Storm track

Definition of Storm Track

A storm track denotes the prevailing trajectory of storms — cyclones, hurricanes, or low-pressure systems — within specific geographical confines or on a worldwide scale. This path results from the complex interplay of atmospheric circulation patterns, predominant winds, and additional overarching meteorological determinants.

Factors Influencing Storm Tracks

Atmospheric Circulation: Predominant patterns of atmospheric circulation, including the jet stream, effectively navigate storm systems and delineate their usual course. Occupying the upper echelons of the troposphere, the jet stream is a swift air current, critically implicated in the genesis and trajectory of storms, particularly at mid-latitudes.

Ocean Currents and Sea Surface Temperatures: Ocean currents hold sway over sea surface temperatures (SSTs), which subsequently manipulate storm tracks. Warmer marine waters fuel the emergence and escalation of storms, with storm systems frequently tracing regions exhibiting higher SSTs.

Topography: Surface features on Earth, incorporating mountains and coastlines, exert an impact on storm tracks, guiding or obstructing the transit of storm systems. In the case of mountain ranges, forced air ascent can stimulate storm formation or modify the storm's trajectory.

Global Storm Tracks

Tropical Storm Tracks: Within tropical realms, trade winds and large-scale circulatory patterns — the Hadley Cell, to name one — shape storm tracks. Tropical storms, encompassing hurricanes and typhoons, typically originate in the balmy waters of the tropics, adhering to a westward route under the guidance of the trade winds.

Mid-Latitude Storm Tracks: At mid-latitudes, storm tracks commonly align with the polar front, the juncture at which tropical warmth encounters polar cold. These storm tracks find their course in the jet stream, typically pursuing a west-to-east path, with storms initiating and intensifying along the polar front.

Seasonal Variability in Storm Tracks

Storm tracks can shift seasonally, responding to alterations in the position of the jet stream and other meteorological variables. In the North Atlantic, for instance, hurricane tracks are prone to a northward shift during the summer months. This movement is the result of the northward displacement of the subtropical high-pressure system, effectively steering storms toward the eastern coast of the United States.
Updated: May 31, 2023
Published by: Weather U.S. | About Us