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Sim D. Aberson, Michael T. Montgomery, Michael Bell, and Michael Black

An unprecedented dataset of category-5 Hurricane Isabel was collected on 12–14 September 2003. This two-part series focuses on novel dynamical and thermodynamical aspects of Isabel's innercore structure on 13 September. In Part I, using a composite of dropwindsonde and in situ aircraft data, the authors suggested that the axisymmetric structure of Isabel showed that the storm was superintense. Mesocyclones seen clearly in satellite imagery within the eye of Hurricane Isabel are hypothesized to mix high-entropy air at low levels in the eye into the eyewall, stimulating explosive convective development and a concomitant local horizontal wind acceleration.

Part II focuses on a unique set of observations into an extraordinary small- (miso) scale cyclonic feature inside of the inner edge of the eyewall of Hurricane Isabel. A dropwindsonde released into this feature measured the strongest known horizontal wind in a tropical cyclone. This particular observation is discussed in the context of concurrent observations from airborne Doppler radar and other airborne instruments. These observations show wind even stronger than the system-scale superintense wind suggested in Part I. Speculation on the frequency of occurrence of these “little whirls” and their potentially catastrophic impacts are presented.

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Gerald D. Bell and Michael S. Halpert

The global climate during 1997 was affected by both extremes of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), with weak Pacific cold episode conditions prevailing during January and February, and one of the strongest Pacific warm episodes (El Niño) in the historical record prevailing during the remainder of the year. This warm episode contributed to major regional rainfall and temperature anomalies over large portions of the Tropics and extratropics, which were generally consistent with those observed during past warm episodes. In many regions, these anomalies were opposite to those observed during 1996 and early 1997 in association with Pacific cold episode conditions.

Some of the most dramatic El Niño impacts during 1997 were observed in the Tropics, where anomalous convection was evident across the entire Pacific and throughout most major monsoon regions of the world. Tropical regions most affected by excessive El Niño–related rainfall during the year included 1) the eastern half of the tropical Pacific, where extremely heavy rainfall and strong convective activity covered the region from April through December; 2) equatorial eastern Africa, where excessive rainfall during October–December led to widespread flooding and massive property damage; 3) Chile, where a highly amplified and extended South Pacific jet stream brought increased storminess and above-normal rainfall during the winter and spring; 4) southeastern South America, where these same storms produced above-normal rainfall during June–December; and 5) Ecuador and northern Peru, which began receiving excessive rainfall totals in November and December as deep tropical convection spread eastward across the extreme eastern Pacific.

In contrast, El Niño-–elated rainfall deficits during 1997 included 1) Indonesia, where significantly below-normal rainfall from June through December resulted in extreme drought and contributed to uncontrolled wildfires; 2) New Guinea, where drought contributed to large-scale food shortages leading to an outbreak of malnutrition; 3) the Amazon Basin, which received below-normal rainfall during June–December in association with substantially reduced tropical convection throughout the region; 4) the tropical Atlantic, which experienced drier than normal conditions during July–December; and 5) central America and the Caribbean Sea, which experienced below-normal rainfall during March–December.

The El Niño also contributed to a decrease in tropical storm and hurricane activity over the North Atlantic during August–November, and to an expanded area of conditions favorable for tropical cyclone and hurricane formation over the eastern North Pacific. These conditions are in marked contrast to both the 1995 and 1996 hurricane seasons, in which significantly above-normal tropical cyclone activity was observed over the North Atlantic and suppressed activity prevailed across the eastern North Pacific.

Other regional aspects of the short-term climate during 1997 included 1) wetter than average 1996/97 rainy seasons in both northeastern Australia and southern Africa in association with a continuation of weak cold episode conditions into early 1997; 2) below-normal rainfall and drought in southeastern Australia from October 1996 to December 1997 following very wet conditions in this region during most of 1996; 3) widespread flooding in the Red River Valley of the north-central United States during April following an abnormally cold and snowy winter; 4) floods in central Europe during July following several consecutive months of above-normal rainfall; 5) near-record to record rainfall in southeastern Asia during June–August in association with an abnormally weak upper-level monsoon ridge; and 6) near-normal rainfall across India during the Indian monsoon season (June–September) despite the weakened monsoon ridge.

