Modiki El Niños and Atlantic hurricane activity

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:48 PM GMT on July 08, 2009

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It's an El Niño year, which typically means that Atlantic hurricane activity will be reduced. But not all El Niño events are created equal when it comes to their impact on Atlantic hurricane activity. Over the past 150 years, hurricane damage has averaged $800 million/year in El Niño years and double that during La Niña years. The abnormal warming of the equatorial Eastern Pacific ocean waters in most El Niño events creates an atmospheric circulation pattern that brings strong upper-level winds over the Atlantic, creating high wind shear conditions unfavorable for hurricanes. Yet some El Niño years, like 2004, don't fit this pattern. Residents of Florida and the Gulf Coast will not soon forget the four major hurricanes that pounded them in 2004--Ivan, Frances, Jeanne, and Charley. Overall, the 15 named storms, 9 hurricanes, and 6 intense hurricanes of the hyperactive hurricane season of 2004 killed over 3000 people--mostly in Haiti, thanks to Hurricane Jeanne--and did $40 billion in damage.

A new paper published in Science last Friday attempts to explain why some El Niño years see high Atlantic hurricane activity. "Impact of Shifting Patterns of Pacific Ocean Warming on North Atlantic Tropical Cyclones", by Georgia Tech researchers Hye-Mi Kim, Peter Webster, and Judith Curry, theorizes that Atlantic hurricane activity is sensitive to exactly where in the Pacific Ocean El Niño warming occurs. If the warming occurs primarily in the Eastern Pacific, near the coast of South America, the resulting atmospheric circulation pattern creates very high wind shear over the tropical Atlantic, resulting in fewer hurricanes. This pattern, called the Eastern Pacific Warming (EPW) pattern, occurred most recently during the El Niño years of 1997, 1987, and 1982 (Figure 1). In contrast, more warming occurred in the Central Pacific during the El Niño years of 2004, 2002, 1994, and 1991. The scientists showed that these Central Pacific Warming (CPW) years had lower wind shear over the Atlantic, and thus featured higher hurricane activity than is typical for an El Niño year. One of the paper's authors, Professor Peter J. Webster, said the variant Central Pacific Warming (CPW) El Niño pattern was discovered in the 1980s by Japanese and Korean researchers, who dubbed it modiki El Niño. Modiki is the Japanese word for "similar, but different".


Figure 1. Difference of Sea Surface Temperature (SST) from average during the peak of hurricane season, August-September-October, for seven years that had El Niño events (except for 2009, when the SST anomaly for July 1 - 3 is plotted). On the left side are years when the El Niño warming primarily occurred in the Eastern Pacific (EPW years). On the right are years when the warming primarily occurred in the Central Pacific (CPW years). Shown on the top of each plot is the number of named storms (NS), hurricanes (H), and intense hurricanes (IH) that occurred in the Atlantic each year. Atlantic hurricane activity tends to be more prevalent in CPW years than EPW years. An average hurricane season has 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes. Image credit: NOAA/ESRL.

What, then, can we expect the current developing El Niño event to do to 2009 hurricane activity? Kim et al. note that in recent decades, the incidence of modiki CPW El Niño years has been increasing, relative to EPW years. However, the preliminary pattern of SST anomalies in the Pacific observed so far in July (lower left image in Figure 1) shows an EPW pattern--more warming in the Eastern Pacific than the Central Pacific. If Kim et al.'s theory holds true, this EPW pattern should lead to an Atlantic hurricane season with activity lower than the average 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes. There is still a possibility that the observed warming pattern could shift to the Central Pacific during the peak portion of hurricane season, however. We are still in the early stages of this El Niño, and it is unclear how it will evolve.

Jeff Masters

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Hi DDR and VIMAN.
Hang on, it's comin'. Ready or not.
Although, with the ITCZ still so far south, look for a week of sun when this passes over. Again.
Good to meet you viman.
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Quoting Weather456:


Average, ACE standards.


Many bad storms can have low ACEs' if they form close to home

Charley only had an ACE of 10.6
841. viman
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Question I've asked a few times is when do we officially call the "end" of the active multi-decadal cycle?......After a few seasons of lower activity as we near the end of the historical 30 year cycle?.....I think this one started in the 1990's so do we have another 10-12 years to go?
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838. viman
Hey pottery, send some up the chain to the virgin islands. Out cisterns would sure be happy. :)

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Quoting atmoaggie:
Yeah, we knew about all of the storms before the satellites.



Credit: Chris Landsea


1933 was likely way more active than 2005, but because of lack of satellite activity we don't really have a clue. 2005 was one of those rare and random active seasons like 1969 and 1950 but added to that was the hyperactive period we're in now.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24489
Quoting Weather456:


Average


Thanks........We will see what Mother Nature throws our way this year; your reasoning seems sound.
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834. DDR
Quoting potteryX:
Greetings.
It's coming down hard in Tobago, since 4:30 pm.
No rainfall in Trinidad so far today, but it sure looks like sooner rather than later.
This follows my post earlier today, that said that there was no rain to be seen....

I hear you,had a brief shower earlier,looks like the heavy stuff is just offshore.That was the calm before the storm.
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Quoting weathermanwannabe:


I stopped "counting" a few Blog seasons ago and simply try to see if it will be an average/below average/above average season...So your prediction is basically slighly above average?


Average, ACE standards.
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Quoting Weather456:
Regardless of El Nino, the ongoing decadal oscillation should prevent 2009 from having numbers lesser than the least active season this decade, 2006.

In addition, most experts have already stated over and over that there is no correlation between early seasonal activity and the peak of the hurricane season.

Sea surface temperatures continue to significantly warm across the ATL.

EL Nino should moderate the season from being above average but its atmopsheric effects are not as pronounce to produce 1992 and 1997 figures.

Based on this, there remains no reason to lower my seasonal forecasts of 12 named storms.



I stopped "counting" a few Blog seasons ago and simply try to see if it will be an average/below average/above average season...So your prediction is basically slighly above average?
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Greetings.
It's coming down hard in Tobago, since 4:30 pm.
No rainfall in Trinidad so far today, but it sure looks like sooner rather than later.
This follows my post earlier today, that said that there was no rain to be seen....
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Regardless of El Nino, the ongoing decadal oscillation should prevent 2009 from having numbers lesser than the least active season this decade, 2006.

In addition, most experts have already stated over and over that there is no correlation between early seasonal activity and the peak of the hurricane season.

Sea surface temperatures continue to significantly warm across the ATL.

EL Nino should moderate the season from being above average but its atmospheric effects are not as pronounce to produce 1992 and 1997 figures.

Based on this, there remains no reason to lower my seasonal forecasts of 12 named storms.

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We'll have to see how foolish the GFS is by next week

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From wiki, the real authority on nothing at all:

On August 5, 1864, Farragut won a great victory in the Battle of Mobile Bay. Mobile was then the Confederacy's last major port open on the Gulf of Mexico. The bay was heavily mined (tethered naval mines were known as torpedoes at the time) [1]. Farragut ordered his fleet to charge the bay. When the monitor USS Tecumseh struck a mine and sank, the others began to pull back.

Farragut could see the ships pulling back from his high perch, lashed to the rigging of his flagship the USS Hartford. "What's the trouble?" was shouted through a trumpet from the flagship to the USS Brooklyn. "Torpedoes!" was shouted back in reply. "Damn the torpedoes!" said Farragut, "Four bells. Captain Drayton, go ahead! Jouett, full speed!"


That was after he participated in battles at Vicksburg, Port Allen, Fort Jackson, Chalmette, Port of NOLA. Some good results, some bad.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Yeah, we knew about all of the storms before the satellites.



Credit: Chris Landsea
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Like I said, it's looking more and more like 2004, except I think the East Coast is in more danger then the GOM. We'll see eventually. I can also see storms recurving west of 60W or hitting Bermuda.. 14/7/4

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Quoting Weather456:
If you missed it:

Recurving Vs Landfalling Cape Verde Hurricanes


Thanks Always.......Good Stuff there Bro. Now combine that with the stats below from a 2003 Article from the Journal of Climate (FSU Grad Students)and you start to get the picture that "whenever" the season starts, and whether only one or two intense storms, someone in the Caribbean, or East Coast of US, may be impacted this upcoming season if you put these two general notions together:

The East Caribbean has not seen more than two landfalling hurricanes in any warm or neutral phase year from 1900 to 1998. In contrast to the North Caribbean (Fig. 5a), the East Caribbean has no significant (95% level) decrease in hurricane landfalls during the warm phase relative to neutral years (Fig. 5b); however, a significant (95% level) increase in hurricane landfalls during cold years relative to neutral years is observed. The probability of one or more landfalling hurricanes is 56% in the East Caribbean during cold years, which is nearly double that noted during neutral years (30%). Probabilities of landfall during warm years (23% for one or more hurricanes) are only slightly less than the landfall probabilities for neutral years.

The West Caribbean exhibits results very similar to the East Caribbean. The probability of one or more hurricanes making landfall is 61% during a cold phase, which is double that observed during neutral years (30%; Fig. 5c). The probability of one or more landfalling hurricanes during warm years, only 23%, is very close to the probability during neutral conditions. Statistical analysis reveals a significant (99% level) increase in hurricane landfall probabilities during cold phase years compared to neutral years; however, using both 99% and 95% confidence limits, there is no significant difference in warm phase and neutral phase hurricane landfalls.


However, at the end of the day, there are just too many variables, many of which we are still trying to understand fully, at play for anyone to make a "concrete" prediction of how any season may end up.

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Quoting atmoaggie:


David Farragut during the civil war aboard...


A boat, I win :)

All I can find is he was 12 when given the helm of a prize ship :(
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Quoting sporteguy03:


Of course before we had satellites so there could of been more then just 1.


true, further research found 2 other possible systems, both after the 1st one


95E looking pretty good right now
Quoting Ossqss:


someone on a boat LoL -- "Bull" Halsey ?


