Assessing Impacts of Global Warming on Tropical Cyclone Tracks

Liguang Wu Goddard Earth and Technology Center, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, and Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA Goddard Space Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Bin Wang Department of Meteorology, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii

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Abstract

A new approach is proposed to assess the possible impacts of the global climate change on tropical cyclone (TC) tracks in the western North Pacific (WNP) basin. The idea is based on the premise that the future change of TC track characteristics is primarily determined by changes in large-scale environmental steering flows and in formation locations.

It is demonstrated that the main characteristics of the current climatology of TC tracks can be derived from the climatological mean velocity field of TC motion by using a trajectory model. The climatological mean velocity of TC motion, composed of the large-scale steering and beta drift, is determined on each grid of the basin. The mean large-scale steering flow is computed from the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis for the current climate state. The mean beta drift is estimated from the best-track data by removing the steering flow. The derived mean beta drift agrees well with the results of previous observational and numerical studies in terms of its direction and magnitude.

The approach is applied to assessing the potential impacts of global warming on TC tracks in the WNP. The possible changes in the large-scale steering flows are taken from the output wind fields of two Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) global warming experiments and possible changes in the TC formation locations are considered by shifting the formation locations as a whole. The GFDL experiments suggested that the changes in the future large-scale steering flows are dominated by the easterly anomalies in the Tropics and westerly anomalies in the midlatitudes with the enhanced northward component during the period of 2030–59. Based on the assessments using two different ways to reduce climate model biases, the prevailing TC tracks shift slightly southwestward during the period of 2000–29, but northeastward during the period of 2030–59. More TCs will take a recurving track and move northeastward during the period of 2030–59. The El Niño–like climate change predicted in many climate models can significantly enhance the track changes if the TC formation locations in the WNP shift eastward as a whole.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Liguang Wu, NASA GSFC, Code 912, Greenbelt, MD 20771. Email: liguang@agnes.gsfc.nasa.gov

Abstract

A new approach is proposed to assess the possible impacts of the global climate change on tropical cyclone (TC) tracks in the western North Pacific (WNP) basin. The idea is based on the premise that the future change of TC track characteristics is primarily determined by changes in large-scale environmental steering flows and in formation locations.

It is demonstrated that the main characteristics of the current climatology of TC tracks can be derived from the climatological mean velocity field of TC motion by using a trajectory model. The climatological mean velocity of TC motion, composed of the large-scale steering and beta drift, is determined on each grid of the basin. The mean large-scale steering flow is computed from the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis for the current climate state. The mean beta drift is estimated from the best-track data by removing the steering flow. The derived mean beta drift agrees well with the results of previous observational and numerical studies in terms of its direction and magnitude.

The approach is applied to assessing the potential impacts of global warming on TC tracks in the WNP. The possible changes in the large-scale steering flows are taken from the output wind fields of two Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) global warming experiments and possible changes in the TC formation locations are considered by shifting the formation locations as a whole. The GFDL experiments suggested that the changes in the future large-scale steering flows are dominated by the easterly anomalies in the Tropics and westerly anomalies in the midlatitudes with the enhanced northward component during the period of 2030–59. Based on the assessments using two different ways to reduce climate model biases, the prevailing TC tracks shift slightly southwestward during the period of 2000–29, but northeastward during the period of 2030–59. More TCs will take a recurving track and move northeastward during the period of 2030–59. The El Niño–like climate change predicted in many climate models can significantly enhance the track changes if the TC formation locations in the WNP shift eastward as a whole.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Liguang Wu, NASA GSFC, Code 912, Greenbelt, MD 20771. Email: liguang@agnes.gsfc.nasa.gov

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