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Is the poleward migration of tropical cyclone maximum intensity associated with a poleward migration of tropical cyclone genesis?

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A recent study showed that the global average latitude where tropical cyclones achieve their lifetime-maximum intensity has been migrating poleward at a rate of about one-half degree of latitude per decade over the last 30 years in each hemisphere. However, it does not answer a critical question: is the poleward migration of tropical cyclone lifetime-maximum intensity associated with a poleward migration of tropical cyclone genesis? In this study we will examine this question. First we analyze changes in the environmental variables associated with tropical cyclone genesis, namely entropy deficit, potential intensity, vertical wind shear, vorticity, skin temperature and specific humidity at 500 hPa in reanalysis datasets between 1980 and 2013. Then, a selection of these variables is combined into two tropical cyclone genesis indices that empirically relate tropical cyclone genesis to large-scale variables. We find a shift toward greater (smaller) average potential number of genesis at higher (lower) latitudes over most regions of the Pacific Ocean, which is consistent with a migration of tropical cyclone genesis towards higher latitudes. We then examine the global best track archive and find coherent and significant poleward shifts in mean genesis position over the Pacific Ocean basins.
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Clim Dyn (2018) 50:705–715
DOI 10.1007/s00382-017-3636-7
Is thepoleward migration oftropical cyclone maximum intensity
associated withapoleward migration oftropical cyclone genesis?
AnneSophieDaloz1 · SuzanaJ.Camargo2
Received: 29 November 2016 / Accepted: 16 March 2017 / Published online: 3 April 2017
© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017
1 Introduction
Kossin et al. (2014) showed that in the past few dec-
ades (1982–2009) the large-scale environment of tropi-
cal cyclones has evolved over the tropics and subtropics.
Indeed, favorable conditions for the development of tropical
cyclones have migrated towards higher latitudes (vertical
wind shear and potential intensity), moving from the trop-
ics closer to the subtropics. With a globally homogenized
record of intensity (Kossin etal. 2013) and a global best-
track archive (Knapp et al. 2010), they also demonstrated
that the location where observed tropical cyclones reach
their maximum intensity has been migrating towards higher
latitudes. More recently, Kossin etal. (2016) used observa-
tions and simulations to examine the changes in lifetime-
maximum intensity and tropical cyclone exposure for the
present and future climates over the western North Pacific
Ocean. The projections of tropical cyclones were simu-
lated by, and downscaled from, an ensemble of numerical
Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5)
models (Taylor et al. 2012). They showed a poleward
migration of lifetime-maximum intensity (LMI) latitude in
the present century and continuing into the future using one
of the representative concentration pathways (RCP8.5). A
possible mechanism responsible for these global and local
changes is the expansion of the tropics (Lucas etal. 2014),
however this link has not been proved yet.
The current study expands on the findings by Kossin
etal. (2014, 2016) by analyzing the possible origin of the
poleward migration of the LMI latitude. More precisely, we
would like to answer the following question: Is the pole-
ward migration of tropical cyclones’ LMI location related
to a poleward migration in tropical cyclone genesis loca-
tion? Tropical cyclones are very sensitive to the large-scale
environment both during their genesis and development
Abstract A recent study showed that the global average
latitude where tropical cyclones achieve their lifetime-
maximum intensity has been migrating poleward at a rate
of about one-half degree of latitude per decade over the last
30years in each hemisphere. However, it does not answer
a critical question: is the poleward migration of tropical
cyclone lifetime-maximum intensity associated with a pole-
ward migration of tropical cyclone genesis? In this study
we will examine this question. First we analyze changes
in the environmental variables associated with tropical
cyclone genesis, namely entropy deficit, potential intensity,
vertical wind shear, vorticity, skin temperature and specific
humidity at 500 hPa in reanalysis datasets between 1980
and 2013. Then, a selection of these variables is combined
into two tropical cyclone genesis indices that empirically
relate tropical cyclone genesis to large-scale variables. We
find a shift toward greater (smaller) average potential num-
ber of genesis at higher (lower) latitudes over most regions
of the Pacific Ocean, which is consistent with a migration
of tropical cyclone genesis towards higher latitudes. We
then examine the global best track archive and find coher-
ent and significant poleward shifts in mean genesis position
over the Pacific Ocean basins.
Keywords Tropical cyclone genesis· Poleward
migration· Tropical cyclone genesis index· Observations
* Anne Sophie Daloz
1 Space andScience Engineering Center, University
ofWisconsin-Madison, 1225 West Dayton Street, Madison,
WI53706, USA
2 Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University,
Palisades, NY, USA
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The average latitude where tropical cyclones (TCs) reach their peak intensity has been observed to be shifting poleward in some regions over the past 30 years, apparently in concert with the independently observed expansion of the tropical belt. This poleward migration is particularly well observed and robust in the western North Pacific Ocean (WNP). Such a migration is expected to cause systematic changes, both increases and decreases, in regional hazard exposure and risk, particularly if it persists through the present century. Here, it is shown that the past poleward migration in the WNP has coincided with decreased TC exposure in the region of the Philippine and South China Seas, including the Marianas, the Philippines, Vietnam, and southern China, and increased exposure in the region of the East China Sea, including Japan and its Ryukyu Islands, the Korea Peninsula, and parts of eastern China.Additionally, it is shown that projections ofWNP TCs simulated by, and downscaled from, an ensemble of numerical models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) demonstrate a continuing poleward migration into the present century following the emissions projections of the representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5). The projected migration causes a shift in regional TC exposure that is very similar in pattern and relative amplitude to the past observed shift. In terms of regional differences in vulnerability and resilience based on past TC exposure, the potential ramifications of these future changes are significant. Questions of attribution for the changes are discussed in terms of tropical belt expansion and Pacific decadal sea surface temperature variability.
A new index for hurricane development is introduced which indicates regions of the tropical ocean where tropical cyclones are likely to be generated and regions where existing cyclones would be spun-down. The index physical basis, which can be computed from the fields of sea surface temperature (SST) and evaporation, is briefly discussed. The principal result is that regions favorable to the development of tropical cyclone development are characterized by strong negative spatial gradients of evaporation with respect to SST, whereas cyclones are likely to be spun-down in regions of strong positive gradients. The application to the Caribbean region indicates a corridor of favorable conditions in the central Caribbean, possibly promoted by the presence of easterly waves, and a southern unfavorable zone that shelters the Venezuelan coast from hurricane impact. The results show in detail the reasons for the variability in hurricane seasons, using 1983 and 2005 as examples. On the large scale, the sign and strength of the SST dipole anomaly between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans appears to be the controlling influence, a positive anomaly in the Atlantic Ocean leading to hurricane formation. The monthly standard deviation of the hurricane index simulates reasonably well the historical fluctuations in hurricane occurrence in 1979-2005, and using the results of a coupled climate model, it predicts that the hurricane season in 2051-2080 will be lengthened to include an early season maximum in June and another in September-October, in contrast to the current single maximum in September.
Temperatures in the upper troposphere of the atmosphere, near the tropopause, play a key role in the evolution of tropical cyclones (TC) by controlling their potential intensity (PI), which describes the thermodynamically based maximum TC intensity that the environment will support. Accurately identifying past trends in PI is critical for understanding the causes of observed changes in TC intensity, but calculations of PI trends using different atmospheric reanalysis products can give very different results, largely due to differences in their representation of upper-tropospheric temperatures. Without a means to verify the fidelity of the upper-tropospheric temperatures, PI trends calculated from these products are very uncertain. Here, a method is introduced to validate the upper-tropospheric temperatures in the reanalysis products by using the TCs themselves as thermometers. Using a 30-yr global dataset of TC cloud-top temperatures and three widely utilized atmospheric reanalysis products—Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA), ECMWF interim reanalysis (ERA-Interim), and NCEP–NCAR Global Reanalysis 1—it is shown that storm-local upper-level temperatures in the MERRA and ERA-Interim data vary similarly to the TC cloud-top temperatures on both interannual and decadal time scales, but the NCEP–NCAR data have substantial biases that introduce an increasing trend in storm-local PI not found in the other two products. The lack of global storm-local PI trends is due to a balance between temporal increases in the mean state and the poleward migration of TCs into lower climatological PI, and it has significant implications for the detection and attribution of mean TC intensity trends.
Tropical cyclone genesis indices (TCGIs) are functions of the large-scale environment that are designed to be proxies for the probability of tropical cyclone (TC) genesis. While the performance of TCGIs in the current climate can be assessed by direct comparison to TC observations, their ability to represent future TC activity based on projections of the large-scale environment cannot. Here the authors examine the performance of TCGIs in high-resolution atmospheric model simulations forced with sea surface temperatures (SST) of future, warmer climate scenarios. They investigate whether the TCGIs derived for the present climate can, when computed from large-scale fields taken from future climate simulations, capture the simulated global mean decreases in TC frequency. The TCGIs differ in their choice of environmental predictors, and several choices of predictors perform well in the present climate. However, some TCGIs that perform well in the present climate do not accurately reproduce the simulated future decrease in TC frequency. This decrease is captured when the humidity predictor is the column saturation deficit rather than relative humidity. Using saturation deficit with relative SST as the other thermodynamic predictor overpredicts the TC frequency decrease, while using potential intensity in place of relative SST as the other thermodynamic predictor gives a good prediction of the decrease's magnitude. These positive results appear to depend on the spatial and seasonal patterns in the imposed SST changes; none of the indices capture correctly the frequency decrease in simulations with spatially uniform climate forcings, whether a globally uniform increase in SST of 2K, or a doubling of CO2 with no change in SST.
