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Christopher M. Rozoff and James P. Kossin

Abstract

The National Hurricane Center currently employs a skillful probabilistic rapid intensification index (RII) based on linear discriminant analysis of the environmental and satellite-derived features from the Statistical Hurricane Intensity Prediction Scheme (SHIPS) dataset. Probabilistic prediction of rapid intensity change in tropical cyclones is revisited here using two additional models: one based on logistic regression and the other on a naïve Bayesian framework. Each model incorporates data from the SHIPS dataset over both the North Atlantic and eastern North Pacific Ocean basins to provide the probability of exceeding the standard rapid intensification thresholds [25, 30, and 35 kt (24 h)−1] for 24 h into the future. The optimal SHIPS and satellite-based predictors of rapid intensification differ slightly between each probabilistic model and ocean basin, but each set of optimal predictors incorporates thermodynamic and dynamic aspects of the tropical cyclone’s environment (such as vertical wind shear) and its structure (such as departure from convective axisymmetry). Cross validation shows that both the logistic regression and Bayesian probabilistic models are skillful relative to climatology. Dependent testing indicates both models exhibit forecast skill that generally exceeds the skill of the present operational SHIPS-RII and a simple average of the probabilities provided by the logistic regression, Bayesian, and SHIPS-RII models provides greater skill than any individual model. For the rapid intensification threshold of 25 kt (24 h)−1, the three-member ensemble mean improves the Brier skill scores of the current operational SHIPS-RII by 33% in the North Atlantic and 52% in the eastern North Pacific.

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James P. Kossin and Wayne H. Schubert

Abstract

The present work considers the two-dimensional barotropic evolution of thin annular rings of enhanced vorticity embedded in nearly irrotational flow. Such initial conditions imitate the observed flows in intensifying hurricanes. Using a pseudospectral numerical model, it is found that these highly unstable annuli rapidly break down into a number of mesovortices. The mesovortices undergo merger processes with their neighbors and, depending on initial conditions, they can relax to a monopole or an asymmetric quasi-steady state. In the latter case, the mesovortices form a lattice rotating approximately as a solid body. The flows associated with such vorticity configurations consist of straight line segments that form a variety of persistent polygonal shapes.

Associated with each mesovortex is a local pressure perturbation, or mesolow. The magnitudes of the pressure perturbations can be large when the magnitude of the vorticity in the initial annulus is large. In cases where the mesovortices merge to form a monopole, dramatic central pressure falls are possible.

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Timothy M. Hall, James P. Kossin, Terence Thompson, and James McMahon

Abstract

We use a statistical tropical cyclone (TC) model, the North Atlantic Stochastic Hurricane Model (NASHM), in combination with sea surface temperature (SST) projections from climate models, to estimate regional changes in U.S. TC activity into the 2030s. NASHM is trained on historical variations in TC characteristics with two SST indices: global–tropical mean SST and the difference between tropical North Atlantic Ocean (NA) SST and the rest of the global tropics, often referred to as “relative SST.” Testing confirms the model’s ability to reproduce historical U.S. TC activity as well as to make skillful predictions. When NASHM is driven by SST projections into the 2030s, overall NA annual TC counts increase, and the fractional increase is the greatest at the highest wind intensities. However, an eastward anomaly in mean TC tracks and an eastward shift in TC formation region result in a geographically varied signal in U.S. coastal activity. Florida’s Gulf Coast is projected to see significant increases in TC activity relative to the long-term historical mean, and these increases are fractionally greatest at the highest intensities. By contrast, the northwestern U.S. Gulf Coast and the U.S. East Coast will see little change.

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Xi Guo, James P. Kossin, and Zhe-Min Tan

Abstract

Tropical cyclone (TC) translation speed (TCTS) can affect the duration of TC-related disasters, which is critical to coastal and inland areas. The long-term variation of TCTS and its relationship to the variability of the midlatitude jet stream and storm migration is discussed here for storms near the North Atlantic coast during 1948–2019. Our results reveal the prominent seasonality in the long-term variation of TCTS, which can be largely explained by the seasonality in the covariations of the midlatitude jet stream and storm locations. Specifically, significant increases of TCTS occur in June and October during the past decades, which may result from the equatorward displacement of the jet stream and poleward migration of storm locations. Prominent slowdown of TCTS is found in August, which is related to the weakened jet strength and equatorward storm migration. In September, the effects of poleward displacement and weakening of the jet stream on TCTS are largely compensated by the poleward storm migration, and therefore no significant change in TCTS is observed. Meanwhile, the multidecadal variability of the Atlantic may contribute to the multidecadal variability of TCTS. Our findings emphasize the significance in taking a seasonality view in discussing the variability and trends of near-coast Atlantic TCTS under climate change.