David Farragut during the civil war aboard...
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
NexSat,GOM ,Yucatan Loop
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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


no there were no hurricanes that year, just 1 TS


Of course before we had satellites so there could of been more then just 1.
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18z GFS still very robust with EATL development.
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Quoting atmoaggie:


Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. Quick, who said it?


someone on a boat LoL -- "Bull" Halsey ?
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Quoting Patrap:
One can feel free to ask any question here.

Were a community,not a Gulag.


Thank you kindly. That's what I like to hear.
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One can feel free to ask any question here.

Were a community,not a Gulag.
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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


That is the hurricane that messed up Mobile Bay?


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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


That is the hurricane that messed up Mobile Bay?
Yes, The Port of Mobile was supposed to be in a town called Alabama Port (where I live, near Dauphin Island) but the hurricane leveled it. 3 years later they started working on the Port again and another storm came through and caused alot of erosion. Now the Port is in Mobile on Interstate 10
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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


That is the hurricane that messed up Mobile Bay?


Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. Quick, who said it?
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
I think the NHC will go to high chance of development on 95E at 8pm
It seems like every now and then, someone on this blog who isn't a 'regular' (myself, for example) asks a question that to him/her seems completely valid, and then gets shot down with 'troll this, filth that, waste of time..." and so on. I think there's a pretty solid difference in people that are genuinely interested in what others have to say, versus those that are here to wishcast and throw empty statements around. It's a little unsettling to feel like I can't ask questions or comment without the risk of being 'attacked'.
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Quoting ALCoastGambler:
OK did my research Sept.27, 1906


That is the hurricane that messed up Mobile Bay?
Repost from earlier because I know some of you guys might be interested, but not willing to wade through some of the filth in here to read back (I don't blame you):

Quoting atmoaggie:

I hope I can share this...
New paper about the application of QuikScat and it's known limitations:
Link.pdf
Specifically:
Limitations of QuikSCAT in NHC operations

The major limitations of QuikSCAT from the NHC
operational perspective include the following:
1) the inability to resolve the maximum winds in the inner core of most hurricanes due to insufficient retrieval resolution, instrument signal saturation (which limits the maximum retrievable wind speed, even in rain-free conditions), and attenuation by rain;

2) positive and negative biases in retrieved wind speeds, caused by rain contamination, that are difficult to distinguish and quantify without other collocated wind data;

3) the lack of collocated rain rate data to determine the influence of rain on the retrieved wind solution;

4) ambiguity removal errors that make automated QuikSCAT-derived TC center locations unreliable, which make the determination of whether a circulation center exists in incipient systems difficult, and that require the forecaster to manually analyze the ambiguities;

5) the low frequency of passes over any given region or weather system (at most two passes per day with a single satellite) and the largest gaps between swaths in the tropics; and

6) the time lag between the satellite overpass and data receipt at NHC."

Also has a discussion about QuikScat's algorithms being unable to show a closed circulation when one was deemed present by post-storm analysis. (For all of you that incessantly dog the NHC, now you can say that just because QuikScat didn't show a closed circulation doesn't mean it isn't there.)

Finally, another point of interest that caught my eye is that QuikScat (and algorithms) repeatedly places the center of systems to the SW of the actual center.

Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
OK did my research Sept.27, 1906
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DDR is from Trinidad which is out of range of the Frence Radar.
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If you missed it:

Recurving Vs Landfalling Cape Verde Hurricanes
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Don't the French have radar at Martinique and Guadeloupe?


This is the one I know: http://www.meteo.fr/temps/domtom/antilles/pack-public/animation/animMOSAIC2.html
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
803. IKE
Quoting stormno:
hi ike its been a long time guy...how have you been i hope everything is ok with you...yes ike with the strong westerlies in the caribbeann i cant see anything developing in july ...august we will have to wait and see ...i think with all the ssp being well above normaal and the sst about normaal i think we will have a hard time to pull 6 storms out the hat this year.ike its glad to hear from you though ...take care....Stormno


Take care.....nice seeing you around.


Quoting reedzone:
Oh btw, Ike.. did you catch that little cridder on the EURO? after 200 hours I believe..


Yeah, I saw it. Will check in the morning on the 00Z July 10th run.
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It seems that there are many on this with great knowledge and are well apreciated! As for the trouble makers, base your posts on statistical facts rather than unsupported, irritating hot air. For those of us who want to keep learning on here the crazieness sometimes gets real anoying
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Oh btw, Ike.. did you catch that little cridder on the EURO? after 200 hours I believe..
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Hurricane Season will start when its ready to.
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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


September 14th, that happened in the slowest season on record, 1914


Yea but then in 1915...
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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


no there were no hurricanes that year, just 1 TS
Ok have to go back and do more research. Thanks
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Quoting TexasHurricane:


what is suppose to be in the gulf? going where?


Just needs to be watched, nothin serious, need more model support of course.
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Quoting ALCoastGambler:
Isn't that the year of the Hurricane that wiped out Mobile Bay


no there were no hurricanes that year, just 1 TS
Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


September 14th, that happened in the slowest season on record, 1914
Isn't that the year of the Hurricane that wiped out Mobile Bay
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Today was my date for first storm. Those cyclogenesis rays from Mars need to get started!


Nope, not on WU :)

StSimonsIslandGAGuy,12,7,3,0,7-12
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.