The influence of local sea surface temperatures on Australian east coast cyclones.

Pepler, A.S., L.V. Alexander, J.P. Evans and S.C. Sherwood
Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, 121(22), 13352-13363, doi: 10.1002/2016JD025495, 2016.


Cyclones are a major cause of rainfall and extreme weather in the midlatitudes and have a preference for genesis and explosive development in areas where a warm western boundary current borders a continental landmass. While there is a growing body of work on how extratropical cyclones are influenced by the Gulf Stream and Kuroshio Current in the Northern Hemisphere, there is little understanding of similar regions in the Southern Hemisphere including the Australian east coast, where cyclones that develop close to the coast are the main cause of severe weather and coastal flooding. This paper quantifies the impact of east Australian sea surface temperatures (SSTs) on local cyclone activity and behavior, using three different sets of sea surface temperature boundary conditions during the period 2007–2008 in an ensemble of Weather Research and Forecasting Model physics parameterizations. Coastal sea surface temperatures are demonstrated to have a significant impact on the overall frequency of cyclones in this region, with warmer SSTs acting as a trigger for the intensification of weak or moderate cyclones, particularly those of a subtropical nature. However, sea surface temperatures play only a minor role in the most intense cyclones, which are dominated by atmospheric conditions.

Key Figure

Figure 8. Percentage change in precipitation in 2007–2008 in the 50 km resolution domain with the EAC (left) removed or (right) doubled. The east coast region is indicated in red.

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