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Jenni L. Evans and Mark P. Guishard

Abstract

Subtropical cyclones (ST) have only recently gained attention as damaging weather systems. A set of criteria for identifying and classifying these systems is introduced here and employed to identify 18 ST cases forming in the 1999–2004 hurricane seasons. To be classified as an ST, these systems must have near-surface gale-force winds and show hybrid structure for more than one diurnal cycle. The 18 ST cases are partitioned into four classes based upon their genesis environments. Genesis over waters with SST in excess of 25°C is observed in almost 80% of warm-season cases, in contrast with only 55% in an ST climatology presented in a companion study. The low-shear magnitude constraint recognized for tropical cyclogenesis is less apparent for ST formation with over 50% forming in the two partitions characterized by shear in excess of 10 m s−1. This relatively high-shear environment corresponds to equatorward intrusion of upper troughs over the relatively warm SST present in the mid–late hurricane season. Anomaly composites confirm that ST genesis is associated with the intrusion of an upper trough in the westerlies into a region of relatively warm SST and weak static stability, with a corresponding reduction in the environmental shear near the time of ST genesis. These conditions correspond well with the conditions for tropical transition identified by Davis and Bosart. Indeed, these systems exhibit a propensity to continue development into a tropical cyclone; 80% eventually became named tropical systems. This result is consistent with a recent ST climatology but had not been widely recognized previously. This raises the possibility that tropical storms evolving from ST may have been overlooked or their tracks truncated in the National Hurricane Center Hurricane Database (HURDAT).

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Mark P. Guishard, Jenni L. Evans, and Robert E. Hart

Abstract

A 45-yr climatology of subtropical cyclones (ST) for the North Atlantic is presented and analyzed. The STs pose a warm-season forecasting problem for subtropical locations such as Bermuda and the southern United States because of the potentially rapid onset of gale-force winds close to land. Criteria for identification of ST have been developed based on an accompanying case-study analysis. These criteria are applied here to the 40-yr European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Re-Analysis (ERA-40) to construct a consistent historical database of 197 North Atlantic ST in 45 yr.

Because ST may eventually evolve into tropical cyclones, sea surface temperatures (SST) and vertical wind shear conditions for tropical cyclogenesis are contrasted with the conditions for ST genesis identified here. Around 60% of the 197 ST formed over SST in excess of 25°C in a region of weak static stability. Further, the mean environmental vertical wind shear at formation for these storms is 10.7 m s−1, a magnitude generally considered to be unfavorable for tropical cyclogenesis.

The STs have hybrid structure, so the potential for baroclinic and thermodynamic development is explored through the baroclinic zone (characterized by the Eady growth rate σ) and SST field. Seasonal evolution in the location and frequency of ST formation in the basin is demonstrated to correspond well to the changing region of overlap between SST > 25°C and σ > 0.1 day−1.

This climatology is contrasted with two alternative ST datasets. The STs contribute to 12% of tropical cyclones (TC) in the current National Hurricane Center (NHC) Hurricane Database (HURDAT); this equivalent to about 1 in 8 genesis events from an incipient ST disturbance. However, with the addition of 144 ST that are newly identified in this climatology (and not presently in HURDAT) and the reclassification (as not ST) of 65 existing storms in HURDAT, 197/597 storms (33%) in the newly combined database are ST, which emphasizes the potential importance of these warm-season storms.

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Robert E. Hart, Daniel R. Chavas, and Mark P. Guishard

Abstract

A major hurricane [96+ knots (kt; 1 kt = 0.51 m s–1) of maximum sustained wind] has not made landfall in the United States since Wilma (2005). Recent elegant stochastic–statistical modeling estimates the return period of a 9-yr streak for this metric as 177 yr, suggesting extraordinary rarity, especially in the context of the length of the record (1851–2014). Current awareness of the drought is increased given that the 2015 hurricane season is expected to be suppressed from El Niño and the recent anniversaries of several noteworthy landfalls.

Yet, here we show that the significance or even existence of the current 9-yr drought is highly dependent on the metric used. Acknowledging that wind intensity estimates are binned every 5 kt and have approximate 10-kt uncertainty, we examine the same record using landfall thresholds of 95–105 kt. Using 105-kt landfall, 1993–2003 becomes a previously unreported yet more remarkable 11-yr drought and 1981–88 becomes an 8-yr drought. Further, landfall minimum sea level pressure is more reliably estimated than maximum sustained wind speed. For landfall intensities stronger than 960 hPa (a climatological threshold for 100 kt), the current drought disappears because of Irene (2011) and Sandy (2012). A coastline-independent yet nearby proximity metric is tested and reveals a nonexistent drought.

Accordingly, this study suggests the following: 1) Caution is advised when identifying a hurricane drought and its historical significance. 2) Using hurricane landfall statistics to infer a climate signal is fraught with issues (threshold, coastline, and potentially nonscientific contributions), regardless of intensity metric. 3) From a societal context, human and financial losses matter most, and Irene [2011; $8 billion (U.S. dollars)] and Sandy (2012; $88 billion) occurred during the current drought.

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Kerry Emanuel, Philippe Caroff, Sandy Delgado, Charles “Chip” Guard, Mark Guishard, Christopher Hennon, John Knaff, Kenneth R. Knapp, James Kossin, Carl Schreck, Christopher Velden, and Jonathan Vigh
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