Aquaplanet Simulations of Tropical Cyclones

Timothy M. Merlis, Isaac M. Held

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: Tropical cyclones (TCs) are strongly influenced by the large-scale environment of the tropics and will, therefore, be modified by climate changes. Numerical simulations designed to understand the sensitivities of TCs to environmental changes have typically followed one of two approaches: single-storm domain sizes with convection-permitting resolution and uniform thermal boundary conditions or comprehensive global high-resolution (about 50 km in the horizontal) atmospheric general circulation model (GCM) simulations. The approaches reviewed here rest between these two and are an important component of hierarchical modelling of the atmosphere: aquaplanet TC simulations. Recent Findings: Idealized model configurations have revealed controls on equilibrium TC size in large-domain simulations of rotating radiative-convective equilibrium. Simulations that include differential rotation (spherical geometry) but retain uniform thermal forcing have revealed a new mechanism of TC propagation change via storm-scale dynamics and show a poleward shift in genesis in response to warming. Simulations with Earth-like meridional thermal forcing gradients have isolated competing influences on TC genesis via shifts in the atmospheric general circulation and the temperature dependence of TC genesis in the absence of mean circulation changes. Summary: Aquaplanet simulations of TCs with variants that include or inhibit certain processes have recently emerged as a research methodology that has advanced the understanding of the climatic controls on TC activity. Looking forward, idealized boundary condition model configurations can be used as a bridge between GCM resolution and convection-permitting resolution models and as a tool for identifying additional mechanisms through which climate changes influence TC activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-195
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Climate Change Reports
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 15 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science


  • Aquaplanet
  • Climate change
  • Climate model
  • Tropical cyclone


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