Some counterintuitive dependencies of tropical cyclone frequency on parameters in a GCM

Ming Zhao, Isaac M. Held, Shian Jiann Lin

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103 Scopus citations


High-resolution global climate models (GCMs) have been increasingly utilized for simulations of the global number and distribution of tropical cyclones (TCs), and how they might change with changing climate. In contrast, there is a lack of published studies on the sensitivity of TC genesis to parameterized processes in these GCMs. The uncertainties in these formulations might be an important source of uncertainty in the future projections of TC statistics. This study investigates the sensitivity of the global number of TCs in present-day simulations using the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory High Resolution Atmospheric Model (GFDL HIRAM) to alterations in physical parameterizations. Two parameters are identified to be important in TC genesis frequency in this model: the horizontal cumulus mixing rate, which controls the entrainment into convective cores within the convection parameterization, and the strength of the damping of the divergent component of the horizontal flow. The simulated global number of TCs exhibits nonintuitive response to incremental changes of both parameters. As the cumulus mixing rate increases, the model produces nonmonotonic response in global TC frequency with an initial sharp increase and then a decrease. However, storm mean intensity rises monotonically with the mixing rate. As the strength of the divergence damping increases, the model produces a continuous increase of global number of TCs and hurricanes with little change in storm mean intensity. Mechanisms for explaining these nonintuitive responses are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2272-2283
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Climate models
  • Climatology
  • Convective parameterization
  • Cyclogenesis/cyclolysis
  • General circulation models
  • Tropical cyclones


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