Talk by Kim Wood, UArizona HAS Department: What we can learn from 70 years of eastern North Pacific tropical cyclones

Topic: Atmospheric Science

Kim Wood HAS Associate Professor


noon to 1 p.m., Oct. 18, 2023
Seminar Format

Available in-person--Harshbarger 110--and via Zoom webinar. Contact the department to subscribe to the email list (zoom link provided in announcement).

The eastern North Pacific (ENP) basin exhibits a high density of tropical cyclone (TC) formation compared with other ocean basins in which TCs occur. Since ENP TCs can form near or otherwise impact land, they serve as an important yet variable source of summer and fall precipitation in Central America and southwestern North America. Higher sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and reduced vertical wind shear associated with El Niño events tend to support increased TC activity, exemplified by the very active 2015 ENP hurricane season. Yet the 2018 season eclipsed that activity despite the absence of El Niño, likely influenced by a positive phase of the Pacific meridional mode (PMM). In addition, though La Niña conditions can decrease overall ENP activity, shifts in the atmospheric circulation can increase the likelihood of land impacts from TCs that do form.
This presentation explores the ENP TC record from 1953 to 2022, spanning the 35 years prior to the National Hurricane Center taking responsibility for the basin and the 35 years since then. ENP TC activity shows a marked increase in the late 1960s, likely related to improved observations, with an overall downward trend in recent years that may be related to a more La Niña-like base state. The number of ENP TCs has remained fairly steady in the reliable satellite era (since 1971), but the frequency of rapid intensification may be increasing, exacerbating potential hazards when these TCs affect land. By quantifying the patterns that affect TC behavior from season to season, future work can evaluate how these patterns may continue to evolve in a changing climate.

Dr. Kim Woods is an associate professor in the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona. They received an honors BS degree in physics from Oregon State University and MS and PHD degrees in atmospheric science from the University of Arizona. Before returning to Tucson in 2023, they were an assistant and then associate professor in the Department of Geosciences at Mississippi State University. Kim applies open-source tools, such as Python, to the study of hurricane behavior from the individual storm to the basin scale, with an emphasis on interpretable data visualizations that support their teaching and outreach. They also serve on UCAR's Unidata Strategic Advisory Committee, the AMS Committee on Weather Analysis and Forecasting, and the Southeast Chapter of the Fifth National Climate Assessment.

Kim Wood, HAS Assistant Professor: [Email: | Google Scholar]