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H. E. Willoughby, J. M. Masters, and C. W. Landsea


On 13 September 1988, Hurricane Gilbert attained an extreme minimum sea level pressure, estimated to be 885 hPa from aircraft reconnaissance reports at the time. Postseason analysis indicates that the flight-level pressure, P, upon which this figure is based requires correction upward. In typhoons with sea level pressures <900 hPa, comparison between sea level pressures measured by dropsonde and those estimated by the same method used in Gilbert indicates that, in addition to the error in P, the estimation has a bias toward low pressure. Although the aircraft did not release a dropsonde in the eye at minimum pressure, it is possible to calculate hydrostatic sea level pressures by assuming a variety of plausible thermal structures below flight level. With corrected P, both the statistical extrapolation with its bias removed and the hydrostatic calculations show that a revised value of 888 ±2 hPa is closer to the true minimum sea level pressure. The standard deviation of the various approximations means that the probability is <3% that the actual minimum failed to reach a value below 892 hPa, the old record for a hurricane in the Atlantic Basin set by the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.

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Patrick J. Michaels, Paul C. Knappenberger, and Christopher Landsea


In a simulation of enhanced tropical cyclones in a warmer world, Knutson and Tuleya make several assumptions that are not borne out in the real world. They include an unrealistically large carbon dioxide growth rate, an overly strong relationship between sea surface temperature and hurricane intensity, and the use of a mesoscale model that has shown little to no useful skill in predicting current-day hurricane intensity. After accounting for these inaccuracies, a detectable increase in Atlantic hurricane intensity in response to growing atmospheric greenhouse gas levels during this century becomes unlikely.

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R. A. Pielke Jr, C. Landsea, M. Mayfield, J. Layer, and R. Pasch

This paper reviews recent research on tropical cyclones and climate change from the perspective of event risk—the physical behavior of storms; vulnerability—the characteristics of a system that create the potential for impacts, but are independent of event risk; and also outcome risk—the integration of considerations of vulnerability with event risk to characterize an event that causes losses. The paper concludes that with no trend identified in various metrics of hurricane damage over the twentieth century, it is exceedingly unlikely that scientists will identify large changes in historical storm behavior that have significant societal implications, though scientists may identify discernible changes in storm behavior. Looking to the future, until scientists conclude a) that there will be changes to storms that are significantly larger than observed in the past, b) that such changes are correlated to measures of societal impact, and c) that the effects of such changes are significant in the context of inexorable growth in population and property at risk, then it is reasonable to conclude that the significance of any connection of human-caused climate change to hurricane impacts necessarily has been and will continue to be exceedingly small.

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Mark C. Bove, James B. Elsner, Chris W. Landsea, Xufeng Niu, and James J. O'Brien

Changes in the frequency of U.S. landfalling hurricanes with respect to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle are assessed. Ninety-eight years (1900–97) of U.S. landfalling hurricanes are classified, using sea surface temperature anomaly data from the equatorial Pacific Ocean, as occurring during an El Niño (anomalously warm tropical Pacific waters), La Niña (anomalously cold tropical Pacific waters), or neither (neutral).

The mean and variance of U.S. landfalling hurricanes are determined for each ENSO phase. Each grouping is then tested for Poisson distribution using a chi-squared test. Resampling using a “bootstrap” technique is then used to determine the 5% and 95% confidence limits of the results. Last, the frequency of major U.S. landfalling hurricanes (sustained winds of 96 kt or more) with respect to ENSO phase is assessed empirically.

The results indicated that El Niño events show a reduction in the probability of a U.S. landfalling hurricane, while La Niña shows an increase in the chance of a U.S. hurricane strike. Quantitatively, the probability of two or more landfalling U.S. hurricanes during an El Niño is 28%, of two or more landfalls during neutral conditions is 48%, and of two or more landfalls during La Niña is 66%. The frequencies of landfalling major hurricanes show similar results. The probability of one or more major hurricane landfall during El Niño is 23% but is 58% during neutral conditions and 63% during La Niña.

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K. J. E. Walsh, M. Fiorino, C. W. Landsea, and K. L. McInnes


Objectively derived resolution-dependent criteria are defined for the detection of tropical cyclones in model simulations and observationally based analyses. These criteria are derived from the wind profiles of observed tropical cyclones, averaged at various resolutions. Both an analytical wind profile model and two-dimensional observed wind analyses are used. The results show that the threshold wind speed of an observed tropical cyclone varies roughly linearly with resolution. The criteria derived here are compared to the numerous different criteria previously employed in climate model simulations. The resulting method provides a simple means of comparing climate model simulations and reanalyses.

