511 Large-scale Controls on Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Activity on Seasonal Time Scales

Tuesday, 24 January 2017
Young-Kwon Lim, NASA/GSFC, Greenbelt, MD; and S. D. Schubert, O. Reale, A. M. Molod, M. J. Suarez, and B. M. Auer

Interannual variations in seasonal tropical cyclone (TC) activity (e.g., genesis frequency and location, track pattern, and landfall) over the Atlantic are explored by employing observationally-constrained simulations with the NASA Goddard Earth Observing System version (GEOS-5) atmospheric general circulation model. The climate modes investigated are El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and the Atlantic Meridional Mode (AMM).

The results show that the NAO and AMM can strongly modify and even oppose the well-known ENSO impacts, like in 2005, when a strong positive AMM (associated with warm SSTs and a negative SLP anomaly over the western tropical Atlantic), led to a very active TC season with enhanced TC genesis over the Caribbean Sea and a number of landfalls over North America, under a neutral ENSO condition. On the other end, the weak TC activity during 2013 (characterized by weak negative Niño index) appears caused by a NAO-induced positive SLP anomaly with enhanced vertical wind shear over the tropical North Atlantic. During 2010, the combined impact of the three modes produced positive SST anomalies across the entire low-latitudinal Atlantic and a weaker subtropical high, leading to more early recurvers and thus fewer landfalls despite enhanced TC genesis. The study provides evidence that TC number and track are very sensitive to the relative phases and intensities of these three modes, and not just to ENSO alone, and that the TC tracks are primarily controlled by largest-scales of the atmosphere consisting of wavelengths greater than about 4,000–5,000km over the Atlantic TC basin. Examination of seasonal predictability reveals that predictive skill of the three modes is limited over tropics to sub-tropics, with the AMM having the highest predictability over the North Atlantic, followed by ENSO and NAO.

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