Hurricanes and climate: the U.S. CLIVAR working group on hurricanes

While a quantitative climate theory of tropical cyclone formation remains elusive, considerable progress has been made recently in our ability to simulate tropical cyclone climatologies and understand the relationship between climate and tropical cyclone formation. Climate models are now able to simulate a realistic rate of global tropical cyclone formation, although simulation of the Atlantic tropical cyclone climatology remains challenging unless horizontal resolutions finer than 50 km are employed. This article summarizes published research from the idealized experiments of the Hurricane Working Group of U.S. CLIVAR (CLImate VARiability and predictability of the ocean-atmosphere system). This work, combined with results from other model simulations, has strengthened relationships between tropical cyclone formation rates and climate variables such as mid-tropospheric vertical velocity, with decreased climatological vertical velocities leading to decreased tropical cyclone formation. Systematic differences are shown between experiments in which only sea surface temperature is increased versus experiments where only atmospheric carbon dioxide is increased, with the carbon dioxide experiments more likely to demonstrate the decrease in tropical cyclone numbers previously shown to be a common response of climate models in a warmer climate. Experiments where the two effects are combined also show decreases in numbers, but these tend to be less for models that demonstrate a strong tropical cyclone response to increased sea surface temperatures. Further experiments are proposed that may improve our understanding of the relationship between climate and tropical cyclone formation, including experiments with two-way interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere and variations in atmospheric aerosols.

Walsh, KJE., Camargo, S., Vecchi, GA, Daloz, AS, Elsner, J, Emanuel, K, Horn, M, Lim, YK, Roberts, M, Patricola, C, Scoccimarro E, Sobel, AH, Strazzo, S, Villarini, G, Wehner, M, Zhao, M, Kossin, JP, LaRow, T, Oouchi, K, Schubert, S, Wang, H, Bacmeister, J, Chang, P, Chauvin, F, Jablonowski, C, Kumar, A, MurakamiH, Ose, T, Reed, KA, Saravanan, R, Yamada, Y, Zarzycki, CM, Vidale, PL, Jonas, JA, Henderson, N, Hurricanes and climate: the U.S. CLIVAR working group on hurricanes, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Sept 2014.