this cluster number is the same as C07a despite the differences in the analysis period, season and the cluster detection method, indicating that the WNP TC tracks seem to have a characteristic optimum number of clusters.

b. Characteristics of clusters

1) Spatial distribution

Figure 3 presents the seven fuzzy clusters of all WNP TC tracks (Fig. 3h) during the TC season. The gray depth expresses membership coefficient information. These maps demonstrate the FCM property well in that each cluster includes all TCs with various membership coefficients ranging from the highest values near the cluster centers to the lowest values distant from the cluster centers. By definition, the sum of seven membership coefficients of any TC is 1. The TC tracks around the cluster centers show distinguishing features in their characteristic geographical path; the four recurving patterns (Figs. 3a,b,d,e), the blended pattern (Fig. 3c), the South China Sea TCs (Fig. 3f), and the straight-moving pattern (Fig. 3g). The average of the 855 membership coefficients for each cluster ranges from 0.09 (C5) to 0.19 (C6). These small values are obtained because the majority of TCs for each cluster are located far from the cluster center. Thus it would be more practical to discuss the membership coefficient statistics of a specific cluster after discarding the TCs that have higher membership coefficients in other clusters.

As mentioned above, each TC is assigned to a cluster where its membership coefficient is the largest, resulting in seven hard clusters (C1–C7; Fig. 4). For practical purposes, the analyses and discussions will be based on these hard clusters hereafter; however, the membership coefficient information will be retained in the analyses because it is an essential factor that distinguishes the FCM from other clustering techniques. Before proceeding to the discussion of each cluster’s features, the comparison of the clustering result with that of C07a is a necessity as well as a matter of interest. The seven classified patterns here are somewhat different from those of C07a mainly because of the analysis season. C07a classified the TC tracks for all seasons, while this study focuses only on those during the active TC season. There is no doubt that the preferred TC tracks have strong seasonality. For example, the straight westward-moving pattern with long trail (e.g., cluster F of C07a) seldom occurs during the TC season so it does not appear as a separate cluster here. Instead, the recurving patterns are fragmented more so that the five recurving patterns2 are emerged here, compared to the four in C07a. C1 (Fig. 4a) and C3 (Fig. 4c) correspond to cluster A of C07a, whereas C4 (Fig. 4d) and C5 (Fig. 4e) here are projected onto the cluster C in C07a. As far as the recurving tracks are concerned, they are apparently clustered better than those of C07a in terms of the coherence within clusters. This may arise from confining the analysis season to the TC season.

C1 is characterized by many of the TCs that develop around the northernmost part of the Philippine Sea, recurve in and around the East China Sea with a more north-oriented track and finally hit the East Asian region, especially the Korean Peninsula and Japan (Fig. 4a). Of TC season storms, 16% (133/855) have the largest membership coefficient in C1. The TCs near the center of C2, which develop over the southeastern region of the WNP basin, move rather straight northwestward before recurving south of Japan (Fig. 4b). Of the seasonal TCs, 14% (120/855) belong to C2. Because they develop over the far open ocean close to the equator, they naturally have the longest mean lifetime compared to those in other clusters (Table 2). While some of them hit southern Japan, the others pass through the east of Japan. The TCs that develop slightly south of the region of development of C1 storms in the Philippine Sea are representative of C3 (Fig. 4c). They move straight with rather west-oriented tracks and then strike Taiwan and the southeastern coast of mainland China. C3 also includes the TCs that recurve toward the Korean Peninsula and Japan as C1 with their overall recurving latitudes about 5° south of those in C1. C3 is the second largest cluster, including 18% (150/855) of the analyzed TCs.

The next two clusters (C4 and C5) consist of recurving tracks over the open ocean east of Japan (Figs. 4d,e). C4 and C5 are relatively rare clusters that encompass 11% (92/855) and 9% (79/855) of the analyzed TCs, respectively. While the center of C4 is located offshore east of Japan, that of C5 lies farther to the east. Most TCs in C4 are north-oriented so they recurve quickly after development. The TCs near the center of C5 are also recurving ones but many of them show irregular shapes. C5 also includes the TCs that migrated from the central North Pacific.

