Observed versus GCM-Generated Local Tropical Cyclone Frequency: Comparisons Using a Spatial Lattice

Of broad scientific and public interest is the reliability of global climate models (GCMs) to simulate future regional and local tropical cyclone (TC) occurrences. Atmospheric GCMs are now able to generate vortices resembling actual TCs, but questions remain about their fidelity to observed TCs. Here the authors demonstrate a spatial lattice approach for comparing actual with simulated TC occurrences regionally using observed TCs from the International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship (IBTrACS) dataset and GCM-generated TCs from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) High Resolution Atmospheric Model (HiRAM) and Florida State University (FSU) Center for Ocean–Atmospheric Prediction Studies (COAPS) model over the common period 1982–2008. Results show that the spatial distribution of TCs generated by the GFDL model compares well with observations globally, although there are areas of over- and underprediction, particularly in parts of the Pacific Ocean. Difference maps using the spatial lattice highlight these discrepancies. Additionally, comparisons focusing on the North Atlantic Ocean basin are made. Results confirm a large area of overprediction by the FSU COAPS model in the south-central portion of the basin. Relevant to projections of future U.S. hurricane activity is the fact that both models underpredict TC activity in the Gulf of Mexico.

Strazzo, Sarah, James B. Elsner, Timothy LaRow, Daniel J. Halperin, Ming Zhao, 2013: Observed versus GCM-Generated Local Tropical Cyclone Frequency: Comparisons Using a Spatial Lattice. J. Climate, 26, 8257–8268.