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Cyclones of Subtropical Origin in the Southwest Pacific: a Climatology and Aspects of Movement and Development

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posted on 2021-11-08, 23:43 authored by Schroder, Susanne Sandra

A comprehensive study on cyclones of subtropical origin (STCs) in the Southwest Pacific is carried out. A brief history of the damage caused by STCs in New Zealand between 1990 and 2005 is given. It shows that approximately 2 to 3 times a year STCs come into the vicinity of New Zealand, mostly affecting the North Island and causing predominantly flood damage. A climatology is compiled with a cyclone track database covering 21 years, providing an overview of the behaviour and characteristics of STCs in this region. Distinct annual and seasonal patterns in frequency, tracks and intensity are revealed. Some of these patterns resemble those of tropical cyclones, in particular those undergoing extratropical transition, while others resemble those of extratropical cyclones in this region. In addition, it is shown that there is a significant increase in the number of summer STCs, which coincides with an increase in sea surface temperatures in the area. The structure and processes involved in the development of STCs are investigated in more detail using data from the United Kingdom Meteorological Office (UKMO) global model spanning 5 years (1999 to 2003). An analysis of the upper-level flow shows that STCs are steered into midlatitudes by upper-level baroclinic waves, m general through interaction with an upper-level trough. Differences in the structure and development of STCs can be attributed to the fact that upper-level baroclinic waves are able to propagate far into the sub tropics in this region. This is also the reason for the existence of three types of STCs, when differentiating by characteristics of their development process. Type 1 STCs are very similar to extratropical cyclones in structure and development. The structure and the development process of Type 3 STCs resemble more those of tropical cyclones. The initial development of Type 2 STCs is similar to that of Type 3, but they then undergo a transition, found to be very similar to that of tropical cyclones undergoing extratropical transition. Interseasonal variations in the upper-level flow over the Southwest Pacific are reflected in the behaviour and characteristics of STCs and subsequently the occurrence of the three types of STCs. During the colder seasons baroclinic waves frequently propagate relatively far into the subtropics in this region. This means STCs not only have a high chance of being picked up by an upper-level trough and undergoing extratropical transition, they are also able to actually form in the vicinity of a trough. Thus, during that time most STCs tend to be either Type 1 or 2. On the other hand, during summer, when baroclinic waves only occasionally propagate into the subtropics, there is a higher frequency of Type 3 STCs. In terms of weather-related threats to New Zealand, the interaction with an upperlevel trough is the cause for STCs coming into the vicinity of New Zealand, while the high rain rates that accompany them, and that are the cause for the extensive, mostly flood-related, damage, are attributed to their place of origin.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


McGregor, James; Revell, M.