Intrabasin Variability of East Pacific Tropical Cyclones During ENSO Regulated by Central American Gap Winds Academic Article uri icon


  • Hurricane Patricia in 2015 was the strongest Pacific hurricane to make landfall in Mexico. Although Patricia fortuitously spared major cities, it reminded us of the threat tropical cyclones (TCs) pose in the eastern North Pacific (ENP) and the importance of improving our understanding and prediction of ENP TCs. Patricia's intensity and the active 2015 ENP hurricane season have been partially attributed to the strong El Niño in 2015, however there is still a lack of fundamental understanding of the relationship between El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and ENP TCs. Here, we demonstrate that ENSO drives intrabasin variability of ENP TCs, with enhanced (reduced) TC frequency in the western portion of the ENP during El Niño (La Niña), but reduced (enhanced) TC frequency in the eastern nearshore area, where landfalling TCs preferentially form. This intrabasin difference is primarily driven by the Central American Gap Winds (CAGW), which intensify (weaken) during El Niño (La Niña), producing low-level anticyclonic (cyclonic) relative vorticity anomalies and thus an unfavorable (favorable) environment for TC genesis. These findings shed new light on the dynamics linking ENP TC activity to ENSO, and highlight the importance of improving CAGW representation in models to make skillful seasonal forecasts of ENP TCs.

altmetric score

  • 2.1

author list (cited authors)

  • Fu, D., Chang, P., & Patricola, C. M.

citation count

  • 8

publication date

  • December 2017