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The Interannual Stability of Cumulative Frequency Distributions for Convective System Size and Intensity

By Karen I. Mohr, Chris Thorncroft and John Molinari


The characteristics of convective system populations in West Africa and the western Pacific tropical cyclone basin were analyzed to investigate whether interannual variability in convective activity in tropical continental and oceanic environments is driven by variations in the number of events during the wet season or by favoring large and/or intense convective systems. Convective systems were defined from Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) data as a cluster of pixels with an 85-GHz polarization-corrected brightness temperature below 255 K and with an area of at least 64 square kilometers. The study database consisted of convective systems in West Africa from May to September 1998-2007, and in the western Pacific from May to November 1998-2007. Annual cumulative frequency distributions for system minimum brightness temperature and system area were constructed for both regions. For both regions, there were no statistically significant differences between the annual curves for system minimum brightness temperature. There were two groups of system area curves, split by the TRMM altitude boost in 2001. Within each set, there was no statistically significant interannual variability. Subsetting the database revealed some sensitivity in distribution shape to the size of the sampling area, the length of the sample period, and the climate zone. From a regional perspective, the stability of the cumulative frequency distributions implied that the probability that a convective system would attain a particular size or intensity does not change interannually. Variability in the number of convective events appeared to be more important in determining whether a year is either wetter or drier than normal

Topics: Meteorology and Climatology
Year: 2009
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