Date of Award

12-1-2016

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Geography and Environmental Resources

First Advisor

Schoof, Justin

Abstract

Extratropical cyclones are responsible for a substantial portion of midlatitude climate variability and contribute to widespread impacts. The characteristics of extratropical cyclones, such as their spatial distribution and intensity, are thought to be dependent on the large scale circulation. The relationship between cyclone characteristics and modes of large-scale climate variability has been investigated in previous studies, but interactions between modes of climate variability have largely been ignored. Since extratropical cyclone characteristics may be related to interactions between phases, quantifying these relationships is an important step in improving the climatology of extratropical cyclones. The goal of this study is to quantify relationships between modes of climate variability and characteristics of strong cyclones in the contiguous United States. Using historical sea-level pressure data, cyclone intensity, frequency, and spatial distribution are investigated using a cyclone definition that combines the requirement for low pressure (1000 hPa or lower) and positive (cyclonic) vorticity. The large scale modes of climate variability considered include El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Pacific North American (PNA) mode, and the Arctic Oscillation (AO). The analysis is divided into three phases focusing on (1) establishing a background cyclone climatology within the study area, (2) quantifying differences in cyclone characteristics between the positive and negative phases of the individual modes of climate variability, and (3) examining the interactions between the modes of climate variability as they relate to extratropical cyclone characteristics. The results are expected to provide an improved baseline for evaluation of coupled climate models and also have the potential to improve seasonal climate predictability.

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