Large-scale factors in tropical and extratropical cyclone transition and extreme weather events

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008 Dec:1146:189-211. doi: 10.1196/annals.1446.005.


Transition mechanisms characterizing changes from hurricanes to midlatitude cyclones and vice-versa (extratropical and tropical transition) have become a topic of increasing interest, partially because of their association with recent unusual storms that have developed in different ocean basins of both hemispheres. The aim of this work is to discuss some recent cases of transition and highly unusual hurricane developments and to address some of their wider implications for climate science. Frequently those dramatic cyclones are responsible for severe weather, potentially causing significant damage to property and infrastructure. An additional manifestation discussed here is their association with cold surges, a topic that has been very little explored in the literature. In the Southern Hemisphere, the first South Atlantic hurricane, Catarina, developed in March 2004 under very unusual large-scale conditions. That exceptional cyclone is viewed as a case of tropical transition facilitated by a well-developed blocking structure. A new index for monitoring tropical transition in the subtropical South Atlantic is discussed. This "South Atlantic index" is used to show that the unusual flow during and prior to Catarina's genesis can be attributed to tropical/extratropical interaction mechanisms. The "Donald Duck" case in Australia and Vince in the North Atlantic have also been examined and shown to belong to a category of hybrid-transitioning systems that will achieve at least partial tropical transition. While clearly more research is needed on the topic of transition, as we gain further insight, it is becoming increasingly apparent that features of large-scale circulation do play a fundamental role. A complex interaction between an extratropical transition case and an extreme summer cold surge affecting southeastern Australia is discussed as an example of wider climate implications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cyclonic Storms*
  • Environment
  • Tropical Climate*
  • Weather*
  • Wind*