Semester of Graduation

Spring 2019


Master of Science (MS)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



Tropical cyclones (TCs) are among the most destructive meteorological phenomena and impact the lives of people who reside along the coast. The American Pacific Coastline borders the second most active TC development region in the world, the northeastern Pacific (NE Pac) basin. This region, along with the Central Pacific (C Pac)-bordering Hawaii is home to a growing population and cities engaged in a variety of economic activities, most prominently agriculture, fishing, and tourism. This study analyzes fifty-two (1966-2017) years of NE Pac and C Pac TCs through applying track data from the National Hurricane Center’s HURDAT2 and a TC size model to determine TC strikes at fifty-eight locations in the Pacific Coast and Hawaii. An average TC strike model is used, whereby tropical storms, hurricanes, and major hurricane strikes are determined for each location. These data are used to construct time series and return periods for each location. Results indicate varying patterns of strike frequency across the Riviera, with “hot spots” along the southwestern coast of Mexico (centered on Manzanillo, Colima), on the southern tip of Baja California Sur, and on Isla Socorro, part of the Revillagigedo Island chain. These regions had TC return periods of two years or less while locations in Sonora, Central America, San Diego, parts of Hawaii, and northern Baja California had return periods of fifty-two years or greater. In addition, the influence of atmospheric oscillations on these strikes and TC tracks close to the Mexican coastline was investigated. It was found that developing La Niña events in the El Niño-Southern Oscillation and developing westerly phases of Quasi-Biennial Oscillation may promote increased percentage TC strikes along the Mexican coastline, or an increased percentage of storms tracking closer to the Mexican coast. Results of this thesis have utility to coastal planners, local governments, tourism agencies, and investors in this region in understanding the risk this oft overlooked region has to TCs.

Committee Chair

Barry D. Keim