Precipitation is a major natural source of fresh water for maintaining ecological balance and promoting the sustainable development of islands and reefs in the tropical Pacific. Total precipitation can be separated into tropical cyclone (TC) precipitation and non-TC precipitation (e.g., seasonal rainfall) [1
]. TCs are important contributors to precipitation in the tropical marine areas and islands [3
]. Such contribution varies significantly across different land and sea areas of the world. For instance, in Mexico, the highest contribution of TCs was 40% of total annual rainfall from 2001 to 2013 [6
]. In the Mekong River Basin, the largest contribution of TC precipitation for 34 years was 12.4% [7
]. On the Australian coast, the maximum percentage contribution of TC-induced precipitation was 55% [8
]. At the global scale, TCs contributed to about 35–50% of annual precipitation [9
]. Precipitation controls the formation and evolution of freshwater lenses through regulating recharge in reclaimed islands [10
]. Therefore, the proportions of TC-induced precipitation are important.
TCs are the dominant drivers for the occurrence of precipitation in the South China Sea (SCS), as the SCS is one of the origins of TCs and is frequently affected each year [15
]. Available information indicates that the increased contribution of TC-induced precipitation to summer rainfall was 30% along the coastal regions in southern China [17
]. The larger interannual variations of September and October rainfall in Hainan for the period of 1965–2010 were in the wet years [18
]. The frequency of TCs over the SCS is increasing, due to ever more TCs moving into the SCS from elsewhere [19
], then leading to autumn precipitation in Central Vietnam [20
]. Furthermore, because the rate of infiltration into the coral sands is higher than the precipitation rate, the surface water flow and freshwater lakes on the small coral reefs and reclaimed islands in the SCS are insufficient. In the dry season, a lack of rainfall recharge has adverse effects on freshwater lenses, even leading to extinction [21
]. Consequently, TC-induced precipitation is affected by the frequency of TCs, with seasonal variations, thereby controlling the volumes of freshwater lenses.
El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and sea surface temperature (SST) have obvious impacts on TCs and precipitation [19
]. El Niño events have been confirmed to trigger abnormal western North Pacific (WNP) cyclones in August 2016. The SST of the western Indian Ocean and tropical North Atlantic (TNA) also plays an important role in influencing southern China precipitation [23
]. The warm SST anomalies in the northern SCS and the WNP over the past 50 years enhanced mean moisture transport into Taiwan, Hainan, and adjacent islands, which led to more seasonal rainfall over southern China [2
]. In the cold TNA SST years during the period of 1977–2016, more TCs were generated over the SCS, as their genesis frequency and location were regulated by the TNA SST [25
]. However, results from a regional climate modeling system show that the ENSO has less influence on TC activity in terms of interannual variation, although landfalling TCs in the WNP tend to be more intense [26
]. In addition, some studies focus on the effects of different tracks. For example, the forming location and track patterns of TCs have a major impact on TC-induced precipitation [27
]. However, they tend to ignore the attributes of the motion between islands and the TC’s center. Thus, although there have been many investigations on the ENSO and SST anomaly in the SCS region, few studies have considered the contribution of TCs to precipitation and the track pattern of TCs in the reclaimed islands.
The scope of TC-induced precipitation was defined as a circle with an effective radius at the global or regional scale, which was made use of in investigating rainfall in the inner-core region (0–100 km) and outer region (100–300 km) in light of Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) data [28
]. Extreme precipitation was found more than 450 km away from the storm center [29
], in accordance with many other studies [30
], within the effective radius of 500 km. Although definitions of TCs based on a circle with an effective radius have been widely employed, the effective radii are different in other studies, ranging from 400 to 1000 km [34
]. Hence, we set out to confirm the optimum effective radius around the region of reclaimed islands in the SCS. Spatial statistics and correlation-analysis methods were applied to examine the best-track data and correlation between TC-induced precipitation and ENSO.
The study firstly describes the spatiotemporal variation of TCs and characteristics of precipitation together with ENSO, and then explores the monthly, seasonal, and interannual contribution of TCs to precipitation in the reclaimed islands. The major objectives of this study were therefore to (1) quantify annual and interannual features of TCs (intensity and tracks) and TC-induced precipitation rates, (2) determine the radius of TC-derived precipitation in reclaimed islands of the SCS, and (3) analyze the impacts of the track pattern of TCs and ENSO in terms of the contribution of TC-induced precipitation. This should help to clarify the contribution of TCs to precipitation and interfering factors in the reclaimed islands of the SCS. The findings of this study will be beneficial for deciding upon reasonable measures to supply freshwater to maintain the stability of freshwater lenses, especially in the dry season.
Based on the 6 h precipitation and the best-track data for each TC collected at 6 h time intervals from 2001 to 2018, the contribution of TCs to precipitation around the reclaimed islands in the South China Sea was estimated. The ENSO phases were derived from SST anomalies of Niño-3.4. This paper describes the monthly, seasonal, and annual contributions of TCs and the impacts of ENSO, TC track patterns, and the radius of interest on the contributions around the reclaimed islands in the South China Sea. We conclude the following points.
The contribution of TCs was 5.9 to 10.1% in the rainy season and 7.9 to 16.8% in the dry season. This was mainly affected by the influence of the radius on the TC-derived precipitation. The seven islands have the same annual variations in the precipitation contributed by TCs.
An 800 km radius (the distance between the hourly interpolated tropical cyclone center and island) of interest was better for representing the contribution of TC-induced precipitation than a 500 km conventional radius around the reclaimed islands in the South China Sea. According to the relationship between the position of the tropical cyclone center and spheres of interest in the motional process of the TCs, four types of track patterns were defined. The order of the primary patterns by contribution was I (26–85.3%) > IV (12.8–29.8%) > III (4.3–29%) > II (11.5–24%).
The average distances between the tropical cyclone center and island were 1163 and 712 km in the rainy and dry seasons, respectively. The relationship between TC-derived precipitation and ENSO indicates that average TCs contribute more during La Niña than El Niño periods around the reclaimed islands in the South China Sea.
The results could be beneficial for managing rainwater resources, especially the TC-induced precipitation in the reclaimed islands, and supplying freshwater to maintain the stability of freshwater lenses in the dry season.