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Michael S. Halpert and Gerald D. Bell

The climate of 1996 can be characterized by several phenomena that reflect substantial deviations from the mean state of the atmosphere persisting from months to seasons. First, mature cold-episode conditions persisted across the tropical Pacific from November 1995 through May 1996 and contributed to large-scale anomalies of atmospheric circulation, temperature, and precipitation across the Tropics, the North Pacific and North America. These anomalies were in many respects opposite to those that had prevailed during the past several years in association with a prolonged period of tropical Pacific warm-episode conditions (ENSO). Second, strong tropical intraseasonal (Madden–Julian oscillations) activity was observed during most of the year. The impact of these oscillations on extratropical circulation variability was most evident late in the year in association with strong variations in the eastward extent of the East Asian jet and in the attendant downstream circulation, temperature, and precipitation patterns over the eastern North Pacific and central North America. Third, a return to the strong negative phase of the atmospheric North Atlantic oscillation (NAO) during November 1995–February 1996, following a nearly continuous 15-yr period of positive-phase NAO conditions, played a critical role in affecting temperature and precipitation patterns across the North Atlantic, Eurasia, and northern Africa. The NAO also contributed to a significant decrease in wintertime temperatures across large portions of Siberia and northern Russia from those that had prevailed during much of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Other regional aspects of the short-term climate during 1996 included severe drought across the southwestern United States and southern plains states during October 1995–May 1996, flooding in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States during the 1995/96 and 1996/97 winters, a cold and extremely snowy 1995/96 winter in the eastern United States, a second consecutive year of above-normal North Atlantic hurricane activity, near-normal rains in the African Sahel, above-normal rainfall across southeastern Africa during October 1995–April 1996, above-normal precipitation for most of the year across eastern and southeastern Australia following severe drought in these areas during 1995, and generally nearnormal monsoonal rains in India with significantly below-normal rainfall in Bangladesh and western Burma.

The global annual mean surface temperature for land and marine areas during 1996 averaged 0.21°C above the 1961–90 base period means. This is a decrease of 0.19°C from the record warm year of 1995 but was still among the 10 highest values observed since 1860. The global land-only temperature for 1996 was 0.06°C above normal and was the lowest anomaly observed since 1985 (−0.11°C). Much of this relative decrease in global temperatures occurred in the Northern Hemisphere extratropics, where land-only temperatures dropped from 0.42°C above normal in 1995 to 0.04°C below normal in 1996.

The year also witnessed a continuation of near-record low ozone amounts in the Southern Hemisphere stratosphere, along with an abnormally prolonged appearance of the “ozone hole” into early December. The areal extent of the ozone hole in November and early December exceeded that previously observed for any such period on record. However, its areal extent at peak amplitude during late September–early October was near that observed during the past several years.

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Michael T. Montgomery, Michael M. Bell, Sim D. Aberson, and Michael L. Black

This study is an observational analysis of the inner-core structure, sea surface temperature, outflow layer, and atmospheric boundary layer of an intense tropical cyclone whose intensity and structure is consistent with recent numerical and theoretical predictions of superintense storms. The findings suggest new scientific challenges for the current understanding of hurricanes.

Unprecedented observations of the category-5 Hurricane Isabel (2003) were collected during 12–14 September. This two-part article reports novel dynamic and thermodynamic aspects of the inner-core structure of Isabel on 13 September that were made possible by analysis of these data. Here, a composite of the axisymmetric structure of the inner core and environment of Isabel is estimated using global positioning system dropwindsondes and in situ aircraft data. In Part II, an extreme wind speed observation on the same day is discussed in the context of this work.