The center of C6 characterizes the straight-moving and irregular tracks that are well confined to the South China Sea (Fig. 4f). Most of the TCs hit northern Vietnam and the southern China coastal regions. C6 includes 158 TCs (i.e., 19% of the analyzed storms), resulting in the most frequent pattern among the seven clusters. Last, C7 is represented by 123 TCs (i.e., 14% of the analyzed storms) with westward straight-moving tracks (Fig. 4g) that develop over the southernmost part of the Philippines Sea, traverse the Philippines, and make landfall over regions similar to those of C6.

2) Membership coefficient statistics

Figure 5 demonstrates the statistical properties of membership coefficients for each cluster. Although the statistics are obtained using the membership coefficients only for the hard clusters, a considerable portion of small membership coefficients still exists for all clusters. This again reflects the fuzziness of the TC track data. The boxes bounded by the lower and upper quartiles, medians, and means in C1–C4 are located relatively lower than those in C5–C7. For C1–C4, more than half of the TCs belong to the clusters with membership coefficients less than 0.5, while for C5–C7, more than half of TCs have membership coefficients more than 0.5. Moreover, the medians for C1–C4 are smaller than their means, while the medians for C5–C7 are almost comparable to their mean, implying that membership coefficients for C1–C4 are skewed toward lower values. These properties indicate that C1–C4 are fuzzier than C5–C7. A relatively larger portion of TCs in C1–C4 may be relocated if the input TC data are adjusted. The question arises why C1–C4 are fuzzier than C5–C7. Considering that all clusters are distributed in space without clear boundaries, it could be primarily due to the geographical locations of the two groups. C1–C4 include TC tracks distributed near the climatological average of the map of all tracks, whereas C5–C7 consist of those passing near the edge of the region of typical tracks (Fig. 3). C1–C4 have neighboring clusters on their left- and right-hand sides, so that their membership coefficients may disperse toward both sides. In contrast, C5–C7 only have a neighboring cluster on one side. Thus the TC tracks located toward the outer edge where no neighboring cluster exists can have larger membership coefficients, compared to those with a neighboring cluster. Recalling that the c-means functional [Eq. (1)] is subject to two constraints with regard to the membership coefficient—μik ≥ 0 and —the membership coefficients for tracks amid several cluster centers should be smaller. This is also shown in Figs. 3e–g. It is notable that C5 has larger membership coefficients in general even though it is a widely scattered cluster, which is because it lies at the eastern boundary of the WNP. Although C1–C4 are fuzzier based on the membership coefficient statistics, they are significant per se because each cluster’s tracks clearly show a distinguishable feature in terms of geographical path and track shape.

3) Mean properties and monthly distribution

The lifetime, traveling distance, minimum central pressure, and mean genesis location for each cluster are given in Table 2. The mean lifetime is 5.4 days, the traveling distance is 2447 km, the mean minimum central pressure is 962.2 hPa, and the mean genesis location is 17.9°N, 137.3°E for all 855 TCs. The lifetime, traveling distance, and minimum central pressure are closely related. Clusters (e.g., C2, C4, and C7) with relatively longer lifetime also have longer traveling distances and are generally stronger than those with a shorter lifetime (e.g., C1, C5, and C6). It follows that long-lasting storms have enough time to develop over the warm sea surface before hitting land or undergoing extratropical transition. As the mean motion of TCs moves toward the northwest, it is conceivable that a storm formed farther to the east or south has the potential to last longer and develop more intensely. This hypothesis has been proposed and confirmed by previous literature (Camargo and Sobel 2005; Chan 2008). In this study, C2 is the representative pattern that supports this hypothesis. It develops in the far southeast and shows the longest lifetime and traveling distance and the strongest mean intensity among the seven clusters. In contrast, the clusters containing TCs that developed in the west or north show a tendency to have shorter lifetimes and traveling distances, as well as weaker intensities. For example, C6, the cluster that develops the farthest west (the closest to land) has the shortest lifetime and traveling distance and the weakest intensity among the seven clusters.

