6.3A How Smart are Hurricanes? A Closer Look Relating Landfall time to Tidal Cycles

Friday, 12 June 2015: 1:45 PM
304 (Raleigh Convention Center)
Matthew Cappucci, Harvard University, Plymouth, MA; and H. M. Mogil

Every meteorologist has over time found that weather seems to have a mind of its own; whether it be a squall line that dissolves just prior to arriving and reforms moments after departure, or a hail shaft that seems to ‘jump' over a weather watcher's location, mother nature has a tricky sense of humor that involves innumerable curveballs and clever tactics.

Recently, the question has been raised as to whether or not hurricanes exhibit these “smarts” apparently characteristic of weather. Hurricanes and tropical cyclones all feed off of the lukewarm ocean waters of the Gulf, gathering their strength from the thermal energy held by seawater exceeding 78°F.

Considering that seawater achieves this temperature through solar radiation, only the waters within about one hundred meters of sea level are able to reach this critical threshold necessary for tropical cyclone sustenance. For this reason, one must wonder how much ocean tides influence the energy available to landfalling tropical systems, as tidal departures can attribute to hundreds, if not thousands, of square miles of additional ocean water available/inaccessible to such systems.

This project will examine the relationship between ocean tides and storm landfall through processing over thirty years of United States hurricane/tropical storm data, amidst outlining implications of this data for the prediction of landfall location.

Preliminary data does indicate a correlation between the elapsed time between hurricane landfall and the nearest high tide; an analysis of about 30-40 years of hurricane data will be examined to determine to what extent this relationship is valid.

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