Intraseasonal and Interannual Variability in North American Storm Tracks and Its Relationship to Equatorial Pacific Variability

Grise, Kevin Michael; Son, Seok-Woo; Gyakum, John R.

Extratropical cyclones play a principal role in wintertime precipitation and severe weather over North America. On average, the greatest number of cyclones track 1) from the lee of the Rocky Mountains eastward across the Great Lakes and 2) over the Gulf Stream along the eastern coastline of North America. However, the cyclone tracks are highly variable within individual winters and between winter seasons. In this study, the authors apply a Lagrangian tracking algorithm to examine variability in extratropical cyclone tracks over North America during winter. A series of methodological criteria is used to isolate cyclone development and decay regions and to account for the elevated topography over western North America. The results confirm the signatures of four climate phenomena in the intraseasonal and interannual variability in North American cyclone tracks: the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Pacific–North American pattern (PNA), and the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO). Similar signatures are found using Eulerian bandpass-filtered eddy variances. Variability in the number of extratropical cyclones at most locations in North America is linked to fluctuations in Rossby wave trains extending from the central tropical Pacific Ocean. Only over the far northeastern United States and northeastern Canada is cyclone variability strongly linked to the NAO. The results suggest that Pacific sector variability (ENSO, PNA, and MJO) is a key contributor to intraseasonal and interannual variability in the frequency of extratropical cyclones at most locations across North America.


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Also Published In

Monthly Weather Review

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
American Meteorological Society
Published Here
January 24, 2014