Multiyear predictions of north atlantic hurricane frequency: Promise and limitations

Gabriel A. Vecchi, Rym Msadek, Whit Anderson, You Soon Chang, Thomas Delworth, Keith Dixon, Rich Gudgel, Anthony Rosati, Bill Stern, Gabriele Villarini, Andrew Wittenberg, Xiasong Yang, Fanrong Zeng, Rong Zhang, Shaoqing Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Retrospective predictions of multiyear North Atlantic Ocean hurricane frequency are explored by applying a hybrid statistical-dynamical forecast system to initialized and noninitialized multiyear forecasts of tropical Atlantic and tropical-mean sea surface temperatures (SSTs) from two global climate model forecast systems. By accounting for impacts of initialization and radiative forcing, retrospective predictions of 5-and 9-yr mean tropical Atlantic hurricane frequency show significant correlations relative to a null hypothesis of zero correlation. The retrospective correlations are increased in a two-model average forecast and by using a lagged-ensemble approach, with the two-model ensemble decadal forecasts of hurricane frequency over 1961-2011 yielding correlation coefficients that approach 0.9. These encouraging retrospective multiyear hurricane predictions, however, should be interpreted with care: although initialized forecasts have higher nominal skill than uninitialized ones, the relatively short record and large autocorrelation of the time series limits confidence in distinguishing between the skill caused by external forcing and that added by initialization. The nominal increase in correlation in the initialized forecasts relative to the uninitialized experiments is caused by improved representation of the multiyear tropical Atlantic SST anomalies. The skill in the initialized forecasts comes in large part from the persistence of a mid-1990s shift by the initialized forecasts, rather than from predicting its evolution. Predicting shifts like that observed in 1994/95 remains a critical issue for the success of multiyear forecasts of Atlantic hurricane frequency. The retrospective forecasts highlight the possibility that changes in observing system impact forecast performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5337-5357
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Climate change
  • Climate prediction
  • Climate variability
  • Hurricanes/typhoons
  • Multidecadal variability


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