TC activity in the WNP has an apparent seasonality not only in genesis frequency but also in the track and genesis location. First, straight movers are more frequently seen during the early or late seasons, whereas recurving TCs prevail during the peak TC season (July, August, and September). Second, the mean genesis position migrates northward from June through August, but moves back to the southeast in September. These seasonal variations are ascribed to variations in the position of the monsoon trough and the North Pacific subtropical high (NPSH) (Chia and Ropelewski 2002). Such variations are shown in Fig. 6, which summarizes monthly genesis distributions for each cluster. The clusters about recurving TCs (C1, C3, C4, and C5) show a peak genesis frequency in August or September except for C2, which shows a monotonic increase from June through October. C6, which is the cluster of TCs formed within a deep monsoon trough, also shows a peak during the peak TC season. This may be because its genesis is highly related to the active monsoon trough. It is also notable that C4 and C5, which are the clusters consisting of TCs traveling over the open ocean, are inactive in June. In contrast, C3, C6, and C7, which are the clusters that include straight-moving TCs, are active in June. C7, which follows a genuine straight-moving pattern, has double peaks in July and October.

4) TC landfalls and TC-induced rainfall

It is no wonder that TC landfall is highly dependent upon TC track. The map of classified TC tracks (Fig. 4) shows that TCs make landfall in different regions for each cluster. For a quantitative analysis of the TC landfalls for each cluster, the frequency of TC landfalls is examined by dividing the WNP coastal area into seven subregions: the Philippines, Vietnam, southern China (south of 25°N), eastern China, Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula, and Japan (Table 3). For simplicity, the number of TC landfalls is counted when the TC’s center crosses the coastal line of the mainland of each country. The landfalls in the attached islands (e.g., Jeju Island in South Korea, Hainan Island in China, and Ryukyu Islands in Japan) are not counted. This might make the number of TC landfalls be less than that counted by the meteorological agencies [see Fig. 4 of Kim et al. (2008) to ascertain the landfall domain].

Most TCs in C1–C3 make landfall in the East Asian regions (e.g., the Korean Peninsula, Japan, eastern coast of China, and Taiwan). C1 includes more than half of the TCs that hit the Korean Peninsula (14 among a total 23 of landfalls, ∼61%) and Japan (53 among a total of 96 landfalls, ∼55%), while its landfalling TCs have the most dominant influence on Japan. Once TCs in C2 make landfall, the region is almost always Japan (27 among 34 landfalls). C2 contributes 28% of Japanese TC landfalls, which is the second highest percentage. TCs making landfall in Taiwan and eastern China mainly belong to C3: 66% (35/53) for east China and 81% (51/63) for Taiwan. C3 explains the second highest percentage (26%) of TC landfalls on the Korean Peninsula, though the actual frequency is small.

C6 and C7 include TCs that make landfall in Southeast Asian regions (e.g., southern coast of China, the Philippines, and Vietnam). More than 80% (90/109) of TCs traversing the Philippines are identified in C7, most of which are long-lasting straight movers. In contrast, southern China is almost evenly affected by the two clusters: 48% (55/114) by C6 and 38% (43/114) by C7. The TCs striking Vietnam belong to these two clusters only, while the percentage is doubled for C6 (67%) compared to C7 (33%). On the other hand, the TCs in C4 and C5 hardly ever make landfall because of their passage over the open ocean. Only 5 out of 92 TCs in C4 crossed the Japanese coastal line.

Normally TC landfall accompanies heavy rainfall. The accumulated TC-induced rainfall for each cluster is examined using the station rainfall data over China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan (Fig. 7). The accumulated TC-induced rainfall for a certain station is defined as the rainfall amount integrated during the period when approaching TC centers are placed within 5° from the site (e.g., Kim et al. 2006; Lee et al. 2010). In addition, we show the accumulated rainfall anomalies while TCs in the cluster exist using the pentad CMAP data. In this case the rainfall anomalies are based on the pentad climatology during 1979–2006. The pentad rainfall is converted to daily data by assuming that it is evenly distributed over the pentad, which is done to find the approximate daily CMAP rainfall for existing TC days. The CMAP data enables us to investigate the rainfall distribution where station data are not available. Although the accumulated CMAP rainfall underestimates the TC-induced rainfall because of its coarse resolutions in time and space, its distribution corresponds well with TC tracks and accumulated TC-induced rainfall at weather stations.

