, Volume 106, Issue 3-4, pp 149-162

Tropical cyclones in the SW Indian Ocean. Part 1: inter-annual variability and statistical prediction

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Abstract

The southwestern Indian Ocean (SWIO) is characterized by significant climate variability and frequent tropical cyclones (TC). Year-to-year fluctuations of TC and associated oceanic and atmospheric fields in the period 1961–2002 are studied with reanalysis data as composites and cross-correlations, with wavelet filtering and cross-modulus analysis, and by hovmoller analysis and multi-variate statistical modeling. Observational limitations in the early part of the record are recognized. An intense TC-days index is formed and is characterized by quasi-biennial to decadal cycles that relate to ocean Rossby waves and high latitude atmospheric circulations, respectively. New variables are uncovered that significantly improve the seasonal prediction of SWIO TC. One predictor is the geopotential height in the SE Pacific, which explains 31% of SWIO TC variability. It foretells of downstream oscillations in the sub-tropical jet stream, which govern wind shear, an equatorial duct and attendant circulation anomalies over the SWIO. An anti-phase association between Amazon convection and intense TCs is found to be related to the Atlantic Zonal Circulation. Drought across the Amazon is related to an increase in TC activity in the SWIO, when zonal wind anomalies over the Atlantic become upper easterly/lower westerly. This feature is related to Pacific Ocean El Niño Southern Oscillation phase. A La Niña signal favors TC development through a westward propagating cyclonic circulation and downweling Rossby wave in the South Indian Ocean that enhances thermodynamic energy. It is recommended to repeat this analysis every few years to determine whether teleconnections evolve due to climate drift or improving observations.