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Characterizing Continental US Hurricane Risk: Which Intensity Metric is Best?
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  • Philip J Klotzbach,
  • Daniel Chavas,
  • Michael Bell,
  • Steven G. Bowen,
  • Ethan J Gibney,
  • Carl Schreck
Philip J Klotzbach
Colorado State University, Colorado State University

Corresponding Author:philk@atmos.colostate.edu

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Daniel Chavas
Purdue University, Purdue University
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Michael Bell
Colorado State University, Colorado State University
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Steven G. Bowen
Aon, Aon
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Ethan J Gibney
Cooperative Programs for the Advancement of Earth System Science, Cooperative Programs for the Advancement of Earth System Science
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Carl Schreck
North Carolina State University, North Carolina State University
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The damage potential of a hurricane is widely considered to depend more strongly on an integrated measure of the hurricane wind field, such as Integrated Kinetic Energy (IKE), than a point-based wind measure, such as maximum sustained wind speed (Vmax). Recent work has demonstrated that minimum sea level pressure (MSLP) is also an integrated measure of the wind field. This study investigates how well historical continental US hurricane damage is predicted by MSLP compared to both Vmax and IKE for continental United States hurricane landfalls for the period 1988–2020. We first show for the entire North Atlantic basin that MSLP is much better correlated with IKE (rrank = 0.50) than Vmax (rrank = 0.26). We then show that continental US hurricane normalized damage is better predicted by MSLP (rrank = 0.81) than either Vmax (rrank = 0.65) or IKE (rrank = 0.68). For Georgia to Maine hurricane landfalls specifically, MSLP and IKE show similar levels of skill at predicting damage, whereas Vmax provides effectively no predictive power. Conclusions for IKE extend to power dissipation as well, as the two quantities are highly correlated because wind radii closely follow a Rankine vortex. The physical relationship of MSLP to IKE and power dissipation is discussed. In addition to better representing damage, MSLP is also much easier to measure via aircraft or surface observations than either Vmax or IKE, and it is already routinely estimated operationally. We conclude that MSLP is an ideal metric for characterizing hurricane damage risk.