Track Patterns of Landfalling and Coastal Tropical Cyclones in the Atlantic Basin, Their Relationship with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and the Potential Effect of Global Warming


Even though the degree of damage inflicted by North Atlantic tropical cyclones (TCs) is highly dependent upon track location and proximity to land, the spatial characteristics of TCs are generally understudied. We investigated the spatial relationships between landfall locations and track patterns of all Cape Verde-type landfalling and coastal TCs that have affected the continental coastline of the western Atlantic Basin by region for the period 1851-2008. The degree of recurvature for these TCs increases progressively from the Central America/Caribbean coast (CA) through the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), Florida peninsula (FLOR), and Atlantic (ATL) coasts. The date (month) of occurrence shows similar increases from the GOM through ATL. These patterns for landfall location, track pattern, and occurrence date generally follow the intra-seasonal movement and intensity variations of the Bermuda High (BH), as represented by increasing North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index values from CA through FLOR. Analysis suggests that the region of landfall is primarily controlled by two factors: the amplitude of track recurvature and the longitude at which recurvature begins to dominate track shape. Both of these important steering controls are predominantly influenced by the strength and position of the BH, with increasing strength and/or more northeasterly position of the BH progressively driving landfall from Central America through the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic seaboard out to the open sea. The paleorecord suggests that the latitudinal position of the BH exerts an important control over the location of hurricane landfall along the western North Atlantic on millennial time scales. This suggests that global warming may result in a northern shift in TC tracks and increased frequency of landfalls in northern locations.

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T. McCloskey, T. Bianchette and K. Liu, "Track Patterns of Landfalling and Coastal Tropical Cyclones in the Atlantic Basin, Their Relationship with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and the Potential Effect of Global Warming," American Journal of Climate Change, Vol. 2 No. 3A, 2013, pp. 12-22. doi: 10.4236/ajcc.2013.23A002.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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