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Drought-Busting Tropical Cyclones in the Southeastern Atlantic United States: 1950–2008

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Droughts and tropical cyclones (TCs) are climatologically common events in the southeastern United States, yet little research has examined the potential for TCs to ameliorate drought impacts. Here, we identify the frequency of TCs that abruptly end drought conditions (i.e., drought busters, or DB) and determine possible influences of coupled ocean–atmosphere teleconnections on the likelihood of a TC-induced DB (TCDB). Using the HURDAT database and Palmer Drought Severity Indexes from 1950 through 2008, we identified every TCDB for thirty-one climate divisions in the southeastern Atlantic United States. We present the spatial patterns of the total number of TCDBs and the percentage of all droughts ended by TCs using choropleth maps. To determine what teleconnections influenced TCDBs, we used logistic regression analysis and included multiple synoptic-scale circulation indexes as predictor variables. In addition, we used a Fisher's exact test to examine the association between the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and TCDBs. We found that up to 41 percent of all droughts and at least 20 percent of droughts in three fourths of the climate divisions were ended by TCDBs. NAO was a significant predictor (p = 0.005) in the logistic regression model (χ2 = 10.91, p = 0.001), and the Fisher's exact test showed a significant association between NAO and TCDBs (p = 0.003). An odds-ratio calculation showed that TCDBs are 5.8 times more likely to occur during a negative NAO phase than a positive NAO phase.

Keywords: North Atlantic Oscillation; Oscilación del Atlántico Norte; ciclones tropicales; climatology; droughts; la climatología; sequías; tropical cyclones

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Carolina Tree-Ring Science Laboratory, Department of Geography,The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 2: Department of Geography and Planning,Appalachian State University, 3: Department of Environmental Studies,University of West Florida,

Publication date: March 1, 2012


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