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K. S. Liu
and
Johnny C. L. Chan

Abstract

This paper presents the important climatological features of the tropical cyclones making landfall along the South China coast and proposes a statistical scheme for the prediction of the annual number of such tropical cyclones. This number is found to have a large variation, which is mainly due to the occurrence or nonoccurrence of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon. A strong El Niño event is found to reduce the number of landfalling tropical cyclones whereas more tropical cyclones tend to make landfall in years associated with La Niña events. Such variations are more prominent in some seasons. The late season (October–November) activity is generally suppressed (enhanced) in El Niño (La Niña) years whereas the chance of a tropical cyclone striking the South China coast increases (decreases) significantly in the early season (May and June) after the mature phase of a La Niña (El Niño) event. These anomalous activities are apparently linked to the ENSO-induced anomalies in the low- and midlevel large-scale circulation.

Based on the ENSO-related indices such as the Niño-3.4 sea surface temperature anomaly and the equatorial Southern Oscillation index, a statistical prediction scheme for the annual number of such landfalling tropical cyclones by 1 April is developed using the projection–pursuit regression technique. This scheme provides a 40% skill improvement in root-mean-square error with respect to climatology. A real-time prediction made in 2001 gave reasonable results.

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Y. S. Li
and
Johnny C. L. Chan

Abstract

This study attempts to investigate the linear momentum budget responsible for tropical cyclone (TC) recurvature. Using the operational analyses from the U.K. Meteorological Office global model, the environmental flow associated with recurving TCs over the western North Pacific for the years 1991–95 is composited. In general, the dominant features include an eastward-retreating subtropical ridge (STR) and an approaching westerly trough during the recurvature. While the southeasterly flow associated with the STR changes to southerly in the northeast quadrant of the TC in the mid- to upper troposphere, the southwesterly flow associated with the trough penetrates into the northwest quadrant of the TC, especially in the upper troposphere. These changes of the environmental flow throughout the recurvature alter the linear momentum of the TC from southeasterly to southwesterly.

To understand the dynamical processes responsible for the linear momentum changes, individual momentum tendency terms are calculated. In the zonal direction, throughout the recurvature, the southerly component from the environment is found to play an important role for the increase of the net zonal momentum tendency through the earth momentum advection and the zonal component of the Coriolis force. The contribution of the environmental westerlies through the advection of westerly momentum is very small and is eventually cancelled by the negative advection associated with the southerly flow. The net positive meridional force appears to be the main contributor of the meridional tendency component. The negative meridional momentum advection term during and after recurvature only weakens the net meridional momentum tendency at the later stage.

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K. S. Liu
and
Johnny C. L. Chan

Abstract

This study investigates the synoptic flow patterns associated with small and large tropical cyclones (TCs) that occurred over the western North Pacific between 1991 and 1996. The size of a TC is defined as the azimuthally averaged radius from the TC center at which the relative vorticity decreases to 1 × 10−5 s−1. Calculation of the relative vorticity is based on the satellite-derived surface winds of the European Remote Sensing Satellites 1 and 2 (ERS-1 and ERS-2). Operational analyses of the U.K. Met Office are employed to identify the synoptic patterns around the TCs.

Characteristic synoptic patterns at 850 hPa can be identified with TCs of different sizes. The southwesterly surge and late-season patterns are related to large TCs while the dominant ridge and monsoon-gyre patterns are associated with the occurrence of a small TC. A case study of Typhoon Bart demonstrates the time evolution of the synoptic pattern and its relationship with the TC size change. Bart exhibited a distinct transition from the dominant ridge synoptic pattern to the southwesterly surge synoptic pattern and, correspondingly, the size of Bart increased significantly.

