Articles | Volume 16, issue 6
Research article
16 Jun 2016
Research article |  | 16 Jun 2016

An intercomparison of tropical cyclone best-track products for the southwest Pacific

Andrew D. Magee, Danielle C. Verdon-Kidd, and Anthony S. Kiem

Abstract. Recent efforts to understand tropical cyclone (TC) activity in the southwest Pacific (SWP) have led to the development of numerous TC databases. The methods used to compile each database vary and are based on data from different meteorological centres, standalone TC databases and archived synoptic charts. Therefore the aims of this study are to (i) provide a spatio-temporal comparison of three TC best-track (BT) databases and explore any differences between them (and any associated implications) and (ii) investigate whether there are any spatial, temporal or statistical differences between pre-satellite (1945–1969), post-satellite (1970–2011) and post-geostationary satellite (1982–2011) era TC data given the changing observational technologies with time. To achieve this, we compare three best-track TC databases for the SWP region (0–35° S, 135° E–120° W) from 1945 to 2011: the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), the International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship (IBTrACS) and the Southwest Pacific Enhanced Archive of Tropical Cyclones (SPEArTC). The results of this study suggest that SPEArTC is the most complete repository of TCs for the SWP region. In particular, we show that the SPEArTC database includes a number of additional TCs, not included in either the JTWC or IBTrACS database. These SPEArTC events do occur under environmental conditions conducive to tropical cyclogenesis (TC genesis), including anomalously negative 700 hPa vorticity (VORT), anomalously negative vertical shear of zonal winds (VSZW), anomalously negative 700 hPa geopotential height (GPH), cyclonic (absolute) 700 hPa winds and low values of absolute vertical wind shear (EVWS). Further, while changes in observational technologies from 1945 have undoubtedly improved our ability to detect and monitor TCs, we show that the number of TCs detected prior to the satellite era (1945–1969) are not statistically different to those in the post-satellite era (post-1970). Although data from pre-satellite and pre-geostationary satellite periods are currently inadequate for investigating TC intensity, this study suggests that SPEArTC data (from 1945) may be used to investigate long-term variability of TC counts and TC genesis locations.

Short summary
We examine the spatiotemporal differences between three TC databases for the southwest Pacific region. In addition, the usefulness of pre-satellite era TC data (1945–1969) is evaluated. While changes in observational technologies from 1945 have undoubtedly improved our ability to detect and monitor TCs, we show that pre-satellite era TC data are not temporally or statistically different to post-satellite era data (1970–present).
Final-revised paper