Geophysical Research Letters

On the impact of central Pacific warming events on Atlantic tropical storm activity

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Abstract

[1] A recent study by Kim et al. (2009) claim that central Pacific warming (CPW) events in 1969, 1991, 1994, 2002 and 2004 are associated with a greater-than-average frequency of tropical storms and increasing landfall potential along the Gulf of Mexico coast and Central America. Based on an independent data analysis of tropical cyclone activity in the five CPW years, it is shown here that only 1969, 2002 and 2004 were characterized with significantly greater-than-average cyclone activity in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, whereas 1991 and 1994 were characterized with significantly lower-than-average activity. Coincidently, the Atlantic warm pool (AWP) was significantly larger than average during 1969 and 2004, and significantly smaller than average during 1991 and 1994. By performing multiple sets of ensemble model experiments using the NCAR atmospheric general circulation model, it is shown here that the increased tropical storm frequency in 1969 and 2004 can be readily explained by a large AWP and the associated vertical wind shear reduction and enhanced moist convective instability in the main development region for Atlantic hurricanes, without invoking a remote influence from the tropical Pacific. Therefore, we conclude that it is premature to associate CPW events to an increasing frequency of cyclone activity in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

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