Moisture transport by Atlantic tropical cyclones onto the North American continent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


Tropical Cyclones (TCs) are an important source of freshwater for the North American continent. Many studies have tried to estimate this contribution by identifying TC-induced precipitation events, but few have explicitly diagnosed the moisture fluxes across continental boundaries. We design a set of attribution schemes to isolate the column-integrated moisture fluxes that are directly associated with TCs and to quantify the flux onto the North American Continent due to TCs. Averaged over the 2004–2012 hurricane seasons and integrated over the western, southern and eastern coasts of North America, the seven schemes attribute 7 to 18 % (mean 14 %) of total net onshore flux to Atlantic TCs. A reduced contribution of 10 % (range 9 to 11 %) was found for the 1980–2003 period, though only two schemes could be applied to this earlier period. Over the whole 1980–2012 period, a further 8 % (range 6 to 9 % from two schemes) was attributed to East Pacific TCs, resulting in a total TC contribution of 19 % (range 17 to 22 %) to the ocean-to-land moisture transport onto the North American continent between May and November. Analysis of the attribution uncertainties suggests that incorporating details of individual TC size and shape adds limited value to a fixed radius approach and TC positional errors in the ERA-Interim reanalysis do not affect the results significantly, but biases in peak wind speeds and TC sizes may lead to underestimates of moisture transport. The interannual variability does not appear to be strongly related to the El Nino-Southern Oscillation phenomenon.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3161–3182
Number of pages22
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number9
Early online date6 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2017

Cite this