Tropical cyclone intensity change before U.S. Gulf coast landfall

Edward N. Rappaport, James L. Franklin, Andrea B. Schumacher, Mark DeMaria, Lynn K. Shay, Ethan J. Gibney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Tropical cyclone intensity change remains a forecasting challenge with important implications for such vulnerable areas as the U.S. coast along the Gulf of Mexico. Analysis of 1979-2008 Gulf tropical cyclones during their final two days before U.S. landfall identifies patterns of behavior that are of interest to operational forecasters and researchers. Tropical storms and depressions strengthened on average by about 7 kt for every 12 h over the Gulf, except for little change during their final 12 h before landfall. Hurricanes underwent a different systematic evolution. In the net, category 1-2 hurricanes strengthened, while category 3-5 hurricanes weakened such that tropical cyclones approach the threshold of major hurricane status by U.S. landfall. This behavior can be partially explained by consideration of the maximum potential intensity modified by the environmental vertical wind shear and hurricane-induced sea surface temperature reduction near the storm center associated with relatively low oceanic heat content levels. Linear least squares regression equations based on initial intensity and time to landfall explain at least half the variance of the hurricane intensity change. Applied retrospectively, these simple equations yield relatively small forecast errors and biases for hurricanes. Characteristics of most of the significant outliers are explained and found to be identifiable a priori for hurricanes, suggesting that forecasters can adjust their forecast procedures accordingly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1380-1396
Number of pages17
JournalWeather and Forecasting
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Forecasting
  • Forecasting techniques
  • Hurricanes
  • Regression analysis
  • Tropical cyclones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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