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James P. Kossin and Daniel J. Vimont

Atlantic hurricane variability on decadal and interannual time scales is reconsidered in a framework based on a leading mode of coupled ocean-atmosphere variability known as the Atlantic meridional mode (AMM). It is shown that a large part of the variability of overall “hurricane activity,” which depends on the number of storms in a season, their duration, and their intensity, can be explained by systematic shifts in the cyclogenesis regions. These shifts are strongly correlated with the AMM on interannual as well as multidecadal time scales. It is suggested that the AMM serves to unify a number of previously documented relationships between hurricanes and Atlantic regional climate variability.

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

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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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John A. Knaff, James P. Kossin, and Mark DeMaria

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This study introduces and examines a symmetric category of tropical cyclone, which the authors call annular hurricanes. The structural characteristics and formation of this type of hurricane are examined and documented using satellite and aircraft reconnaissance data. The formation is shown to be systematic, resulting from what appears to be asymmetric mixing of eye and eyewall components of the storms involving either one or two possible mesovortices. Flight-level thermodynamic data support this contention, displaying uniform values of equivalent potential temperature in the eye, while the flight-level wind observations within annular hurricanes show evidence that mixing inside the radius of maximum wind likely continues. Intensity tendencies of annular hurricanes indicate that these storms maintain their intensities longer than the average hurricane, resulting in larger-than-average intensity forecast errors and thus a significant intensity forecasting challenge. In addition, these storms are found to exist in a specific set of environmental conditions, which are only found 3% and 0.8% of the time in the east Pacific and Atlantic tropical cyclone basins during 1989–99, respectively. With forecasting issues in mind, two methods of objectively identifying these storms are also developed and discussed.

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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, Kerry A. Emanuel, and Suzana J. Camargo

Abstract

The average latitude where tropical cyclones (TCs) reach their peak intensity has been observed to be shifting poleward in some regions over the past 30 years, apparently in concert with the independently observed expansion of the tropical belt. This poleward migration is particularly well observed and robust in the western North Pacific Ocean (WNP). Such a migration is expected to cause systematic changes, both increases and decreases, in regional hazard exposure and risk, particularly if it persists through the present century. Here, it is shown that the past poleward migration in the WNP has coincided with decreased TC exposure in the region of the Philippine and South China Seas, including the Marianas, the Philippines, Vietnam, and southern China, and increased exposure in the region of the East China Sea, including Japan and its Ryukyu Islands, the Korea Peninsula, and parts of eastern China. Additionally, it is shown that projections of WNP TCs simulated by, and downscaled from, an ensemble of numerical models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) demonstrate a continuing poleward migration into the present century following the emissions projections of the representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5). The projected migration causes a shift in regional TC exposure that is very similar in pattern and relative amplitude to the past observed shift. In terms of regional differences in vulnerability and resilience based on past TC exposure, the potential ramifications of these future changes are significant. Questions of attribution for the changes are discussed in terms of tropical belt expansion and Pacific decadal sea surface temperature variability.

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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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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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Christopher Velden, Timothy Olander, Derrick Herndon, and James P. Kossin

Abstract

In recent years, a number of extremely powerful tropical cyclones have revived community debate on methodologies used to estimate the lifetime maximum intensity (LMI) of these events. And how do these storms rank historically? In this study, the most updated version of an objective satellite-based intensity estimation algorithm [advanced Dvorak technique (ADT)] is employed and applied to the highest-resolution (spatial and temporal) geostationary satellite data available for extreme-intensity tropical cyclones that occurred during the era of these satellites (1979–present). Cases with reconnaissance aircraft observations are examined and used to calibrate the ADT at extreme intensities. Bias corrections for observing properties such as satellite viewing angle and image spatiotemporal resolution, and storm characteristics such as small eye size are also considered.

The results of these intensity estimates (maximum sustained 1-min wind) show that eastern North Pacific Hurricane Patricia (2015) ranks as the strongest storm in any basin (182 kt), followed by western North Pacific Typhoons Haiyan (2013), Tip (1979), and Gay (1992). The following are the strongest classifications in other basins—Atlantic: Gilbert (1988), north Indian Ocean basin: Paradip (1999), south Indian Ocean: Gafilo (2004), Australian region: Monica (2006), and southeast Pacific basin: Pam (2015). In addition, ADT LMI estimates for four storms exceed the maximum allowable limit imposed by the operational Dvorak technique. This upper bound on intensity may be an unnatural constraint, especially if tropical cyclones get stronger in a warmer biosphere as some theorize. This argues for the need of an extension to the Dvorak scale to allow higher intensity estimates.

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