Grey swan tropical cyclones

Ning Lin, Kerry Emanuel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


We define grey swan tropical cyclones as high-impact storms that would not be predicted based on history but may be foreseeable using physical knowledge together with historical data. Here we apply a climatological-hydrodynamic method to estimate grey swan tropical cyclone storm surge threat for three highly vulnerable coastal regions. We identify a potentially large risk in the Persian Gulf, where tropical cyclones have never been recorded, and larger-than-expected threats in Cairns, Australia, and Tampa, Florida. Grey swan tropical cyclones striking Tampa, Cairns and Dubai can generate storm surges of about 6 m, 5.7 m and 4 m, respectively, with estimated annual exceedance probabilities of about 1/10,000. With climate change, these probabilities can increase significantly over the twenty-first century (to 1/3,100-1/1,100 in the middle and 1/2,500-1/700 towards the end of the century for Tampa). Worse grey swan tropical cyclones, inducing surges exceeding 11 m in Tampa and 7 m in Dubai, are also revealed with non-negligible probabilities, especially towards the end of the century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-111
Number of pages6
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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