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Philip J. Klotzbach, Johnny C. L. Chan, Patrick J. Fitzpatrick, William M. Frank, Christopher W. Landsea, and John L. McBride


Advances in knowledge in tropical meteorological research are discussed in the context of contributions made by Professor William M. Gray. Gray pioneered the compositing approach to observational tropical meteorology through assembling of global radiosonde datasets and tropical cyclone research flight data. In the 1970s, he made fundamental contributions to knowledge of convective–larger-scale interactions. Throughout his career, he wrote seminal papers on tropical cyclone structure, cyclogenesis, motion, and seasonal forecasts. His conceptual development of a seasonal genesis parameter also laid an important framework for both seasonal forecasting as well as climate change studies on tropical cyclones. His work was a blend of both observationally based studies and the development of theoretical concepts. This paper reviews the progress in knowledge in the areas where Dr. Gray provided his largest contributions and describes the scientific legacy of Gray’s contributions to tropical meteorology.

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A. Henderson-Sellers, H. Zhang, G. Berz, K. Emanuel, W. Gray, C. Landsea, G. Holland, J. Lighthill, S-L. Shieh, P. Webster, and K. McGuffie

The very limited instrumental record makes extensive analyses of the natural variability of global tropical cyclone activities difficult in most of the tropical cyclone basins. However, in the two regions where reasonably reliable records exist (the North Atlantic and the western North Pacific), substantial multidecadal variability (particularly for intense Atlantic hurricanes) is found, but there is no clear evidence of long-term trends. Efforts have been initiated to use geological and geomorphological records and analysis of oxygen isotope ratios in rainfall recorded in cave stalactites to establish a paleoclimate of tropical cyclones, but these have not yet produced definitive results. Recent thermodynamical estimation of the maximum potential intensities (MPI) of tropical cyclones shows good agreement with observations.

Although there are some uncertainties in these MPI approaches, such as their sensitivity to variations in parameters and failure to include some potentially important interactions such as ocean spray feedbacks, the response of upper-oceanic thermal structure, and eye and eyewall dynamics, they do appear to be an objective tool with which to predict present and future maxima of tropical cyclone intensity. Recent studies indicate the MPI of cyclones will remain the same or undergo a modest increase of up to 10%–20%. These predicted changes are small compared with the observed natural variations and fall within the uncertainty range in current studies. Furthermore, the known omissions (ocean spray, momentum restriction, and possibly also surface to 300-hPa lapse rate changes) could all operate to mitigate the predicted intensification.

A strong caveat must be placed on analysis of results from current GCM simulations of the “tropical-cyclone-like” vortices. Their realism, and hence prediction skill (and also that of “embedded” mesoscale models), is greatly limited by the coarse resolution of current GCMs and the failure to capture environmental factors that govern cyclone intensity. Little, therefore, can be said about the potential changes of the distribution of intensities as opposed to maximum achievable intensity. Current knowledge and available techniques are too rudimentary for quantitative indications of potential changes in tropical cyclone frequency.

The broad geographic regions of cyclogenesis and therefore also the regions affected by tropical cyclones are not expected to change significantly. It is emphasized that the popular belief that the region of cyclogenesis will expand with the 26°C SST isotherm is a fallacy. The very modest available evidence points to an expectation of little or no change in global frequency. Regional and local frequencies could change substantially in either direction, because of the dependence of cyclone genesis and track on other phenomena (e.g., ENSO) that are not yet predictable. Greatly improved skills from coupled global ocean–atmosphere models are required before improved predictions are possible.

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Stephen Baxter, Gerald D Bell, Eric S Blake, Francis G Bringas, Suzana J Camargo, Lin Chen, Caio A. S Coelho, Ricardo Domingues, Stanley B Goldenberg, Gustavo Goni, Nicolas Fauchereau, Michael S Halpert, Qiong He, Philip J Klotzbach, John A Knaff, Michelle L'Heureux, Chris W Landsea, I.-I Lin, Andrew M Lorrey, Jing-Jia Luo, Andrew D Magee, Richard J Pasch, Petra R Pearce, Alexandre B Pezza, Matthew Rosencrans, Blair C Trewin, Ryan E Truchelut, Bin Wang, H Wang, Kimberly M Wood, and John-Mark Woolley
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