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Suzana J. Camargo, Andrew W. Robertson, Scott J. Gaffney, Padhraic Smyth, and Michael Ghil

Abstract

A new probabilistic clustering technique, based on a regression mixture model, is used to describe tropical cyclone trajectories in the western North Pacific. Each component of the mixture model consists of a quadratic regression curve of cyclone position against time. The best-track 1950–2002 dataset is described by seven distinct clusters. These clusters are then analyzed in terms of genesis location, trajectory, landfall, intensity, and seasonality.

Both genesis location and trajectory play important roles in defining the clusters. Several distinct types of straight-moving, as well as recurving, trajectories are identified, thus enriching this main distinction found in previous studies. Intensity and seasonality of cyclones, though not used by the clustering algorithm, are both highly stratified from cluster to cluster. Three straight-moving trajectory types have very small within-cluster spread, while the recurving types are more diffuse. Tropical cyclone landfalls over East and Southeast Asia are found to be strongly cluster dependent, both in terms of frequency and region of impact.

The relationships of each cluster type with the large-scale circulation, sea surface temperatures, and the phase of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation are studied in a companion paper.

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