Characteristics and Variability of Storm Tracks in the North Pacific, Bering Sea, and Alaska

Mesquita, Michel d. S.; Atkinson, David E.; Hodges, Kevin I.
January 2010
Journal of Climate;Jan2010, Vol. 23 Issue 2, p294
Academic Journal
The North Pacific and Bering Sea regions represent loci of cyclogenesis and storm track activity. In this paper climatological properties of extratropical storms in the North Pacific/Bering Sea are presented based upon aggregate statistics of individual storm tracks calculated by means of a feature-tracking algorithm run using NCEP–NCAR reanalysis data from 1948/49 to 2008, provided by the NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Climate Diagnostics Center. Storm identification is based on the 850-hPa relative vorticity field (ζ) instead of the often-used mean sea level pressure; ζ is a prognostic field, a good indicator of synoptic-scale dynamics, and is directly related to the wind speed. Emphasis extends beyond winter to provide detailed consideration of all seasons. Results show that the interseasonal variability is not as large during the spring and autumn seasons. Most of the storm variables—genesis, intensity, track density—exhibited a maxima pattern that was oriented along a zonal axis. From season to season this axis underwent a north–south shift and, in some cases, a rotation to the northeast. This was determined to be a result of zonal heating variations and midtropospheric moisture patterns. Barotropic processes have an influence in shaping the downstream end of storm tracks and, together with the blocking influence of the coastal orography of northwest North America, result in high lysis concentrations, effectively making the Gulf of Alaska the “graveyard” of Pacific storms. Summer storms tended to be longest in duration. Temporal trends tended to be weak over the study area. SST did not emerge as a major cyclogenesis control in the Gulf of Alaska.


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