The TC-induced rainfall for C1 and C2 is concentrated in South Korea and Japan (Figs. 7a,b). The TCs in C3 bring torrential rainfall in Taiwan and eastern China and also influence South Korea and southern Japan to some extent (Fig. 7c). It is noted that C1 and C3 have larger accumulated TC-induced rainfall in stations compared to C2. The largest rainfall per TC season for C1 and C2 are 302 mm and 199 mm in Japan (station identifier: 47633), respectively, while that for C3 is 333 mm in Taiwan (46699). This is largely due to more frequent TC landfalls for C1 and C3, compared to C2 (Table 3), because the total amount is divided by the number of TC seasons, not by the number of TCs affecting stations. The larger amount of the seasonally accumulated TC-induced rainfall does not necessarily mean heavier rainfall for the individual rainy event of a TC. While the accumulated TC-induced rainfall per TC season for C2 is relatively small, the amount of averaged TC-induced rainfall per TC for C2 is comparable to that for the other clusters (figure not shown). Moreover, the historically heaviest TC-induced rainfall events in the Korean Peninsula and Japan were caused by TCs in C2 (870.5 mm day−1 in the Korean Peninsula by Rusa in 2002 and 1057.5 mm (4-day)−1 in Japan by Fran in 1976). The accumulated CMAP rainfall anomalies for TC days also capture the distribution of the accumulated TC-induced rainfall. It is notable that the anomalous positive rainfall maxima are situated to the south of the mean TC recurving latitudes of these clusters. This is because TCs move slower and become stronger before recurving (Knaff 2009).

The two clusters traveling over the open ocean (C4 and C5) hardly have any influence on land, except for a limited area of eastern Japan by parts of TCs in C4 (Figs. 7d,e). The accumulated CMAP rainfall anomalies are negative across the seas near the Asian landmass. The TCs in C6 and C7 bring torrential rainfall over the South Asian regions (Figs. 7f,g). The positive maxima of the accumulated CMAP rainfall anomalies are located east and west of the Philippines. The accumulated TC-induced rainfall has its largest value at Hainan Island (59855) [236 mm (TC season)−1] for C6 and southern Taiwan (46766) [250 mm (TC season)−1] for C7. From the rainfall distribution, we can infer that C6 induces more rainfall over southern China and Vietnam, while C7 leads to more rainfall over the Philippines. This is consistent with TC tracks and the landfall statistics for these clusters (Fig. 4 and Table 3).

4. Large-scale environment

In this section, we try to find deterministic large-scale environmental patterns associated with TCs for each cluster. Similarly to C07b, we plot composite anomalies of the SST, low-level winds (Fig. 8), and composite totals of steering flows (Fig. 9) for each cluster. However, in this study, the membership coefficients are applied as weighting factors to the composite analysis to give more weights to the TCs that are closer to cluster centers:

 
formula

where Xi is the composite of a field X for the ith cluster, Xk is the field associated with kth TC, μik is the membership coefficient of the kth TC to the ith cluster, and Ki is the TC number assigned to an ith hard cluster. The results from the nonweighted composites are very similar to those from the weighted composites. This may be because the composites are obtained using the TCs included in each hard cluster or because the variability of large-scale environments within a cluster is not very large. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to think that the weighted composite should improve the representation of large-scale environments associated with a cluster center.

