El Niño-Southern Oscillation and the seasonal predictability of tropical cyclones

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Stan Goldenberg and John Kaplan at the NOAA Hurricane Research Division, Todd Kimberlain of Colorado State University, Henry Diaz at the NOAA Climate Diagnostics Center and two anonymous reviewers provided quite detailed, helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Dr. Bill Gray of Colorado State University has, as always, sparked many useful and enlightening discussions on the topic. Finally, the author thanks the Bermuda Biological Research Station's Risk Prediction Initiative for providing financial support through a grant on the topic. 


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1 However, documented cases exist (e.g. Atlantic Hurricane Karl in 1980 [Lawrence and Pelissier 1981]) where this SST threshold of 26.5 C was not necessary. It may be instead that SSTs exceeding this amount are a general proxy for an environment that is conditionally unstable to moist convection (see item 2). Conditions can - and apparently do - set up on occasion to allow for conditional moist instability in waters cooler than 26.5 C.

2 Some forecasting groups have claimed ENSO predictive skill through the spring season (e.g. Chen et al. 1995, Penland and Sardeshmukh 1995) primarily through hindcast runs on dependent data. However, independent tests show that no ENSO model exists - statistical or numerical - that exhibits skill in real-time predictions relative to a simple ENSO climatology and persistence (ENSO-CLIPER) model (Knaff and Landsea 1997). Thus until there are available truly skillful ENSO models for lead times of several seasons, improvements in forecasts issued in early December for Atlantic hurricanes the following year may be slow to occur.

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