Dynamical downscaling projections of twenty-first-century atlantic hurricane activity: CMIP3 and CMIP5 model-based scenarios

Thomas R. Knutson, Joseph J. Sirutis, Gabriel A. Vecchi, Stephen Garner, Ming Zhao, Hyeong Seog Kim, Morris Bender, Robert E. Tuleya, Isaac M. Held, Gabriele Villarini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

307 Scopus citations


Twenty-first-century projections of Atlantic climate change are downscaled to explore the robustness of potential changes in hurricane activity. Multimodel ensembles using the phase 3 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3)/Special Report on Emissions Scenarios A1B (SRES A1B; late-twenty-first century) and phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5)/representative concentration pathway 4.5 (RCP4.5; early- and late-twenty-first century) scenarios are examined. Ten individual CMIP3 models are downscaled to assess the spread of results among the CMIP3 (but not the CMIP5) models. Downscaling simulations are compared for 18-kmgrid regional and 50-kmgrid globalmodels. Stormcases from the regionalmodel are further downscaled into theGeophysical FluidDynamics Laboratory (GFDL) hurricane model (9-km inner grid spacing, with ocean coupling) to simulate intense hurricanes at a finer resolution. A significant reduction in tropical storm frequency is projected for the CMIP3 (227%), CMIP5-early (220%) and CMIP5-late (223%) ensembles and for 5 of the 10 individual CMIP3 models. Lifetime maximumhurricane intensity increases significantly in the high-resolution experiments-by 4%-6%for CMIP3 and CMIP5 ensembles. A significant increase (187%) in the frequency of very intense (categories 4 and 5) hurricanes (winds $ 59ms21) is projected using CMIP3, but smaller, only marginally significant increases are projected (145%and 139%) for the CMIP5-early and CMIP5-late scenarios. Hurricane rainfall rates increase robustly for the CMIP3 and CMIP5 scenarios. For the late-twenty-first century, this increase amounts to120% to 130%in the model hurricane's inner core, with a smaller increase (;10%) for averaging radii of 200km or larger. The fractional increase in precipitation at large radii (200-400 km) approximates that expected from environmental water vapor content scaling, while increases for the inner core exceed this level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6591-6617
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number17
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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