As in C07b, composites are constructed only for the first position of TCs. C07b suggested that composites based on an initial position are better for potential use of these patterns in tracks and landfall forecasts. Thus, once various relations between TC track patterns and large-scale environmental fields in the initial developing stage are established, they may be applied to predict the probable track pattern of TCs in a specific region.

a. SST and low-level circulation

Figure 8 shows the membership coefficient-weighted composite anomalies of the SST, horizontal winds, and relative vorticity at 850 hPa on the day of TC genesis. Weekly SSTs are linearly interpolated to a daily time scale to approximate the SST pattern on the day of TC genesis. The mean TC genesis region of a cluster is marked with a filled circle. For all clusters, significant SST anomalies are located outside of TC genesis regions. The composite of SST anomalies on the day of TC genesis can originate either from a background thermal forcing affecting TC genesis, a transient wave response induced by TC-related convective heating, or a local atmospheric and oceanic state independent of TC. As shown in the figure, local SST anomalies in a TC genesis area do not deviate significantly from the climatology except for those associated with C5. Instead, significant anomalies spread across the equatorial Pacific through the North Pacific Ocean.

For C1 and C2, the composite SST anomalies in the tropics somewhat resemble El Niño–related anomalies (Figs. 8a,b). In relation to C1, cold SST anomalies spread over the equatorial central and eastern Pacific, which are similar to those during La Niña periods. These anomalies are thought to be a background state that is not induced by TCs in that they are decoupled from low-level circulations around the mean TC genesis center. On the other hand, in the midlatitudes significant positive SST anomalies are found from the Yellow Sea through the Kuroshio extension. Those across the Korean Peninsula through off the east of Japan could potentially be caused by a low-level anticyclonic wave response there, whereas those along the Kuroshio extension are, though it is rather unclear, likely due to a local environmental state. In contrast to C1, there are two bands of warm SST anomalies in the composite of C2 (Fig. 8b); one is over the equatorial central and eastern Pacific, and the other elongates from the date line toward the west coast of North America. The Pacific Rim is generally warm except along the western boundary where patches of significant cold SST anomalies are seen. The strong 850-hPa anomalous westerlies are significant south of the mean TC genesis center along the equatorial western Pacific, which form cyclonic shear vorticity to the north, favoring TC genesis there. Conversely, the anomalous westerly winds can be interpreted as a manifestation of TC-related circulation as well. In any case these flows are consistent with the zonal SST gradient.

The composite map for C3 characterizes positive SST anomalies over the equatorial central Pacific (CP) with negative anomalies both west and east of the anomalies, as well as those appearing in a horseshoe-like pattern in the North Pacific Ocean (Fig. 8c). The tropical pattern is reminiscent of the new type El Niño that is referred to as the El Niño Modoki or the CP–El Niño (e.g., Ashok et al. 2007; Kao and Yu 2009; Kug et al. 2009; Yeh et al. 2009). The correlation between the seasonal TC number in C3 and the seasonal mean El Niño Modoki index (Ashok et al. 2007) is 0.4, which is significant at the 99% confidence level, while the correlation with the Niño 3.4 index is 0.22, which is statically insignificant. It is likely that the CP–El Niño type SST pattern acts as a background forcing favoring C3. The C07b also showed the separation of two types of El Niño–related clusters: one related to the typical El Niño and the other to CP–El Niño. Yeh et al. (2009) suggested that the CP–El Niño events would increase in a warmer climate. Thus, it will be interesting to see whether this cluster increases under global warming. Interestingly, the midlatitude SST anomalies in the North Pacific Ocean are also positive like those related to C1, which we interpret as a transient related to TCs as in C1 because they should be negative in association with the CP–El Niño event (Ashok et al. 2007).

For C4 and C5, which have two recurving patterns that have little influence on land areas, significant positive SST anomalies are found in the midlatitude North Pacific Ocean (Figs. 8d,e). In particular, C5 shows a strong teleconnection pattern throughout the North Pacific, which supports the hypothesis that the SST anomalies could potentially come from the TC-induced wave response. Next, C6 shows a strong cyclonic cell over the South China Sea that seems like a TC-related vortex. It is also possibly associated with the monsoon trough that induces a positive vorticity over the South China Sea. Also of interest are wavelike SST anomalies from the East China Sea through the North Pacific Ocean. Along the axis of the wave, the neighboring anticyclonic and warm anomalies centered over the East China Sea likely indicate the westward expansion of the NPSH. Last, C7 also shows anomalies of anticyclonic winds and warm SST in the north of a genesis region. This indicates that the strong NPSH guides the TCs in this cluster to move straight westward.

