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Seasonal prediction of hurricane activity reaching the coast of the United States


Much of the property damage from natural hazards in the United States is caused by landfalling hurricanes1,2,3—strong tropical cyclones that reach the coast. For the southeastern Atlantic coast of the US, a statistical method for forecasting the occurrence of landfalling hurricanes for the season ahead has been reported4, but the physical mechanisms linking the predictor variables to the frequency of hurricanes remain unclear. Here we present a statistical model that uses July wind anomalies between 1950 and 2003 to predict with significant and useful skill the wind energy of US landfalling hurricanes for the following main hurricane season (August to October). We have identified six regions over North America and over the east Pacific and North Atlantic oceans where July wind anomalies, averaged between heights of 925 and 400 mbar, exhibit a stationary and significant link to the energy of landfalling hurricanes during the subsequent hurricane season. The wind anomalies in these regions are indicative of atmospheric circulation patterns that either favour or hinder evolving hurricanes from reaching US shores.

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Figure 1: Tropospheric height-averaged wind anomalies linked significantly to above-median seasonal US landfalling hurricane activity 1950–2003.


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We thank B. Lloyd-Hughes for help with Table 3 and other aspects of the work. J. B. Elsner, C. W. Landsea, F. Vitart, J. Heming and I. M. Mason are thanked for comments on the manuscript. This work is supported by the TSR (Tropical Storm Risk) venture sponsored by Benfield (an independent reinsurance intermediary), Royal & SunAlliance (an insurance group), and Crawford & Company (a claims management solutions company). We acknowledge NOAA-CIRES, Climate Diagnostics Center, Boulder, Colorado, for the NCEP/NCAR Global Reanalysis Project data, and NOAA's Hurricane Research Division for the HURDAT North Atlantic hurricane database.

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Correspondence to Mark A. Saunders.

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Saunders, M., Lea, A. Seasonal prediction of hurricane activity reaching the coast of the United States. Nature 434, 1005–1008 (2005).

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