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Andy Zung-Ching Goh
and
Johnny C. L. Chan

Abstract

This study describes an improved statistical scheme for predicting the annual number of tropical cyclones (TCs) making landfall along the coast of south China using data from 1965 to 2005. Based on the factors affecting TC behavior inside the South China Sea (SCS), those responsible for TCs making landfall are identified. Equations are then developed using the coefficients of empirical orthogonal functions of these factors to predict, in April, the number of these TCs in the early (May–August) and late (September–December) seasons, and in June, the number in the period between July to December. The new scheme achieves a forecast skill of 51% over climatology, or an improvement of about 11% compared to previous studies, when predicting landfalling TC for the whole season, and it seems to be able to capture the decrease in their number in the recent years. Analyses of the flow patterns suggest that the conditions inside the SCS are apparently the major factor affecting the number of landfalling TCs. In years in which this number is above normal, conditions inside the SCS are favorable for TC genesis, and vice versa. The strength of the 500-hPa subtropical high also seems to be a factor in determining whether TCs from the western North Pacific (WNP) could enter the SCS and make landfall.

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Johnny C. L. Chan
and
Kin Sik Liu

Abstract

Based on results from climate model simulations, many researchers have suggested that because of global warming, the sea surface temperature (SST) will likely increase, which will then lead to an increase in the intensity of tropical cyclones (TCs). This paper reports results of a study of the relationship between SST and observed typhoon activity (which is used as a proxy for the intensity of TCs averaged over a season) over the western North Pacific (WNP) for the past 40 yr. The average typhoon activity over a season is found to have no significant relationship with SST in the WNP but increases when the SST over the equatorial eastern Pacific Ocean is above normal. The mean annual typhoon activity is generally higher (lower) during an El Niño (La Niña) year. Such interannual variations of typhoon activity appear to be largely constrained by the large-scale atmospheric factors that are closely related to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon. These large-scale dynamic and thermodynamic factors include low-level relative vorticity, vertical wind shear, and moist static energy. Such results are shown to be physically consistent with one another and with those from previous studies on the interannual variations of TC activity. The results emphasize the danger of drawing conclusions about future TC intensity based on current climate model simulations that are not designed to make such predictions.

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Kin Sik Liu
and
Johnny C. L. Chan

Abstract

Tropical cyclone (TC) activity over the western North Pacific (WNP) exhibits a significant interdecadal variation during 1960–2011, with two distinct active and inactive periods each. This study examines changes in TC activity and atmospheric conditions in the recent inactive period (1998–2011). The overall TC activity shows a significant decrease, which is partly related to the decadal variation of TC genesis frequency in the southeastern part of the WNP and the downward trend of TC genesis frequency in the main development region.

The investigation on the factors responsible for the low TC activity mainly focuses on the effect of vertical wind shear and subtropical high on multidecadal time scales. A vertical wind shear index, defined as the mean magnitude of the difference of the 200- and 850-hPa horizontal zonal winds (10°–17.5°N, 150°E–180°) averaged between June and October, is highly correlated with the annual TC number and shows a significant interdecadal variation. Positive anomalies of vertical wind shear are generally found in the eastern part of the tropical WNP during this inactive period. A subtropical high area index, calculated as the area enclosed by the 5880-gpm line of the June–October 500-hPa geopotential height (0°–40°N, 100°E–180°), shows a significant upward trend. A high correlation is also found between this index and the annual TC number, and a stronger-than-normal subtropical high is generally observed during this inactive period. The strong vertical wind shear and strong subtropical high observed during 1998–2011 together apparently lead to unfavorable atmospheric conditions for TC genesis and hence the low TC activity during the period.

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Johnny C. L. Chan
and
R. T. Williams

Abstract

The β-effect on tropical cyclone motion is studied using an analytical as well as a numerical model in a nondivergent barotropic framework. The analytical model and the linear version of the numerical model give essentially the same result: the linear β-effect causes a westward stretching of the model vortex but no significant movement of the vortex center. An east-west asymmetry in the meridional wind field is also created. It is the inclusion of the nonlinear term that produces the northwestward movement of the vortex previously found by other investigators (e.g., Kitade, 1981). This northwestward movement increases with both the maximum wind speed and the radius of maximum wind in a constant-shape vortex. A wind maximum is also found to the northeast of the vortex, which appears to be consistent with the observational findings of Shea and Gray. This asymmetry plays an important role in the vortex motion.

