Climatological variations in North Atlantic tropical cyclone tracks

Angela J. Colbert, Brian J. Soden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study investigates the relationship between tropical cyclone (TC) tracks and climatological variations in large-scale environmental parameters associated with the TC steering flow. By using the Atlantic Ocean hurricane database for 1950-2010, TCs that form in the main development region (MDR) are categorized into one of three track types: straight moving, recurving landfall, or recurving ocean. As expected, the straightmoving storms are associated with a westward extension and strengthening of the subtropical high, whereas the recurving ocean storms are associated with a weakening of the high. The presence of El Niño conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean is shown to be associated with a weakening of the high, an increase in the percentage of recurving ocean TCs, and a decrease in the percentage of recurving landfall TCs. Positive phases of the Atlantic Meridional Mode are associated with an increase in the percentage of recurving ocean TCs and a decrease in the percentage of straight-moving TCs. Synthetic tracks are simulated for each storm using a beta and advection model. Sensitivity experiments using both observed and uniformly seeded genesis locations indicate that the path of straight-moving TCs is largely a reflection of their tendency to form in the southwestern portion of the MDR rather than of differences in steering flow. These experiments also suggest that the shift in TC tracks associated with El Niño/La Niña conditions is largely attributable to changes in the steering flow, whereas the track changes associated with variations in the Atlantic Meridional Mode are due to a systematic shift in genesis location.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)657-673
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Climate
Volume25
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2012

Keywords

  • Climate variability
  • Tropical cyclones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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