ON THE DISTINCT INTERANNUAL VARIABILITY OF TROPICAL CYCLONE ACTIVITY OVER THE EASTERN NORTH PACIFIC

Haikun Zhao, Graciela B. Raga

Abstract

The tropical eastern North Pacific (ENP) basin exhibits very large interannual variability in the frequency of occurrence of tropical cyclones, presenting very active (more than 20 tropical cyclones per season) and very inactive years (only eigth tropical cyclones). The large-scale factors that may influence the distinct interannual variability are investigated in this study, by analyzing the composites of seven years of high activity and 10 years of low activity from 1965 to 2013. The results of composite analyses indicate that the low-level vorticity and mid-tropospheric relative humidity are mostly unfavorable for tropical cyclogenesis during active years. The sea surface temperature (SST) may play a small role modulating the occurrence of tropical cyclones, but the reduced vertical shear of the horizontal wind between 850 and 200 hPa is the main contributor to cyclogenesis during the active years, confirming earlier results by Camargo et al. (2007). We use an intensity model (Emanuel et al., 2006, 2008) to further investigate the key environmental factors affecting TC intensity, exploring the relative roles of changes in SST, vertical wind shear and TC tracks. The results indicate that the interannual variability in the frequency of major hurricanes (categories 3 through 5) is best simulated when the effects of both SST and vertical wind shear are combined. Furthermore, changes in TC tracks may play an important role in the intensity achieved. In particular, during the years with high activity, the location for cyclogenesis shifts eastward and more TCs have west-northwestward tracks, leading to longer lifetime and higher intensity, compared to years with low TC activity in the basin.

 

Keywords

Interannual variability, large-scale factors, intensity model, eastern Pacific basin.

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