Clustering of eastern North Pacific tropical cyclone tracks: ENSO and MJO effects

Camargo, Suzana J.; Robertson, Andrew W.; Barnston, Anthony G.; Ghil, Michael

A probabilistic clustering technique is used to describe tropical cyclone tracks in the eastern North Pacific, on the basis of their shape and location. The best track data set is decomposed in terms of three clusters; these clusters are analyzed in terms of genesis location, trajectory, landfall, intensity, seasonality, and their relationships with the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). Longitudinal track location plays a strong discriminating role in the regression mixture model's solution, with the average track orientation becoming more zonal toward the west. This progression encapsulates well the relationship between tropical cyclones over the eastern tropical Pacific and the MJO or ENSO. Two of the clusters describe tropical cyclones (TCs) with tracks that lie near the coast of Mexico and Central America. The most frequent cluster contains tracks that trend west-northwestward, while the second most frequent one has genesis locations that lie slightly to the southeast of those in the most frequent cluster and tracks that run typically parallel to the Central American coast. This second cluster is shown to be significantly associated with the westerly phase of the MJO. The third, least frequent cluster contains TCs with westward trajectories over the central and eastern equatorial Pacific; some of these TCs have an impact on Hawaii and other islands, as far as the central and western North Pacific regions. The least frequent cluster is strongly related to ENSO, while the others are not; it occurs significantly more frequently during El Niño conditions. Examination of the large-scale patterns of atmospheric circulation and sea surface temperature associated with each of our three clusters are consistent with previous studies. Anomalous low-level westerly zonal winds from the monsoon trough and MJO meet anomalous easterlies near the region of genesis in each cluster.

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Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems