Even though the degree of damage inflicted by North Atlantic
tropical cyclones (TCs) is highly dependent upon track location and proximity
to land, the spatial characteristics of TCs are generally understudied. We
investigated the spatial relationships between landfall locations and track
patterns of all Cape Verde-type landfalling and coastal TCs that have affected
the continental coastline of the western Atlantic Basin by region for the
period 1851-2008. The degree of recurvature for these TCs increases
progressively from the Central America/Caribbean coast (CA) through the Gulf of
Mexico (GOM), Florida peninsula (FLOR), and Atlantic (ATL) coasts. The date
(month) of occurrence shows similar increases from the GOM through ATL. These
patterns for landfall location, track pattern, and occurrence date generally
follow the intra-seasonal movement and intensity variations of the Bermuda High
(BH), as represented by increasing North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index
values from CA through FLOR. Analysis suggests that the region of landfall is
primarily controlled by two factors: the amplitude of track recurvature and the
longitude at which recurvature begins to dominate track shape. Both of these
important steering controls are predominantly influenced by the strength and
position of the BH, with increasing strength and/or more northeasterly position
of the BH progressively driving landfall from Central America through the Gulf
of Mexico and the Atlantic seaboard out to the open sea. The paleorecord suggests
that the latitudinal position of the BH exerts an important control over the
location of hurricane landfall along the western North Atlantic on millennial
time scales. This suggests that global warming may result in a northern shift
in TC tracks and increased frequency of landfalls in northern locations.
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