In summary, the seven clusters can be grouped into two broad types in the context of their relation with the Pacific SSTs. C1–C3, which are generated by forcing from background mean states (i.e., tropical SST anomalies), are included in one group. C4–C7 are included in a second group that does not show any significant background mean state in the tropics In addition, an interesting feature in the composite based on the day of TC genesis is the warm SST anomalies in the midlatitudes (Fig. 8h). This may be caused by a potential TC-induced response affecting the North Pacific climate but the detailed analysis on their causality is beyond the scope of this study.

b. Steering flows

A TC’s motion results from complex interactions between internal dynamics (i.e., beta drift) and external influences (Chan 2005). Environmental steering is the most dominant external influence and accounts for up to 80% of TC motion (Holland 1993), which is defined as pressure-weighted vertically averaged horizontal winds in the troposphere (also referred to as tropospheric-layer mean flows):

 
formula

where p0 is the bottom level and p is the top level. In this study, p0 and p are set at 850 and 200 hPa, respectively, following the previous studies (Chan and Gray 1982; Kim et al. 2005b, 2008).

Figure 9 shows streamlines for the membership coefficient-weighted composites of the tropospheric-layer mean flows based on the day of TC genesis for each cluster. Also shown are the composites of the 5880 gpm at 500 hPa that represent the influence of the NPSH. The composite with respect to the day of TC genesis cannot explain the each cluster’s mean track perfectly because a TC interacts continuously with its synoptic environments as it moves. In a climatological sense, however, it can be proposed that the composite of many events may effectively filter out transients so that it can reveal characteristics that are slowly varying large-scale environments that are persistent for several days. With this assumption, the composited pattern for the genesis day can be related to the cluster’s mean track. To some extent, the validity of this assumption is supported by Fig. 9 in that the cluster’s mean track follows the flows steered by the NPSH. However, the beta drift seems not negligible in that the mean tracks are deflected northward for all the clusters.

The mean tracks of C1 and C7 are well explained by the strong southeasterlies and easterlies around the southwest of the NPSH, respectively (Figs. 9a,g), whereas those of C4 and C5 penetrate through the weak western boundary of the NPSH owing to weak flow speeds (Figs. 9d,e). The beta drift is more apparent for the tracks that drift on weak steering backgrounds. These two contrasting groups of clusters emphasize the dominant role of the environmental steering in TC motion. This may also indicate that the patterns of the environmental steering flows are relatively well sustained in these clusters during TC lifetime, which supports the validity of the assumption made. The mean tracks in C2 and C3 follow the direction of the strong environmental steering flows around the south and southwest of the NPSH, respectively (Figs. 9b,c). However, even in the early stage the mean tracks for C2 and C3 are diverted more to the right of the steering flows compared to C1, even though the steering flows are as strong as those for C1. Although the reason is not clear, we may suggest one possibility; that is, the stronger beta effect for more intense TCs based on the experiments of Carr and Elsberry (1997).

5. Summary and discussion

a. Summary

This study has shown the usefulness of the fuzzy clustering technique to classify TC tracks. Fuzzy clustering has been known to produce more natural classification results for datasets such as TC tracks that are too complex to determine their boundaries of distinctive patterns. In this study, the fuzzy c-means clustering method, which has been widely used for data clustering, was used to group 855 TC tracks over the WNP during TC seasons for the period of 1965–2006. Cross validation of four validity measures—including the partition coefficient, partition index, separation index, and Dunn index—identified seven clusters (C1–C7) as the optimum number (Fig. 2). The principle of the FCM leads all the seven clusters to include all TCs with different membership coefficients (Fig. 3). For practical purposes, each TC was assigned to a cluster where its membership coefficient is the largest (Fig. 4).

Each cluster showed distinctive characteristics in its lifetime, traveling distance, intensity, and monthly distribution. The clusters that consist of TCs with longer lifetime and traveling distance had stronger intensity (Table 2). For example, C2 (C6) is characterized by the longest (shortest) lifetime and traveling distance as well as the strongest (weakest) intensity among clusters. The monthly frequency distribution demonstrated the seasonal variations in genesis locations and tracks that arise from those in the monsoon tough and NPSH (Fig. 6).