The historical global “best track” records of tropical cyclones extend back to the mid-nineteenth century in some regions, but formal analysis of these records is encumbered by temporal heterogeneities in the data. This is particularly problematic when attempting to detect trends in tropical cyclone metrics that may be attributable to climate change. Here the authors apply a state-of-the-art automated algorithm to a globally homogenized satellite data record to create a more temporally consistent record of tropical cyclone intensity within the period 1982–2009, and utilize this record to investigate the robustness of trends found in the best-track data. In particular, the lifetime maximum intensity (LMI) achieved by each reported storm is calculated and the frequency distribution of LMI is tested for changes over this period. To address the unique issues in regions around the Indian Ocean, which result from a discontinuity introduced into the satellite data in 1998, a direct homogenization procedure is applied in which post-1998 data are degraded to pre-1998 standards. This additional homogenization step is found to measurably reduce LMI trends, but the global trends in the LMI of the strongest storms remain positive, with amplitudes of around +1 m s−1 decade−1 and p value = 0.1. Regional trends, in m s−1 decade−1, vary from −2 (p = 0.03) in the western North Pacific, +1.7 (p = 0.06) in the south Indian Ocean, +2.5 (p = 0.09) in the South Pacific, to +8 (p < 0.001) in the North Atlantic.
The authors examine the change in tropical cyclone (TC) tracks that results from projected changes in the large-scale steering flow and genesis location from increasing greenhouse gases. Tracks are first simulated using a Beta and Advection Model (BAM) and NCEP-NCAR reanalysis winds for all TCs that formed in the North Atlantic Ocean's Main Development Region (MDR) for the period 1950-2010. Changes in genesis location and large-scale steering flow are then estimated from an ensemble mean of 17 models from phase 3 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3) for the A1b emissions scenario. The BAM simulations are then repeated with these changes to estimate how the TC tracks would respond to increased greenhouse gases. As the climate warms, the models project a weakening of the subtropical easterlies as well as an eastward shift in genesis location. This results in a statistically significant decrease in straight-moving (westward) storm tracks of similar to 5.5% and an increase in recurving (open ocean) tracks of similar to 5.5%. These track changes decrease TC counts over the southern Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean by 1-1.5 decade(-1) and increase counts over the central Atlantic by 1-1.5 decade(-1). Changes in the large-scale steering flow account for a vast majority of the projected changes in TC trajectories.
A Poisson regression between the observed climatology of tropical cyclogenesis (TCG) and large-scale climate variables is used to construct a TCG index. The regression methodology is objective and provides a framework for the selection of the climate variables in the index. Broadly following earlier work, four climate variables appear in the index: low-level absolute vorticity, relative humidity, relative sea surface temperature (SST), and vertical shear. Several variants in the choice of predictors are explored, including relative SST versus potential intensity and satellite-based column-integrated relative humidity versus reanalysis relative humidity at a single level; these choices lead to modest differences in the performance of the index. The feature of the new index that leads to the greatest improvement is a functional dependence on low-level absolute vorticity that causes the index response to absolute vorticity to saturate when absolute vorticity exceeds a threshold. This feature reduces some biases of the index and improves the fidelity of its spatial distribution. Physically, this result suggests that once low-level environmental vorticity reaches a sufficiently large value, other factors become rate limiting so that further increases in vorticity (at least on a monthly mean basis) do not increase the probability of genesis. Although the index is fit to climatological data, it reproduces some aspects of interannual variability when applied to interannually varying data. Overall, the new index compares positively to the genesis potential index (GPI), whose derivation, computation, and analysis is more complex in part because of its dependence on potential intensity.
Temporally inconsistent and potentially unreliable global historical data hinder the detection of trends in tropical cyclone activity. This limits our confidence in evaluating proposed linkages between observed trends in tropical cyclones and in the environment. Here we mitigate this difficulty by focusing on a metric that is comparatively insensitive to past data uncertainty, and identify a pronounced poleward migration in the average latitude at which tropical cyclones have achieved their lifetime-maximum intensity over the past 30 years. The poleward trends are evident in the global historical data in both the Northern and the Southern hemispheres, with rates of 53 and 62 kilometres per decade, respectively, and are statistically significant. When considered together, the trends in each hemisphere depict a global-average migration of tropical cyclone activity away from the tropics at a rate of about one degree of latitude per decade, which lies within the range of estimates of the observed expansion of the tropics over the same period. The global migration remains evident and statistically significant under a formal data homogenization procedure, and is unlikely to be a data artefact. The migration away from the tropics is apparently linked to marked changes in the mean meridional structure of environmental vertical wind shear and potential intensity, and can plausibly be linked to tropical expansion, which is thought to have anthropogenic contributions.