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

Abstract

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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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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Stephanie C. Herring, Martin P. Hoerling, James P. Kossin, Thomas C. Peterson, and Peter A. Stott
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Stephanie C. Herring, Martin P. Hoerling, James P. Kossin, Thomas C. Peterson, and Peter A. Stott
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Stephanie C. Herring, Martin P. Hoerling, James P. Kossin, Thomas C. Peterson, and Peter A. Stott

Editors note: For easy download the posted pdf of the Explaining Extreme Events of 2014 is a very low-resolution file. A high-resolution copy of the report is available by clicking here. Please be patient as it may take a few minutes for the high-resolution file to download.

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Eric A. Hendricks, Wayne H. Schubert, Richard K. Taft, Huiqun Wang, and James P. Kossin

Abstract

The asymmetric dynamics of potential vorticity mixing in the hurricane inner core are further advanced by examining the end states that result from the unforced evolution of hurricane-like vorticity rings in a nondivergent barotropic model. The results from a sequence of 170 numerical simulations are summarized. The sequence covers a two-dimensional parameter space, with the first parameter defining the hollowness of the vortex (i.e., the ratio of eye to inner-core relative vorticity) and the second parameter defining the thickness of the ring (i.e., the ratio of the inner and outer radii of the ring). In approximately one-half of the cases, the ring becomes barotropically unstable, and there ensues a vigorous vorticity mixing episode between the eye and eyewall. The output of the barotropic model is used to (i) verify that the nonlinear model approximately replicates the linear theory of the fastest-growing azimuthal mode in the early phase of the evolution, and (ii) characterize the end states (defined at t = 48 h) that result from the nonlinear chaotic vorticity advection and mixing. It is found that the linear stability theory is a good guide to the fastest-growing exponential mode in the numerical model. Two additional features are observed in the numerical model results. The first is an azimuthal wavenumber-2 deformation of the vorticity ring that occurs for moderately thick, nearly filled rings. The second is an algebraically growing wavenumber-1 instability (not present in the linear theory because of the assumed solution) that is observed as a wobbling eye (or the trochoidal oscillation for a moving vortex) for thick rings that are stable to all exponentially growing instabilities. Most end states are found to be monopoles. For very hollow and thin rings, persistent mesovortices may exist for more than 15 h before merging to a monopole. For thicker rings, the relaxation to a monopole takes longer (between 48 and 72 h). For moderately thick rings with nearly filled cores, the most likely end state is an elliptical eyewall. In this nondivergent barotropic context, both the minimum central pressure and maximum tangential velocity simultaneously decrease over 48 h during all vorticity mixing events.

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Kenneth R. Knapp, Jessica L. Matthews, James P. Kossin, and Christopher C. Hennon

Abstract

The Cyclone Center project maintains a website that allows visitors to answer questions based on tropical cyclone satellite imagery. The goal is to provide a reanalysis of satellite-derived tropical cyclone characteristics from a homogeneous historical database composed of satellite imagery with a common spatial resolution for use in long-term, global analyses. The determination of the cyclone “type” (curved band, eye, shear, etc.) is a starting point for this process. This analysis shows how multiple classifications of a single image are combined to provide probabilities of a particular image’s type using an expectation–maximization (EM) algorithm. Analysis suggests that the project needs about 10 classifications of an image to adequately determine the storm type. The algorithm is capable of characterizing classifiers with varying levels of expertise, though the project needs about 200 classifications to quantify an individual’s precision. The EM classifications are compared with an objective algorithm, satellite fix data, and the classifications of a known classifier. The EM classifications compare well, with best agreement for eye and embedded center storm types and less agreement for shear and when convection is too weak (termed no-storm images). Both the EM algorithm and the known classifier showed similar tendencies when compared against an objective algorithm. The EM algorithm also fared well when compared to tropical cyclone fix datasets, having higher agreement with embedded centers and less agreement for eye images. The results were used to show the distribution of storm types versus wind speed during a storm’s lifetime.

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Carl J. Schreck III, Lei Shi, James P. Kossin, and John J. Bates

Abstract

The Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) and convectively coupled equatorial waves are the dominant modes of synoptic-to-subseasonal variability in the tropics. These systems have frequently been examined with proxies for convection such as outgoing longwave radiation (OLR). However, upper-tropospheric water vapor (UTWV) gives a more complete picture of tropical circulations because it is more sensitive to the drying and warming associated with subsidence. Previous studies examined tropical variability using relatively short (3–7 yr) UTWV datasets. Intersatellite calibration of data from the High Resolution Infrared Radiation Sounder (HIRS) has recently produced a homogeneous 32-yr climate data record of UTWV for 200–500 hPa. This study explores the utility of HIRS UTWV for identifying the MJO and equatorial waves.

Spectral analysis shows that the MJO and equatorial waves stand out above the low-frequency background in UTWV, similar to previous findings with OLR. The fraction of variance associated with the MJO and equatorial Rossby waves is actually greater in UTWV than in OLR. Kelvin waves, on the other hand, are overshadowed in UTWV by horizontal advection from extratropical Rossby waves.

For the MJO, UTWV identifies subsidence drying in the subtropics, poleward of the convection. These dry anomalies are associated with the MJO’s subtropical Rossby gyres. MJO events with dry anomalies over the central North Pacific Ocean also amplify the 200-hPa flow pattern over North America 7 days later. These events cannot be identified using equatorial OLR alone, which demonstrates that UTWV is a useful supplement for identifying the MJO, equatorial waves.

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