Modiki El Niños and Atlantic hurricane activity

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

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


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 93 - 43

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23Blog Index

Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
TCHP= Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential

It basically is the fuel for storms.. in everyday terms

the reder it is its like 93 octane fuel...lol!


oh ok...yeah the waters are toasty.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Tropical storm risk also updated there seasonal numbers today to 11/6/2 from 11/5/2 previously.

Below normal season
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
UKMET is always conservative, take that prediction with a huge grain of salt.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting IKE:


6 for the season.

It is lowest of any forecast, but I think it will be more than that even if the U.K forecast seems right.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I'm not even going to read the UKMET season forecast becuz of their predictions last year. I don't even know why they bother. I mean 6? Ridiculous. Just adding more fuel to the seasonal downcasters.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
Weather456...
Switching more North?


The vertical shear, not switching more north but some of the lowest values since the season began.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
86. IKE
Quoting hurricane23:
UK MET office seasonal forcast july update


6 for the season.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Weather456...
Switching more North?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
TCHP= Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential

It basically is the fuel for storms.. in everyday terms

the reder it is its like 93 octane fuel...lol!

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
Looking at that IR loop looks like that front might sag down into the GOM a good bit.. hmmm..

Also good convection in the blob in NW carrib


Cloud tops are rather warm. If were gonna see any near term development I'd be watching the frontal boundary across the West Atlantic.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Pattern Changing

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AussieStorm:
Question: Has a Typhoon ever developed between China and Japan?

NOGAPS has a system developing there in 30hrs



That looks more like a baroclinic low with an attached frontal system. It doesn't have the signature of a tropical system.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Looking at that IR loop looks like that front might sag down into the GOM a good bit.. hmmm..

Also good convection in the blob in NW carrib
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
What about the models developing the CV wave.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

ESL GOES-12 GOM IR Loop
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
TCHP= Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential

It basically is the fuel for storms.. in everyday terms

the reder it is its like 93 octane fuel...lol!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:
here is an interesting thought

2010 looks like it could be a busy season based on the fluctuations of El Nino/La Nina

Look at the last 3 cycles with this naming list.

1992: Slow season but had Andrew
1998: Acrive season, late start, had Georges and Mitch; deadliest season in recent memory
2004: Active season, late start, Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne all hit Florida


Yep, but we could expect a hurricane season similar to the incredible 1995 hurricane season with a name storm from earlier August to late September without any gap.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
although all the indications point to an EL NINO, the atmosphere over the pacific ,does not reflect that change. or is it delayed?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Maximum Potential Hurricane Intensity



The maps display potential minimum pressure and maximum winds, calculated according to a method developed by Dr. Kerry Emanuel. Dissipative heating is handled according to a method described in Bister and Emanuel (1998). The maps are based on data from the 00Z global operational analysis from NCEP for the date shown on the plot. The top panel shows the potential minimum central pressure for a hurricane at any given location (in millibars). Only values less than 1000mb are shaded. Cyan squares indicate grid points where the algorithm failed to converge. Also shown are the sea surface temperatures (C). The bottom panel shows the potential maximum wind speed expressed in terms of the type and severity of storm they would represent (TD = Tropical Depression, TS = Tropical Storm, H1-H5 = Hurricanes of category 1-5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale).



Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
I'm headed to the outer banks of NC last week of July and I NEED WAVES! Which means I NEED A HURRICANE!!! What are the odds this year and historically that there will be one somewhere in the atlantic at that time?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
according to those TCHP map, I am afraid to think about a Cane getting into the gulf... The GOM has higher TCHP then 05..eeek! lol! :)


What is a TCHP? And what does that mean? Sorry, I don't know what all these abbreviations mean...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Pretty much if its dry and hot in June/July in TX...its almost a given that a tropical storm or hurricane will hit TX either from Brownsville to Port Arthur/Beaumont by August or September
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
El Nino seems to be progressing slowly, as the slope of the thermocline is slow to change

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
..DANGEROUSLY HOT AND HUMID CONDITIONS ACROSS EASTERN SOUTH
FLORIDA THROUGH EARLY EVENING AND POSSIBLY ON THURSDAY...


Little rain chances with SW flow in place again, eeekk.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Question: Has a Typhoon ever developed between China and Japan?

NOGAPS has a system developing there in 30hrs

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
hurricanes or no hurricanes,,living in Florida from June to October is just horrible.
That's why I leave.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Ex-94L is still looking good, top right

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
61. JRRP
the forecast is more weakly now that some weeks ago

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
In my corner of Orlando we haven't gotten that much rain at all over the last few weeks. I know some areas are swamped but I really hope we get a few good 1"+ rains in the next couple weeks. Are any of the models showing development from the blob in near Honduras?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Fact: Since records began in 1950, a hurricane,TS or TD has never made landfall in VA (includes eastern shore) We've been impacted by tropical weather that hit the east coast from the carolinas to Florida but we've never received a direct landfall in VA
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
here is an interesting thought

2010 looks like it could be a busy season based on the fluctuations of El Nino/La Nina

Look at the last 3 cycles with this naming list.

1992: Slow season but had Andrew
1998: Acrive season, late start, had Georges and Mitch; deadliest season in recent memory
2004: Active season, late start, Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne all hit Florida

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Charley and Frances hit Texas in 1998

They hit Florida in 2004

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Skyepony:
Great blog Jeff. Interesting the EPW events occurred the year before FL had it's worst fire seasons in recent years. 1998 & '83 were really bad state burning events, & '88 was memorable as well.


One can also tie record breaking cold spells in Florida with the year after theory.


As follows are all significant crop damaging freeze events between 1950-2003. These dates represent the coldest day of the freeze event, with many of the events experiencing 2-4 days below freezing. Events with and * represent exceptionally damaging freezes to the citrus industry.

01/12/1982 *
01/24/1987
01/19/1997 *
01/24/2003


NEXT?
01/22/2009*
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Strongs winds in the Blob off Honduras
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Have a look at this Link.... does the "blob" have sum spin to it?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CybrTeddy:
It really, really, really needs to stop raining in Florida and spread some of it around. Just wont stop raining.


you must be north of me.....we haven't got all that much. but north of me has been getting hammered all week.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Solar System's Wild Weather

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CybrTeddy:
It really, really, really needs to stop raining in Florida and spread some of it around. Just wont stop raining.

This is how we felt in the Northeast for the entire month of June. :)

Have fun. We finally have sunny days up here.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Send the rain to Texas... we need it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Ahh... evolving El Ninos. What will the future hold?

Thanks Dr. M for the update.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
We wont be getting fires this year, its raining to much. Drastic turnaround from the last 2 years.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
44. Skyepony (Mod)
Thanks for the TCHP links ya'll. I tried e-mailing them but there is some server error with the contact mailing addresses.

Oss~ You may be right. I do remember '83 & '98 being dry years with really large fires. It's hard to forget years when you get a sprinkler system together for your roof.. Maybe it's more a cause of rediculous big fires than more fires. '85 which is another dry fire year behind '98. Seems like it was worse in '83 but that was probibly a stubborn swamp fire (I was pretty young). Looking at that FL site which did look at drought & fire, then compared to the enso history page the corrilation looks like the La Nina following the EPW years are the worst FL fire years..
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
It really, really, really needs to stop raining in Florida and spread some of it around. Just wont stop raining.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 93 - 43

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23Blog Index

Top of Page

Category 6™

About

Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather