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      SST and North American Tropical Cyclone Landfall: A Statistical Modeling Study



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          We employ a statistical model of North Atlantic tropical cyclone (TC) tracks to investigate the relationship between sea-surface temperature (SST) and North American TC landfall rates. The track model is conditioned on summer SST in the tropical North Atlantic being in either the 19 hottest or the 19 coldest years in the period 1950-2005. For each conditioning many synthetic TCs are generated and landfall rates computed. Compared to direct analysis of historical landfall, the track model reduces the sampling error by projecting information from the entire basin onto the coast. There are 46% more TCs in hot years than cold in the model, which is highly significant compared to random sampling and corroborates well documented trends in North Atlantic TC number in recent decades. In the absence of other effects, this difference results in a significant increase in model landfall rates in hot years, uniform along the coast. Hot-cold differences in the geographic distribution of genesis and in TC propagation do not significantly alter the overall landfall-rate difference in the model, and the net landfall rate is 1/4.7 yr in hot years and 1/3.1 yr in cold years. SST influence on genesis site and propagation does modify the geographic distribution of landfall, however. The Yucatan suffers 3 times greater landfall rate in hot years than cold, while the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast exhibits no significant change. Landfall probabilities increase in hot years compared to all years in Florida, the U.S Gulf coast, the Mexican Gulf coast, and Yucatan with at least 95% confidence.

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          07 January 2008
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