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Subject: A18) What is a neutercane?

Contributed by Neal Dorst (HRD)

A neutercane is a small (meso-)scale (< 100 miles in diameter) low-pressure system that has characteristics of both tropical cyclone and mid-latitude or extratropical cyclone. A subclass of sub-tropical cyclone, neutercanes are distinguished by their small size and their origination, sometimes forming within mesoscale convective complexes.

The term was coined by Robert Bundgaard, after he participated in a research flight in the early 1970's. He witnessed a small cyclonic circulation over land, which appeared to have both tropical and extratropical characteristics. He used the term in later discussions with Dr. Bob Simpson, then director of the National Hurricane Center. 'Neutercane' was meant to synthesize the word 'neutral' and 'hurricane' to imply a hurricane-like vortex which was midway between tropical and extratropical.

Dr. Simpson observed similar circulations on geostationary satellite loops, and conducted an investigation with hurricane researcher Banner Miller. He presented a talk on them at the 8th AMS Conference on Hurricane and Tropical Meteorology in 1973. During the 1972 hurricane season, Simpson inaugurated use of the term in official bulletins, labeling the second (Bravo) and third (Charlie) subtropical cyclones observed that year as Neutercanes. (Neutercane Bravo transformed into Hurricane Betty.) However, objections in the press to the term as possibly sexist led to NOAA management discouraging use of the term, and ordering Simpson to cease use of any further Government resources in conducting research on the phenomenon.

From then on, the term "Sub-tropical Cyclone" was used for all such systems. However, the term entered into several dictionaries, including the AMS Glossary of Meteorology (which misidentifies them as "large"), and has been used in the scientific literature.

Bull. Amer. Met. Soc., Feb. 1973, Vo. 54 No. 2, p. 153
Glossary of Meteorology 2nd edition, 2000, (AMS, Boston), p. 522
Weatherwise, Sept.-Oct. 2005, Vo. 58 No. 5, p. 60

Revised May 21, 2007

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