A 66-year tropical cyclone record for south-east Africa: temporal trends in a global context

Authors

  • Jennifer M. Fitchett,

    1. School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
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  • Stefan W. Grab

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
    • Correspondence to:Jennifer M. Fitchett, School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, P/Bag 3, WITS 2050, Johannesburg, South Africa. E-mail: stefan.grab@wits.ac.za

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ABSTRACT

This study investigates changes in the frequency and timing of tropical cyclone landfalls over the south-west Indian Ocean during the last 66 years. Little is known about the spatial and temporal trends of such storm landfalls during recent historical times, specifically the last ca. 100 years. By analysing three storm track records spanning periods of 66–161 years, we establish that much of the perceived change in storm numbers can be attributed to improvements in storm detection methods over the past century. Furthermore, we find no statistically significant trends in the frequency of tropical cyclone landfalls over Madagascar and Mozambique over the past 6 decades, despite more comprehensive records during the most recent period. There is, however, considerable interannual variability in the number of storms making landfall over the countries investigated; most probably driven by cyclical atmospheric forcing, including El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO). Recent trends indicate an increasing number of tropical cyclones tracking to the south of Madagascar, potentially associated with the southward shift of the 26 °C isotherm, combined with a decrease in the steering flow during La Niña years.

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