A Climatology of Southwest Indian Ocean Tropical Systems: Their Number, Tracks, Impacts, Sizes, Empirical Maximum Potential Intensity, and Intensity Changes

Leroux, Marie-Dominique ; Meister, Julien ; Mekies, Dominique ; Dorla, Annie-Laure ; Caroff, Philippe

Année de publication
A 17-yr 'climatology' of tropical-system activity, track, size, and 24-h intensity change in the southwest Indian Ocean (SWIO) is developed and analyzed in comparison with other intensively studied basins such as the North Atlantic Ocean. A first formulation of the empirical maximum potential intensity of SWIO tropical systems is also proposed, along with the climatology of sea surface temperatures from September to June. Systems with a 34-kt (1 kt = 0.514 m s−1) wind radius that does not exceed 46 km are considered to be very small or midget systems, on the basis of the 5th percentile of storm size distribution. Using the 95th percentile of overwater intensity changes, rapid intensification (RI) is statistically defined by a minimum increase of 15.4 m s−1 day−1 in the maximum 10-min mean surface wind speed (VMAX). This value is similar to the 30-kt threshold commonly used in the North Atlantic basin for 1-min sustained wind speeds. Rapid decay (RD) can be statistically defined by a minimum weakening of 13.9 m s−1 day−1, although the spread in the 5th percentile of intensity changes among the different intensity classes indicates that it is not as appropriate to use a unique RD threshold for all systems. It is shown that 43% of all tropical systems and all very intense tropical cyclones (VMAX ≥ 59.6 m s−1) underwent RI at least once during their lifetimes. It is highlighted that systems have a greater propensity to intensify rapidly for an initial intensity between 65 and 75 kt. Statistics indicate that operational intensity forecast errors are significantly greater at short range for RI cases while track errors are reduced.
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