The axisymmetric data composite suggests a reservoir of high-entropy air inside the low-level eye and significant penetration of inflowing near-surface air from outside. The analysis suggests that the low-level air penetrating the eye is enhanced thermodynamically by acquiring additional entropy through interaction with the ocean and replaces air mixed out of the eye. The results support the hypothesis that this high-entropy eye air “turboboosts” the hurricane engine upon its injection into the eyewall clouds. Recent estimates of the ratio of sea-to-air enthalpy and momentum exchange at high wind speeds are used to suggest that Isabel utilized this extra power to exceed the previously assumed intensity upper bound by 10–35 m s−1 for the given environmental conditions. Additional study with other datasets is encouraged to further test the superintensity hypothesis.

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Michael S. Halpert, Gerald D. Bell, Vernon E. Kousky, and Chester F. Ropelewski

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon is a major contributor to the observed year-to-year variability in the Pacific Ocean and in the global atmospheric circulation. The short-term climate system witnessed the return to the mature phase of warm ENSO conditions (commonly referred to as the El Nino) during early 1995 for the third time in four years. This frequency of occurrence is unprecedented in the last 50 years and is comparable to that observed during the prolonged 1911–15 ENSO episode.

These warm ENSO conditions contributed to a large-scale disruption of the normal patterns of wind, rainfall, and temperature over much of the tropics and middle latitudes, particularly during the December 1994–February 1995 period. This period was followed by a dramatic decrease in sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific, resulting in a complete disappearance of all warm episode conditions during June–August and in the development of weak coldepisode conditions during September–November.

Changes in the tropical Pacific were accompanied by pronounced, large-scale changes in the atmospheric circulation patterns from those that had prevailed during much of the early 1990s. Particular examples of these changes include 1) a dramatic return to a very active hurricane season over the North Atlantic, following four consecutive years of significantly below-normal hurricane activity; 2) the return to above-normal rainfall throughout Indonesia, northern Australia, and southern Africa, following a prolonged period of below-normal rainfall and periodic drought; and 3) a northward shift of the jet stream and storm track position over the eastern half of the North Pacific during the latter part of the year, following several winter seasons (three in the last four) characterized by a significant strengthening, southward shift, and eastward extension of these features toward the southwestern United States.

Other regional climate anomalies during 1995 included extreme warmth throughout western and central Asia during January–May and colder than normal conditions in this region during November–December, severe flooding in the midwestern United States (April–May), abnormally wet conditions in California and the southwestern United States (December–February) combined with near-record warmth over eastern North America, deadly heat waves in the central United States (mid-July) and India (first three weeks of June), drought in the northeastern United States (August), a drier-than-normal rainy season in central Brazil (September–December), and an intensification of drier-than-normal conditions over southern Brazil, Uruguay, and northeastern Argentina at the end of the year.

The global annual mean surface temperature for land and marine areas during 1995 averaged 0.40°C above the 1961–90 mean. This value exceeds the previous warmest year in the record (1990) by 0.04°C. The Northern Hemisphere also recorded its warmest year on record during 1995, with a mean departure from normal of 0.55°C. The global annual mean surface temperature for land areas only during 1995 was the second warmest since 1951.

The year also witnessed near-record low ozone amounts in the Southern Hemisphere stratosphere, with minimum values only slightly higher than the record low values observed in 1993. The areal extent of very low ozone values during 1995 was as widespread over Antarctica as in the record low year of 1993.

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Philip J. Klotzbach, Steven G. Bowen, Roger Pielke Jr., and Michael Bell


Continental United States (CONUS) hurricane-related inflation-adjusted damage has increased significantly since 1900. However, since 1900 neither observed CONUS landfalling hurricane frequency nor intensity shows significant trends, including the devastating 2017 season.

Two large-scale climate modes that have been noted in prior research to significantly impact CONUS landfalling hurricane activity are El Niño–Southern Oscillation on interannual time scales and the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation on multidecadal time scales. La Niña seasons tend to be characterized by more CONUS hurricane landfalls than El Niño seasons, and positive Atlantic multidecadal oscillation phases tend to have more CONUS hurricane landfalls than negative phases.