Naturally, the main landfalling regions and the distribution of TC-induced rainfalls are dependent on track patterns. The TCs in C1–C3 made landfall in the East Asian regions (i.e., the Korean Peninsula, Japan, eastern China, and Taiwan) with heavy rainfall, while those in C6–C7 hit the South Asian regions (i.e., Philippines, Vietnam, and southern China) (Table 3). For each cluster, the geographical distribution of TC-induced rainfall matched the cluster’s tracks and main landfalling regions well (Fig. 7).

The related large-scale environments were analyzed by the composite of the oceanic and atmospheric parameters on the day of TC genesis. Each cluster showed different features in the SST and low-level circulation anomalies in association with the main TC genesis region (Fig. 8). In particular, the tropical SST variations were significantly related to TC activity in C1, C2 and C3, representing the influences of La Niña, El Niño, and CP–El Niño, respectively. The tropospheric-layer mean winds represented the steering flows determining the cluster-averaged TC movement well. The west-oriented tracks were explained by the easterlies around the southwest periphery of the NPSH, while the north-oriented tracks penetrating the weak western boundary of the NPSH were associated with the weak steering flows.

b. Discussion

Instead of producing hard clusters directly, the FCM performs soft clustering to find the cluster centers and membership coefficients of each object to all cluster centers. The membership coefficient is qualitatively similar to the membership probability of the mixture regression model suggested by C07a. This property seems to make the FCM can be an alternative to C07a.

The fuzzy clustering technique has been utilized in several previous studies to classify large-scale circulation patterns as well as TC tracks (e.g., Harr and Elsberry 1995a; Kim 2005). Both studies employed a vector empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis as a data initialization process and transformed the c-means functional [Eq. (1)] into an applicable form for the coefficients from the vector EOF analysis. In this study, the data initialization process was simplified; that is, the longitude and latitude information is directly put in the FCM algorithm.

To use the longitude and latitude information directly for the FCM input, all the data objects should be of equal length, which is critical for c-means clustering family (including k-means clustering). Because of this constraint, previous studies could not use the whole track information (Blender et al. 1997; Elsner and Liu 2003; Elsner 2003). To overcome this limitation, this study proposed a simple direct interpolation with an equal number of segments for all tracks by leaving out time information of the best-track data. This method can preserve the shape of the entire track quite well (Fig. 1) and allows them to be put in as an input for the c-means clustering family. This artificial interpolation is justified in the sense that the clustering result was reasonable, which, in turn, implies that the most critical information is the track shape. This method makes the FCM designed here more straightforward and easier to apply to the clustering analysis of tracks. This direct interpolation can be an alternative to the mass moments suggested by Nakamura et al. (2009).

We also applied the k-means clustering to the same dataset for the purpose of comparison. The k-means clustering resulted in somewhat different clusters especially in the recurving tracks (figure not shown). For instance, the El Niño–related pattern (i.e., C2) was divided into two clusters and C1, C4, and C5 were relocated into two clusters. As a result, the population of each cluster became more unbalanced in the k means compared to the FCM.3 This is caused by the difference in fundamentals between the two similar but different methods (see Table 1). Although the results by the FCM are more balanced and useful in isolating influences of the physical phenomena such as El Niño, La Niña, and CP–El Niño on the TC activity, it is not correct to say one is superior to the other because the results are dependent on the data property.

In addition, the FCM using all season TC tracks (i.e., 1128 TCs for 1965–2006) were examined and identified eight clusters as the optimum cluster number. The eight clusters consist of seven patterns similar to those from the tracks during TC season and the one cluster that includes both recurvers at lower latitude and straight movers formed farther southeast of the WNP (figure not shown). We conclude that the seven clusters are, to a large extent, robust patterns by the FCM.