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James P. Kossin, Wayne H. Schubert, and Michael T. Montgomery

Abstract

Intense tropical cyclones often exhibit concentric eyewall patterns in their radar reflectivity. Deep convection within the inner, or primary, eyewall is surrounded by a nearly echo-free moat, which in turn is surrounded by an outer, or secondary ring of deep convection. Both convective regions typically contain well-defined tangential wind maxima. The primary wind maximum is associated with large vorticity just inside the radius of maximum wind, while the secondary wind maximum is usually associated with relatively enhanced vorticity embedded in the outer ring. In contrast, the moat is a region of low vorticity. If the vorticity profile across the eye and inner eyewall is approximated as monotonic, the resulting radial profile of vorticity still satisfies the Rayleigh necessary condition for instability as the radial gradient twice changes sign.

Here the authors investigate the stability of such structures and, in the case of instability, simulate the nonlinear evolution into a more stable structure using a nondivergent barotropic model. Because the radial gradient of vorticity changes sign twice, two types of instability and vorticity rearrangement are identified: 1) instability across the outer ring of enhanced vorticity, and 2) instability across the moat. Type 1 instability occurs when the outer ring of enhanced vorticity is sufficiently narrow and when the circulation of the central vortex is sufficiently weak (compared to the outer ring) that it does not induce enough differential rotation across the outer ring to stabilize it. The nonlinear mixing associated with type 1 instability results in a broader and weaker vorticity ring but still maintains a significant secondary wind maximum. The central vortex induces strong differential rotation (and associated enstrophy cascade) in the moat region, which then acts as a barrier to inward mixing of small (but finite) amplitude asymmetric vorticity disturbances. Type 2 instability occurs when the radial extent of the moat is sufficiently narrow so that unstable interactions may occur between the central vortex and the inner edge of the ring. Because the vortex-induced differential rotation across the ring is large when the ring is close to the vortex, type 2 instability typically precludes type 1 instability except in the case of very thin rings. The nonlinear mixing from type 2 instability perturbs the vortex into a variety of shapes. In the case of contracting rings of enhanced vorticity, the vortex and moat typically evolve into a nearly steady tripole structure, thereby offering a mechanism for the formation and persistence of elliptical eyewalls.

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James P. Kossin, Brian D. McNoldy, and Wayne H. Schubert

Abstract

A collection of images depicting various swirling patterns within low-level cloud decks in hurricane eyes is presented and described. A possible causal mechanism for the presence of these cloud patterns is suggested by comparison of the observed cloud patterns with the evolution of passive tracers in a simple 2D barotropic model. The model is initialized with a barotropically unstable flow field that imitates the observed flows in hurricanes, and numerical integration of this field simulates vigorous mixing between eye and eyewall. During the mixing process, passive tracers initially embedded in the flow form swirling patterns in the eye that are strikingly similar to cloud patterns often observed in the eyes of hurricanes.

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Jason C. Knievel, David S. Nolan, and James P. Kossin

Abstract

The authors examine the degree of hydrostatic and gradient balances in a mesoscale convective vortex (MCV) in the stratiform region of a mesoscale convective system (MCS) that crossed Oklahoma on 1 August 1996. Results indicate that the MCV was partially unbalanced because the cool layer at the base of its core was too cool and too shallow to balance the tangential winds about the MCV's axis. The apparent imbalance may have been due to strong, unsteady forcing on the vortex; insufficient or unrepresentative data; approximations used in the analysis; or reasons that are unknown.

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Matthew Sitkowski, James P. Kossin, and Christopher M. Rozoff

Abstract

A flight-level aircraft dataset consisting of 79 Atlantic basin hurricanes from 1977 to 2007 was used to develop an unprecedented climatology of inner-core intensity and structure changes associated with eyewall replacement cycles (ERCs). During an ERC, the inner-core structure was found to undergo dramatic changes that result in an intensity oscillation and rapid broadening of the wind field. Concentrated temporal sampling by reconnaissance aircraft in 14 of the 79 hurricanes captured virtually the entire evolution of 24 ERC events. The analysis of this large dataset extends the phenomenological paradigm of ERCs described in previous observational case studies by identifying and exploring three distinct phases of ERCs: intensification, weakening, and reintensification. In general, hurricanes intensify, sometimes rapidly, when outer wind maxima are first encountered by aircraft. The mean locations of the inner and outer wind maximum at the start of an ERC are 35 and 106 km from storm center, respectively. The intensification rate of the inner wind maximum begins to slow and the storm ultimately weakens as the inner-core structure begins to organize into concentric rings. On average, the inner wind maximum weakens 10 m s−1 before the outer wind maximum surpasses the inner wind maximum as it continues to intensify. This reintensification can be quite dramatic and often brings the storm to its maximum lifetime intensity. The entire ERC lasts 36 h on average.

