Climate Science

How Long is the Pacific's Reach?

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Science  17 Sep 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5998, pp. 1442-1443
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5998.1442-e

Kim et al. recently suggested that the influence of sea surface warming events in the Central Pacific Ocean has contributed to more frequent landfall of North Atlantic tropical cyclones in the Gulf of Mexico and Central America (Reports, 3 July 2009, p. 77). If that were true, the predictability of Atlantic hurricane behavior could be improved by taking into account the state of the Pacific. Lee et al. have now performed an independent analysis of Central Pacific warming (CPW) events since 1969 and conclude that the relation between the two phenomena is not as strong as claimed. In fact, they suggest that the size of the Atlantic Warm Pool can explain the frequency of landfall, without invoking a remote influence from the tropical Pacific at all. They thus argue that it is premature to associate CPW events with that aspect of cyclone activity in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. They maintain that longer time series and more data, as well as corrections for the state of North Atlantic sea surface temperature patterns, are needed in order to identify a possible remote influence of the CPW on Atlantic hurricane landfall.

Geophys. Res. Lett. 37, L17702 (2010).

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