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Stuart A. Browning and Ian D. Goodwin

Abstract

Subtropical maritime low pressure systems frequently impact Australia’s eastern seaboard. Closed circulation lows in the Tasman Sea region are termed East Coast Cyclones (ECC); they can evolve in a range of climatic environments and have proven most destructive during the late autumn–winter period. Using criteria based on pressure gradients, inferred wind field, and duration, an objectively determined database of ECC occurrences is established to explore large-scale influences on ECC evolution. Subclassification based on evolutionary trajectory reveals two dominant storm types during late autumn–winter: easterly trough lows (ETL) and southern secondary lows (SSL). Synoptic composites are used to investigate the climatological evolution of each storm type. ETL cyclogenesis occurs along the eastern seaboard at the confluence of warm moist subtropical easterlies and cool air over the continent that is advected from higher latitudes. SSL develop when a cold extratropical cyclone moves equatorward and interacts with warm moist conditions in the Tasman Sea. At seasonal time scales, a complex interplay of tropical and extratropical influences contributes to high-frequency storm seasons. ETL are more frequent during neutral or positive phases of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, cool sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTAs) in the tropical Indian Ocean, and neutral to positive southern annular mode phases. SSL are more frequent during years with warm SSTAs in the eastern Indian Ocean, warm SSTAs in the western Pacific, and high-latitude blocking.

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