Atlantic Subtropical Storms. Part II: Climatology

A 45-yr climatology of subtropical cyclones (ST) for the North Atlantic is presented and analyzed. The STs pose a warm-season forecasting problem for subtropical locations such as Bermuda and the southern United States because of the potentially rapid onset of gale-force winds close to land. Criteria for identification of ST have been developed based on an accompanying case-study analysis. These criteria are applied here to the 40-yr European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Re-Analysis (ERA-40) to construct a con- sistent historical database of 197 North Atlantic ST in 45 yr.

Because ST may eventually evolve into tropical cyclones, sea surface temperatures (SST) and vertical wind shear conditions for tropical cyclogenesis are contrasted with the conditions for ST genesis identified here. Around 60% of the 197 ST formed over SST in excess of 25°C in a region of weak static stability. Further, the mean environmental vertical wind shear at formation for these storms is 10.7 m s−1, a magnitude generally considered to be unfavorable for tropical cyclogenesis.

The STs have hybrid structure, so the potential for baroclinic and thermodynamic development is explored through the baroclinic zone (characterized by the Eady growth rate σ) and SST field. Seasonal evolution in the location and frequency of ST formation in the basin is demonstrated to correspond well to the changing region of overlap between SST > 25°C and σ > 0.1 day−1.

This climatology is contrasted with two alternative ST datasets. The STs contribute to 12% of tropical cyclones (TC) in the current National Hurricane Center (NHC) Hurricane Database (HURDAT); this equivalent to about 1 in 8 genesis events from an incipient ST disturbance. However, with the addition of 144 ST that are newly identified in this climatology (and not presently in HURDAT) and the reclassification (as not ST) of 65 existing storms in HURDAT, 197/597 storms (33%) in the newly combined database are ST, which emphasizes the potential importance of these warm-season storms.

Guishard, Mark P., Jenni L. Evans, Robert E. Hart, 2009: Atlantic Subtropical Storms. Part II: Climatology. J. Climate, 22, 3574–3594. doi: