Use of a Genesis Potential Index to Diagnose ENSO Effects on Tropical Cyclone Genesis

Camargo, Suzana J.; Emanuel, Kerry A.; Sobel, Adam H.

ENSO (El Niño–Southern Oscillation) has a large influence on tropical cyclone activity. The authors examine how different environmental factors contribute to this influence, using a genesis potential index developed by Emanuel and Nolan. Four factors contribute to the genesis potential index: low-level vorticity (850 hPa), relative humidity at 600 hPa, the magnitude of vertical wind shear from 850 to 200 hPa, and potential intensity (PI). Using monthly NCEP Reanalysis data in the period of 1950–2005, the genesis potential index is calculated on a latitude strip from 60°S to 60°N. Composite anomalies of the genesis potential index are produced for El Niño and La Niña years separately. These composites qualitatively replicate the observed interannual variations of the observed frequency and location of genesis in several different basins. This justifies producing composites of modified indices in which only one of the contributing factors varies, with the others set to climatology, to determine which among the factors are most important in causing interannual variations in genesis frequency. Specific factors that have more influence than others in different regions can be identified. For example, in El Niño years, relative humidity and vertical shear are important for the reduction in genesis seen in the Atlantic basin, and relative humidity and vorticity are important for the eastward shift in the mean genesis location in the western North Pacific.


  • thumnail for camargo_emanuel_sobel_jclim07.pdf camargo_emanuel_sobel_jclim07.pdf application/pdf 2.19 MB Download File

Also Published In

Journal of Climate

More About This Work