Growth in coastal population and regional wealth are the overwhelming drivers of observed increases in hurricane-related damage. As the population and wealth of the United States has increased in coastal locations, it has invariably led to the growth in exposure and vulnerability of coastal property along the U.S. Gulf and East Coasts. Unfortunately, the risks associated with more people and vulnerable exposure came to fruition in Texas and Florida during the 2017 season following the landfalls of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Total economic damage from those two storms exceeded $125 billion. Growth in coastal population and exposure is likely to continue in the future, and when hurricane landfalls do occur, this will likely lead to greater damage costs than previously seen. Such a statement is made recognizing that the vast scope of damage from hurricanes often highlights the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of building codes, flood maps, infrastructure, and insurance in at-risk communities.

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Philip J. Klotzbach, Michael M. Bell, Steven G. Bowen, Ethan J. Gibney, Kenneth R. Knapp, and Carl J. Schreck III


Atlantic hurricane seasons have a long history of causing significant financial impacts, with Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence, and Michael combining to incur more than 345 billion USD in direct economic damage during 2017–2018. While Michael’s damage was primarily wind and storm surge-driven, Florence’s and Harvey’s damage was predominantly rainfall and inland flood-driven. Several revised scales have been proposed to replace the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (SSHWS), which currently only categorizes the hurricane wind threat, while not explicitly handling the totality of storm impacts including storm surge and rainfall. However, most of these newly-proposed scales are not easily calculated in real-time, nor can they be reliably calculated historically. In particular, they depend on storm wind radii, which remain very uncertain. Herein, we analyze the relationship between normalized historical damage caused by continental United States (CONUS) landfalling hurricanes from 1900–2018 with both maximum sustained wind speed (V max) and minimum sea level pressure (MSLP). We show that MSLP is a more skillful predictor of normalized damage than V max, with a significantly higher rank correlation between normalized damage and MSLP (r rank = 0.77) than between normalized damage and V max (r rank = 0.66) for all CONUS landfalling hurricanes. MSLP has served as a much better predictor of hurricane damage in recent years than V max, with large hurricanes such as Ike (2008) and Sandy (2012) causing much more damage than anticipated from their SSHWS ranking. MSLP is also a more accurately-measured quantity than is V max, making it an ideal quantity for evaluating a hurricane’s potential damage.

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Robert F. Rogers, Sim Aberson, Michael M. Bell, Daniel J. Cecil, James D. Doyle, Todd B. Kimberlain, Josh Morgerman, Lynn K. Shay, and Christopher Velden


Hurricane Patricia was a historic tropical cyclone that broke many records, such as intensification rate, peak intensity, and overwater weakening rate, during its brief 4-day lifetime in late October 2015 in the eastern Pacific basin. Patricia confounded all of the intensity forecast guidance owing to its rapid intensity changes. Fortunately, the hurricane-penetrating National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration WP-3D and U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration WB-57 high-altitude jet, under support of the Office of Naval Research, conducted missions through and over Patricia prior to and during its extreme intensity changes on all 4 days, while an extensive array of pressure sensors sampled Patricia after landfall. The observations collected from these missions include traditional data sources such as airborne Doppler radar and flight-level instruments as well as new data sources like a high-density array of dropsondes released from high-altitude and wide-swath radiometer. The combination of data from these sources and from satellites provides an excellent opportunity to investigate the physical processes responsible for Patricia’s structure and evolution and offers the potential to improve forecasts of tropical cyclone rapid intensity changes. This paper provides an overview of Patricia as well as the data collected during the aircraft missions.

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Michael M. Bell, Robert A. Ballard, Mark Bauman, Annette M. Foerster, Andrew Frambach, Karen A. Kosiba, Wen-Chau Lee, Shannon L. Rees, and Joshua Wurman


