The intensity and motion of hybrid cyclones in the Australian region in a composite potential vorticity framework

Julian F. Quinting, Michael J. Reeder, Jennifer L. Catto

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Hybrid cyclones (HCs) in the Australian region typically reach their peak intensity in an amplified flow comprising upper-tropospheric ridges upstream and downstream of the cyclone and a north–south elongated trough. Nonetheless, there is considerable case-to-case variability. Taking a composite viewpoint, the present study investigates how such variations in the upper-tropospheric potential vorticity (PV) anomalies affect the subsequent intensity and motion of HCs in the Australian region. First, cyclones are grouped into four clusters with structurally similar environments through a k-means clustering of the 315 K PV anomaly. The clusters reveal that HCs can be associated with a north–south elongated trough (Cluster 1), a PV cut-off (Cluster 2), and cyclonically breaking troughs (Clusters 3 and 4). Second, the effect of these features on the intensity and tracks is quantified using piecewise PV inversion. The maximum intensity of cyclones in Cluster 1 is largely determined by their upper-tropospheric cyclonic PV anomaly. Conversely, diabatically generated lower-tropospheric PV anomalies dominate the intensity of cyclones in Clusters 3 and 4. In these two clusters, the cyclonically breaking trough and a downstream ridge induce an anomalous northeasterly low-level flow across the cyclone centre. The downstream ridge is most pronounced in Cluster 4, leading to the greatest poleward cyclone displacement compared to the other clusters. In Clusters 1 and 2, the upper-level PV anomaly primarily slows the eastward motion of the cyclones. In agreement with recent idealized studies, the analysis suggests that the effect of upper-tropospheric PV anomalies on the poleward motion of HCs is analogous to the beta-gyres that influence the motion of tropical cyclones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-287
Number of pages15
JournalQuarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
Issue number718
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • cut-off
  • hybrid cyclone
  • piecewise potential vorticity inversion
  • wave breaking

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