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R. T. Williams
and
Johnny C-L. Chan

Abstract

The motion of tropical vortices in east–west mean flows is studied with the barotropic vorticity equation on the beta plane. The vorticity equation is integrated numerically from an initially symmetric vortex embedded in (i) a linear shear flow or (ii) a parabolic jet. The first experiment with flow (i) has β = 0 and it is linearized about the mean flow. The vortex is distorted by the mean flow so that the even Fourier components around the vortex grow, but the vortex does not move. When nonlinear effects are included the distortion is damped in the inner part of the vortex, but wavenumber two grows in the outer region. The addition of the beta effect causes the vortex to move in the same direction as the no mean flow solution provided the mean flow advection is removed from the trajectories. The trajectory for the anticyclonic mean flow is significantly longer than the cyclonic and no mean flow trajectories, which are about equal. For mean flow (ii), with the same absolute vorticity gradient as β but on an f plane, the vortex has a much shorter trajectory and a more westerly direction of movement than the no mean flow solution with beta. This effect comes from the advective distortion of the vortex, which projects onto wavenumber one in the disturbance vorticity equation. It is shown with other experiments that beta has a stronger effect on vortex motion than the relative vorticity gradient.

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Kin Sik Liu
and
Johnny C. L. Chan

Abstract

This study examines the interdecadal variability of the tropical cyclone (TC) tracks over the western North Pacific (WNP) during the 1960–2005 period. An empirical orthogonal function analysis of the 10-yr Gaussian-filtered annual frequency of TC occurrence shows three leading modes of TC occurrence patterns. The first mode is related to the variation of TC activity in the areas near Japan and its east. The second mode is characterized by a northeast–southwest dipole of TC occurrence anomalies along the southeast coast of China and an east–west dipole near Japan and its east. The third mode is similar to the second mode, except for the absence of the east–west dipole. These patterns are shown to be related to the decadal changes in the prevailing TC tracks.

Two characteristic flow patterns related to the first and third modes of TC occurrence pattern are identified. The first pattern is characterized by a north–south dipole of 500-hPa geopotential anomalies over the WNP. Such a pattern may affect the strength and westward extension of the subtropical high and the midlevel steering flow and hence the TC occurrence pattern. The Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) is found to display a similar dipole-like structure. The decadal variability of TC tracks may therefore be partly attributed to the PDO signal. The second characteristic pattern shows a series of anomalous midlevel atmospheric circulations extending from the sea east of Japan to the south coast of China, which may explain the other part of the decadal variations.

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Johnny C. L. Chan
and
William M. Gray

Abstract

This paper presents results of a comprehensive study of the relationship between the movement of tropical cyclones and the large-scale circulation which surrounds them. Cyclones have been stratified by direction and speed of movement, latitude, intensity change and size (as determined by the radius of the outermost closed surface isobar) in three ocean basins: the northwest Pacific, the west Atlantic and the Australian-South Pacific region. Twenty-one different stratifications are available in the northwest Pacific, 13 in the west Atlantic and 6 in the Australian-South Pacific area. Cyclone movement and surrounding flow relationships were studied at different pressure levels and a variety of radii. Pressure-weighted layer-averages were also analyzed in search of such relationships.

Results show an important relationship between surrounding large-scale flow and tropical cyclone movement. For all stratifications, the winds in the mid-troposphere (500–700 mb) at 5–7° latitude radius from the cyclone center have the best correlation with cyclone movement. Tropical cyclones in the Northern Hemisphere move ∼10–20° to the left of their surrounding mid-tropospheric flow at 5–7° latitude radius, and those in the Southern Hemisphere move ∼10° to the right. It is also found that cyclones, in general, move ∼1 m s−1 faster than this flow. These general relationships appear to be modified by the vertical shear of the environmental wind, the zonal component of the cyclone velocity and other characteristics of the cyclone. The mean tropospheric flow (surface to 100 mb) at 5–7° latitude radius also correlates well with cyclone movement in most cases. For cyclones embedded in an environment with relatively small vertical wind shear, the mid-tropospheric flow is as good a descriptor of cyclone motion as the mean tropospheric flow. The average wind between the upper (200 mb) and lower (900 mb) troposphere also appears to correlate reasonably well with cyclone movement.

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