A National Science Foundation sponsored educational deployment of a Doppler on Wheels radar called the Hawaiian Educational Radar Opportunity (HERO) was conducted on O‘ahu from 21 October to 13 November 2013. This was the first-ever deployment of a polarimetric X-band (3 cm) research radar in Hawaii. A unique fine-resolution radar and radiosonde dataset was collected during 16 intensive observing periods through a collaborative effort between University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa undergraduate and graduate students and the National Weather Service’s Weather Forecast Office in Honolulu. HERO was the field component of MET 628 “Radar Meteorology,” with 12 enrolled graduate students who collected and analyzed the data as part of the course. Extensive community outreach was conducted, including participation in a School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology open house event with over 7,500 visitors from local K–12 schools and the public. An overview of the HERO project and highlights of some interesting tropical rain and cloud observations are described. Phenomena observed by the radar include cumulus clouds, trade wind showers, deep convective thunderstorms, and a widespread heavy rain event associated with a cold frontal passage. Detailed cloud and precipitation structures and their interactions with O‘ahu terrain, unique dual-polarization signatures, and the implications for the dynamics and microphysics of tropical convection are presented.

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Gerald D. Bell, Michael S. Halpert, Russell C. Schnell, R. Wayne Higgins, Jay Lawrimore, Vernon E. Kousky, Richard Tinker, Wasila Thiaw, Muthuvel Chelliah, and Anthony Artusa

The global climate during 1999 was impacted by Pacific cold episode (La Niña) conditions throughout the year, which resulted in regional precipitation and atmospheric circulation patterns across the Pacific Ocean and the Americas that are generally consistent with those observed during past cold episodes. The primary La Niña-related precipitation anomalies included 1) increased rainfall across Indonesia, and a nearly complete disappearance of rainfall across the east-central and eastern equatorial Pacific; 2) above-normal rains across northwestern and northern Australia; 3) increased monsoon rains across the Sahel region of western Africa; 4) above-average rains over southeastern Africa, 5) above-average rains over the Caribbean Sea and portions of Central America, and 6) below-average rains in southeastern South America.

The La Niña also contributed to persistent cyclonic circulation anomalies in the subtropics of both hemispheres, which flanked the area of suppressed convective activity over the eastern half of the equatorial Pacific. In the Northern Hemisphere this anomaly feature contributed to a pronounced westward retraction of the wintertime East Asian jet stream, which subsequently impacted precipitation and storm patterns across the eastern North Pacific and western North America. The La Niña-related pattern of tropical rainfall also contributed to a very persistent pattern of anticyclonic circulation anomalies in the middle latitude of both hemispheres, extending from the eastern Pacific across the Atlantic and Africa eastward to Australasia. This anomaly pattern was associated with an active Atlantic hurricane season, an inactive eastern North Pacific hurricane season, above-average rains in the African Sahel, and an overall amplification of the entire southeast Asian summer monsoon complex.

The active 1999 North Atlantic hurricane season featured 12 named storms, 8 of which became hurricanes, and 5 of which became intense hurricanes. The peak of activity during mid-August–October was accompanied by low vertical wind shear across the central and western Atlantic, along with both a favorable structure and location of the African easterly jet. In contrast, only 9 tropical storms formed over the eastern North Pacific during the year, making it one of the most inactive years for that region in the historical record. This relative inactivity was linked to a persistent pattern of high vertical wind shear that covered much of the main development region of the eastern North Pacific.

Other regional aspects of the short-term climate included: 1) above-average wintertime precipitation and increased storminess in the Pacific Northwest, United States; 2) above-average monsoonal rainfall across the southwestern United States; 3) drought over the northeastern quadrant of the United States during April–mid-August; 4) hurricane-related flooding in the Carolinas during September; 5) drought over the south-central United States during July–November; 6) below-average rainfall in the Hawaiian Islands throughout the year, with long-term dryness affecting some parts of the islands since October 1997; 7) a continuation of long-term drought conditions in southeastern Australia, with most of Victoria experiencing below-average rainfall since late 1996; and 8) above-average rainfall in central China during April–August.

Global annual mean surface temperatures during 1999 for land and marine areas were 0.41°C above the 1880–1998 long-term mean, making it the fifth warmest year in the record. However, significant cooling was evident in the Tropics during 1999 in association with a continuation of La Niña conditions. In contrast, temperatures in both the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere extratropics were the second warmest in the historical record during 1999, and only slightly below the record 1998 anomalies.

The areal extent of the Antarctic ozone hole remained near record levels during 1999. The ozone hole also lasted longer than has been observed in past years.

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