Comparison of flight-level data and microwave imagery reveals that the first appearance of an outer wind maximum, often associated with a spiral rainband, typically precedes the weakening of the storm by roughly 9 h, but the weakening is already well under way by the time a secondary convective ring with a well-defined moat appears in microwave imagery. The data also show that winds beyond the outer wind maximum remain elevated even after the outer wind maximum contracts inward. Additionally, the contraction of the outer wind maximum usually ceases at a radius larger than the location of the inner wind maximum at the start of the ERC. The combination of a larger primary eyewall and expanded outer wind field increase the integrated kinetic energy by an average of 28% over the course of a complete ERC despite little change in the maximum intensity between the times of onset and completion of the event.

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James P. Kossin, Timothy L. Olander, and Kenneth R. Knapp

Abstract

The historical global “best track” records of tropical cyclones extend back to the mid-nineteenth century in some regions, but formal analysis of these records is encumbered by temporal heterogeneities in the data. This is particularly problematic when attempting to detect trends in tropical cyclone metrics that may be attributable to climate change. Here the authors apply a state-of-the-art automated algorithm to a globally homogenized satellite data record to create a more temporally consistent record of tropical cyclone intensity within the period 1982–2009, and utilize this record to investigate the robustness of trends found in the best-track data. In particular, the lifetime maximum intensity (LMI) achieved by each reported storm is calculated and the frequency distribution of LMI is tested for changes over this period.

To address the unique issues in regions around the Indian Ocean, which result from a discontinuity introduced into the satellite data in 1998, a direct homogenization procedure is applied in which post-1998 data are degraded to pre-1998 standards. This additional homogenization step is found to measurably reduce LMI trends, but the global trends in the LMI of the strongest storms remain positive, with amplitudes of around +1 m s−1 decade−1 and p value = 0.1. Regional trends, in m s−1 decade−1, vary from −2 (p = 0.03) in the western North Pacific, +1.7 (p = 0.06) in the south Indian Ocean, +2.5 (p = 0.09) in the South Pacific, to +8 (p < 0.001) in the North Atlantic.

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James P. Kossin, Suzana J. Camargo, and Matthew Sitkowski

Abstract

The variability of North Atlantic tropical storm and hurricane tracks, and its relationship to climate variability, is explored. Tracks from the North Atlantic hurricane database for the period 1950–2007 are objectively separated into four groups using a cluster technique that has been previously applied to tropical cyclones in other ocean basins. The four clusters form zonal and meridional separations of the tracks. The meridional separation largely captures the separation between tropical and more baroclinic systems, while the zonal separation segregates Gulf of Mexico and Cape Verde storms. General climatologies of the seasonality, intensity, landfall probability, and historical destructiveness of each cluster are documented, and relationships between cluster membership and climate variability across a broad spectrum of time scales are identified.

Composites, with respect to cluster membership, of sea surface temperature and other environmental fields show that regional and remote modes of climate variability modulate the cluster members in substantially differing ways and further demonstrate that factors such as El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Atlantic meridional mode (AMM), North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) have varying intrabasin influences on North Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes. Relationships with African easterly waves are also considered. The AMM and ENSO are found to most strongly modulate the deep tropical systems, while the MJO most strongly modulates Gulf of Mexico storms and the NAO most strongly modulates storms that form to the north and west of their Cape Verde counterparts and closer to the NAO centers of action.

Different clusters also contribute differently to the observed trends in North Atlantic storm frequency and may be related to intrabasin differences in sea surface temperature trends. Frequency trends are dominated by the deep tropical systems, which account for most of the major hurricanes and overall power dissipation. Contrarily, there are no discernable trends in the frequency of Gulf of Mexico storms, which account for the majority of landfalling storms. When the proportion that each cluster contributes to overall frequency is considered, there are clear shifts between the deep tropical systems and the more baroclinic systems. A shift toward proportionally more deep tropical systems began in the early to mid-1980s more than 10 years before the 1995 North Atlantic hurricane season, which is generally used to mark the beginning of the present period of heightened activity.

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