A weakness in the FCM is that it is an unsupervised clustering algorithm that gives different clustering results when the input data are changed. However, in the case of the newly observed TCs, they can be allocated into the existing clusters without recalculation by using the following procedures. First, interpolate the new TC tracks into the same number of segments. Next, calculate their membership coefficients to the existing cluster centers. Finally, allocate them to the clusters where their membership coefficients are largest. With this method the existing clusters of TC track patterns can be preserved.

It has been reported that the various atmospheric modes such as the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) and MJO modulate TC tracks over the WNP (e.g., Ho et al. 2009b; Kim et al. 2008). Although it was not discussed here, the fingerprint of these phenomena also appears in the clustered TC tracks. The correlation between the seasonal TC number in C4 and the seasonal mean 50-hPa zonal wind index for the QBO during 1979–2006 reaches −0.62, representing more activity of C4 during the easterly QBO season (Ho et al. 2009b). The statistical relation with the atmospheric and oceanic modes along with large-scale environments may be applicable to the long-range prediction of TC tracks. Some recent studies successfully predicted seasonal TC activity over the specific region in the WNP using statistical methods based on the antecedent large-scale environments (Chu and Zhao 2007; Chu et al. 2007; Ho et al. 2009a; Kim et al. 2010). If the classified patterns can be predicted using a similar method, the long-range forecast for the regional TC activity covering the entire WNP is promising. The development of this prediction technique will be discussed in a separate paper. Moreover, the clustering can also be applied to diagnose the future change of TC tracks and the probability of landfall under global warming using high-resolution model scenario experiment.

Acknowledgments

This work was funded by the Korea Meteorological Administration Research and Development Program under Grant CATER 2006-4204. H.-S. Kim was also supported by the BK21 project of the Korean government. J.-H. Kim was supported by NSC99-2811-M-002-076.

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APPENDIX A

Iterative Method for Minimizing Fuzzy c-Means Functional

Given the dataset x, choose the number of clusters 1 < C < K, the weighting exponent m > 1, the termination tolerance ɛ > 0, and the partition matrix 𝗨:

 
formula

Initialize the partition matrix 𝗨(0) randomly.

Repeat following steps for l = 1, 2, … until ‖J(l)J(l−1)‖ < ɛ.

  • Step 1—Compute the cluster centers: 
    formula
  • Step 2—Update the partition matrix: 
    formula

(Abonyi and Feil 2007).

APPENDIX B

Validity Scalar Measures for the Optimum Cluster Number

The partition coefficient (Bezdek 1981) measures the amount of overlapping between the clusters. It is computed as

 
formula

This index is inversely proportional to the overall average overlap between the fuzzy subsets. The main drawback of the partition coefficient is that it is only based on the membership coefficients. Thus, it lacks direct connection to the geometrical properties of the object data.

The partition index (Bensaid et al. 1996) validates both compactness and separation of the clusters. The compactness is represented by the mean of the distance between the objects and the cluster center weighted by the membership coefficients, and the separation is estimated by the sum of the distances from a cluster center to all other cluster centers. The partition index is obtained by summing up the ratio of the compactness to the separation, whose formula is as follows:

 
formula

The separation index (Xie and Beni 1991) is also represented by the ratio of the compactness to the separation, which is similar to the partition index. However, the separation is defined as the minimum distance between the cluster centers. The separation index is computed as

 
formula

The Dunn index (Dunn 1973) is a classical index to identify the compact and separate clusters. This index represents the ratio of the shortest distance between the two objects belonging to each other cluster and the largest distance between the two objects belonging to the same cluster. The Dunn index can be applied only to hard partitions. In this study, it is computed after each object is assigned to a cluster where its membership coefficient is the largest. The Dunn index is defined as

 
formula

Footnotes

Corresponding author address: Dr. Joo-Hong Kim, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, National Taiwan University, No. 1, Sec. 4, Roosevelt Road, Taipei, 10617 Taiwan. Email: jhkim@as.ntu.edu.tw

1

Note that we use the metric in latitude and longitude coordinates, not the geometric distance over the sphere.

2

C3 is included though it is a blended pattern of the straight-moving and recurving TCs.

3

The ratio of the largest to the smallest number of TCs is 2.8 (152/52) for the k-means result, whereas it is 1.9 (150/79) for the FCM result.