Tropical cyclones and climate change

Thomas R. Knutson, John L. McBride, Johnny Chan, Kerry Emanuel, Greg Holland, Chris Landsea, Isaac Held, James P. Kossin, A. K. Srivastava, Masato Sugi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1645 Scopus citations

Abstract

Whether the characteristics of tropical cyclones have changed or will change in a warming climate - and if so, how - has been the subject of considerable investigation, often with conflicting results. Large amplitude fluctuations in the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones greatly complicate both the detection of long-term trends and their attribution to rising levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Trend detection is further impeded by substantial limitations in the availability and quality of global historical records of tropical cyclones. Therefore, it remains uncertain whether past changes in tropical cyclone activity have exceeded the variability expected from natural causes. However, future projections based on theory and high-resolution dynamical models consistently indicate that greenhouse warming will cause the globally averaged intensity of tropical cyclones to shift towards stronger storms, with intensity increases of 2-11% by 2100. Existing modelling studies also consistently project decreases in the globally averaged frequency of tropical cyclones, by 6-34%. Balanced against this, higher resolution modelling studies typically project substantial increases in the frequency of the most intense cyclones, and increases of the order of 20% in the precipitation rate within 100km of the storm centre. For all cyclone parameters, projected changes for individual basins show large variations between different modelling studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-163
Number of pages7
JournalNature Geoscience
Volume3
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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    Knutson, T. R., McBride, J. L., Chan, J., Emanuel, K., Holland, G., Landsea, C., Held, I., Kossin, J. P., Srivastava, A. K., & Sugi, M. (2010). Tropical cyclones and climate change. Nature Geoscience, 3(3), 157-163. https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo779