Extreme rainfall and flooding associated with landfalling tropical cyclones (TCs) have large societal impacts, both in fatalities and economic losses. This study examines the response of TC rainfall to climate change projected under future anthropogenic greenhouse emissions, focusing on Hurricane Irene, which produced severe flooding across the Northeastern United States in August 2011. Numerical simulations are made with the Weather Research and Forecasting model, placing Irene in the present-day climate and one projected for the end of 21st century climate represented by Phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 scenario. Projected future changes to surface and atmospheric temperature lead to a storm rainfall increase of 32% relative to the control run, exceeding the rate expected by the Clausius-Clapeyron relation given a ~3-K lower atmospheric warming. Analyses of the atmospheric water balance highlight contributions to the increase in rainfall rate from both increased circulation strength and atmospheric moisture. Storm rainfall rate shows contrasting response to global warming during TC and extratropical transition periods. During the TC phase, Irene shows a significant increase of storm rainfall rate in inner core regions. This increase shifts to outer rainbands as Irene undergoes extratropical transition, collocated with the maximum tangential wind increase and the change of secondary circulation strength. Changes of storm track from the control run to global warming projections play a role in the change of spatial rainfall pattern. Distinct roles of surface and atmospheric warming in storm rainfall and structure changes are also examined.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Science(all)
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- climate change
- extratropical transition
- tropical cyclone rainfall