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Variability of southwest Pacific tropical cyclone track geometry over the last 70 years
Sharma, K.K.; Magee, A.D.; Verdon-Kidd, D.C. (2021). Variability of southwest Pacific tropical cyclone track geometry over the last 70 years. Int. J. Climatol. 41(1): 529-546. https://dx.doi.org/10.1002/joc.6636
In: International Journal of Climatology. Wiley: Chichester; New York. ISSN 0899-8418; e-ISSN 1097-0088, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine/Coastal

Authors  Top 
  • Sharma, K.K.
  • Magee, A.D.
  • Verdon-Kidd, D.C.

Abstract
    Variability in tropical cyclone (TC) track morphology, as it evolves post genesis, presents continued challenges in accurately forecasting TC movement. Therefore, an improved understanding of TC track climatology is essential, given that TCs are one of the most critical natural hazards in the southwest Pacific (SWP) region. We examine the historical variability of TC tracks within the SWP over the last 70 years (1948–2017) using 6‐hourly track data obtained from the South Pacific Enhanced Archive of Tropical Cyclones (SPEArTC) database. A probabilistic clustering technique is applied to separate TC tracks into distinct groups in order to assess the primary cyclone trajectories for the region and its relationship with the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). TC tracks are also classified into four sinuosity categories: straight, recurving, sinuous and highly sinuous; and their spatial and temporal characteristics subsequently analysed. The results of the cluster analysis identified five optimal groups of TC tracks, four of which exhibited southeast propagation, except for the southwest moving tracks in Cluster 5. Temporally, significant trends were observed over the last seven decades, with Clusters 1, 3 and 4 becoming less frequent with a substantial increase in the occurrence of Cluster 2 tracks (representing TCs east of dateline), a geometry favoured by El Niño conditions. Further, the sinuosity analysis revealed continued dominance of straight TCs within the eastern SWP with a tendency of encountering TCs of other morphology types. Conversely, the western SWP region is typically exposed to highly sinuous tracks. We also observed a significant decrease (increase) in TCs with straight and quasi‐straight (highly sinuous) tracks, particularly during the last decade. These findings suggest that combined cluster analysis and TC track sinuosity analysis is an important tool in generalising the TC track regimes, refining predicted trajectories and understanding impacts on SWP island nations.

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