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Hamish A. Ramsay, Savin S. Chand, and Suzana J. Camargo

Abstract

Reliable projections of future changes in tropical cyclone (TC) characteristics are highly dependent on the ability of global climate models (GCMs) to simulate the observed characteristics of TCs (i.e., their frequency, genesis locations, movement, and intensity). Here, we investigate the performance of a suite of GCMs from the U.S. CLIVAR Working Group on Hurricanes in simulating observed climatological features of TCs in the Southern Hemisphere. A subset of these GCMs is also explored under three idealized warming scenarios. Two types of simulated TC tracks are evaluated on the basis of a commonly applied cluster analysis: 1) explicitly simulated tracks, and 2) downscaled tracks, derived from a statistical–dynamical technique that depends on the models’ large-scale environmental fields. Climatological TC properties such as genesis locations, annual frequency, lifetime maximum intensity (LMI), and seasonality are evaluated for both track types. Future changes to annual frequency, LMI, and the latitude of LMI are evaluated using the downscaled tracks where large sample sizes allow for statistically robust results. An ensemble approach is used to assess future changes of explicit tracks owing to their small number of realizations. We show that the downscaled tracks generally outperform the explicit tracks in relation to many of the climatological features of Southern Hemisphere TCs, despite a few notable biases. Future changes to the frequency and intensity of TCs in the downscaled simulations are found to be highly dependent on the warming scenario and model, with the most robust result being an increase in the LMI under a uniform 2°C surface warming.

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Chao Wang and Liguang Wu

Abstract

The strong westerly shear to the south flank of the tropical upper-tropospheric trough (TUTT) limits the eastward extension of tropical cyclone (TC) formation over the western North Pacific (WNP) and thus the zonal shift of the TUTT in warming scenarios has an important implication for the mean formation location of TCs. The impact of global warming on the zonal shift of the TUTT is investigated by using output from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) of 36 climate models in this study. It is found that considerable spread exists in the zonal position, orientation, and intensity of the simulated-climatologic TUTT in the historical runs, which is forced by observed conditions such as changes in atmospheric composition, solar forcing, and aerosols. The large spread is closely related to the diversity in the simulated SST biases over the North Pacific. Based on the 15 models with relatively high skill in their historical runs, the near-term (2016–35) projection shows no significant change of the TUTT longitude, while the TUTT experiences an eastward shift of 1.9° and 3.2° longitude in the representative concentration pathway (RCP) 4.5 and 8.5 scenarios in the long-term (2081–2100) projection with considerable intermodel variability. Further examination indicates that the projected changes in the zonal location of the TUTT are also associated with the projected relative SST anomalies over the North Pacific. A stronger (weaker) relative SST warming over the North Pacific favors an eastward (westward) shift of the TUTT, suggesting that the spatial pattern of the future SST change is an important factor for the zonal shift of the mean formation location of TCs.

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Rongqing Han, Hui Wang, Zeng-Zhen Hu, Arun Kumar, Weijing Li, Lindsey N. Long, Jae-Kyung E. Schemm, Peitao Peng, Wanqiu Wang, Dong Si, Xiaolong Jia, Ming Zhao, Gabriel A. Vecchi, Timothy E. LaRow, Young-Kwon Lim, Siegfried D. Schubert, Suzana J. Camargo, Naomi Henderson, Jeffrey A. Jonas, and Kevin J. E. Walsh

Abstract

An assessment of simulations of the interannual variability of tropical cyclones (TCs) over the western North Pacific (WNP) and its association with El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), as well as a subsequent diagnosis for possible causes of model biases generated from simulated large-scale climate conditions, are documented in the paper. The model experiments are carried out by the Hurricane Work Group under the U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability Research Program (CLIVAR) using five global climate models (GCMs) with a total of 16 ensemble members forced by the observed sea surface temperature and spanning the 28-yr period from 1982 to 2009. The results show GISS and GFDL model ensemble means best simulate the interannual variability of TCs, and the multimodel ensemble mean (MME) follows. Also, the MME has the closest climate mean annual number of WNP TCs and the smallest root-mean-square error to the observation.

Most GCMs can simulate the interannual variability of WNP TCs well, with stronger TC activities during two types of El Niño—namely, eastern Pacific (EP) and central Pacific (CP) El Niño—and weaker activity during La Niña. However, none of the models capture the differences in TC activity between EP and CP El Niño as are shown in observations. The inability of models to distinguish the differences in TC activities between the two types of El Niño events may be due to the bias of the models in response to the shift of tropical heating associated with CP El Niño.

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John G. Dwyer, Suzana J. Camargo, Adam H. Sobel, Michela Biasutti, Kerry A. Emanuel, Gabriel A. Vecchi, Ming Zhao, and Michael K. Tippett

Abstract

This study investigates projected changes in the length of the tropical cyclone season due to greenhouse gas increases. Two sets of simulations are analyzed, both of which capture the relevant features of the observed annual cycle of tropical cyclones in the recent historical record. Both sets use output from the general circulation models (GCMs) of either phase 3 or phase 5 of the CMIP suite (CMIP3 and CMIP5, respectively). In one set, downscaling is performed by randomly seeding incipient vortices into the large-scale atmospheric conditions simulated by each GCM and simulating the vortices’ evolution in an axisymmetric dynamical tropical cyclone model; in the other set, the GCMs’ sea surface temperature (SST) is used as the boundary condition for a high-resolution global atmospheric model (HiRAM). The downscaling model projects a longer season (in the late twenty-first century compared to the twentieth century) in most basins when using CMIP5 data but a slightly shorter season using CMIP3. HiRAM with either CMIP3 or CMIP5 SST anomalies projects a shorter tropical cyclone season in most basins. Season length is measured by the number of consecutive days that the mean cyclone count is greater than a fixed threshold, but other metrics give consistent results. The projected season length changes are also consistent with the large-scale changes, as measured by a genesis index of tropical cyclones. The season length changes are mostly explained by an idealized year-round multiplicative change in tropical cyclone frequency, but additional changes in the transition months also contribute.

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Michael Wehner, Prabhat, Kevin A. Reed, Dáithí Stone, William D. Collins, and Julio Bacmeister

Abstract

The four idealized configurations of the U.S. CLIVAR Hurricane Working Group are integrated using the global Community Atmospheric Model version 5.1 at two different horizontal resolutions, approximately 100 and 25 km. The publicly released 0.9° × 1.3° configuration is a poor predictor of the sign of the 0.23° × 0.31° model configuration’s change in the total number of tropical storms in a warmer climate. However, it does predict the sign of the higher-resolution configuration’s change in the number of intense tropical cyclones in a warmer climate. In the 0.23° × 0.31° model configuration, both increased CO2 concentrations and elevated sea surface temperature (SST) independently lower the number of weak tropical storms and shorten their average duration. Conversely, increased SST causes more intense tropical cyclones and lengthens their average duration, resulting in a greater number of intense tropical cyclone days globally. Increased SST also increased maximum tropical storm instantaneous precipitation rates across all storm intensities. It was found that while a measure of maximum potential intensity based on climatological mean quantities adequately predicts the 0.23° × 0.31° model’s forced response in its most intense simulated tropical cyclones, a related measure of cyclogenesis potential fails to predict the model’s actual cyclogenesis response to warmer SSTs. These analyses lead to two broader conclusions: 1) Projections of future tropical storm activity obtained by a direct tracking of tropical storms simulated by coarse-resolution climate models must be interpreted with caution. 2) Projections of future tropical cyclogenesis obtained from metrics of model behavior that are based solely on changes in long-term climatological fields and tuned to historical records must also be interpreted with caution.

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Anne S. Daloz, S. J. Camargo, J. P. Kossin, K. Emanuel, M. Horn, J. A. Jonas, D. Kim, T. LaRow, Y.-K. Lim, C. M. Patricola, M. Roberts, E. Scoccimarro, D. Shaevitz, P. L. Vidale, H. Wang, M. Wehner, and M. Zhao

Abstract

A realistic representation of the North Atlantic tropical cyclone tracks is crucial as it allows, for example, explaining potential changes in U.S. landfalling systems. Here, the authors present a tentative study that examines the ability of recent climate models to represent North Atlantic tropical cyclone tracks. Tracks from two types of climate models are evaluated: explicit tracks are obtained from tropical cyclones simulated in regional or global climate models with moderate to high horizontal resolution (1°–0.25°), and downscaled tracks are obtained using a downscaling technique with large-scale environmental fields from a subset of these models. For both configurations, tracks are objectively separated into four groups using a cluster technique, leading to a zonal and a meridional separation of the tracks. The meridional separation largely captures the separation between deep tropical and subtropical, hybrid or baroclinic cyclones, while the zonal separation segregates Gulf of Mexico and Cape Verde storms. The properties of the tracks’ seasonality, intensity, and power dissipation index in each cluster are documented for both configurations. The authors’ results show that, except for the seasonality, the downscaled tracks better capture the observed characteristics of the clusters. The authors also use three different idealized scenarios to examine the possible future changes of tropical cyclone tracks under 1) warming sea surface temperature, 2) increasing carbon dioxide, and 3) a combination of the two. The response to each scenario is highly variable depending on the simulation considered. Finally, the authors examine the role of each cluster in these future changes and find no preponderant contribution of any single cluster over the others.

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Young-Kwon Lim, Siegfried D. Schubert, Oreste Reale, Myong-In Lee, Andrea M. Molod, and Max J. Suarez

Abstract

The sensitivity of tropical cyclones (TCs) to changes in parameterized convection is investigated to improve the simulation of TCs in the North Atlantic. Specifically, the impact of reducing the influence of the Relaxed Arakawa–Schubert (RAS) scheme-based parameterized convection is explored using the Goddard Earth Observing System version 5 (GEOS-5) model at 0.25° horizontal grid spacing. The years 2005 and 2006, characterized by very active and inactive hurricane seasons, respectively, are selected for simulation.

A reduction in parameterized deep convection results in an increase in TC activity (e.g., TC number and longer life cycle) to more realistic levels compared to the baseline control configuration. The vertical and horizontal structure of the strongest simulated hurricane shows the maximum wind speed greater than 60 m s−1 and the minimum sea level pressure reaching ~940 mb, which are never achieved by the control configuration. The radius of the maximum wind of ~50 km, the location of the warm core exceeding 10°C, and the horizontal compactness of the hurricane center are all quite realistic without any negatively affecting the atmospheric mean state.

This study reveals that an increase in the threshold of minimum entrainment suppresses parameterized deep convection by entraining more dry air into the typical plume. This leads to cooling and drying at the mid to upper troposphere, along with the positive latent heat flux and moistening in the lower troposphere. The resulting increase in conditional instability provides an environment that is more conducive to TC vortex development and upward moisture flux convergence by dynamically resolved moist convection, thereby increasing TC activity.

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Malcolm J. Roberts, Pier Luigi Vidale, Matthew S. Mizielinski, Marie-Estelle Demory, Reinhard Schiemann, Jane Strachan, Kevin Hodges, Ray Bell, and Joanne Camp

Abstract

The U.K. on Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) Weather-Resolving Simulations of Climate for Global Environmental Risk (UPSCALE) project, using PRACE resources, constructed and ran an ensemble of atmosphere-only global climate model simulations, using the Met Office Unified Model Global Atmosphere 3 (GA3) configuration. Each simulation is 27 years in length for both the present climate and an end-of-century future climate, at resolutions of N96 (130 km), N216 (60 km), and N512 (25 km), in order to study the impact of model resolution on high-impact climate features such as tropical cyclones. Increased model resolution is found to improve the simulated frequency of explicitly tracked tropical cyclones, and correlations of interannual variability in the North Atlantic and northwestern Pacific lie between 0.6 and 0.75. Improvements in the deficit of genesis in the eastern North Atlantic as resolution increases appear to be related to the representation of African easterly waves and the African easterly jet. However, the intensity of the modeled tropical cyclones as measured by 10-m wind speed remains weak, and there is no indication of convergence over this range of resolutions. In the future climate ensemble, there is a reduction of 50% in the frequency of Southern Hemisphere tropical cyclones, whereas in the Northern Hemisphere there is a reduction in the North Atlantic and a shift in the Pacific with peak intensities becoming more common in the central Pacific. There is also a change in tropical cyclone intensities, with the future climate having fewer weak storms and proportionally more strong storms.

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Wei Mei, Shang-Ping Xie, Ming Zhao, and Yuqing Wang

Abstract

Forced interannual-to-decadal variability of annual tropical cyclone (TC) track density in the western North Pacific between 1979 and 2008 is studied using TC tracks from observations and simulations by a 25-km-resolution version of the GFDL High-Resolution Atmospheric Model (HiRAM) that is forced by observed sea surface temperatures (SSTs). Two modes dominate the decadal variability: a nearly basinwide mode, and a dipole mode between the subtropics and lower latitudes. The former mode links to variations in TC number and is forced by SST variations over the off-equatorial tropical central North Pacific, whereas the latter might be associated with the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation. The interannual variability is also controlled by two modes: a basinwide mode driven by SST anomalies of opposite signs located in the tropical central Pacific and eastern Indian Ocean, and a southeast–northwest dipole mode connected to the conventional eastern Pacific ENSO. The seasonal evolution of the ENSO effect on TC activity is further explored via a joint empirical orthogonal function analysis using TC track density of consecutive seasons, and the analysis reveals that two types of ENSO are at work. Internal variability in TC track density is then examined using ensemble simulations from both HiRAM and a regional atmospheric model. It exhibits prominent spatial and seasonal patterns, and it is particularly strong in the South China Sea and along the coast of East Asia. This makes an accurate prediction and projection of TC landfall extremely challenging in these regions. In contrast, basin-integrated metrics (e.g., total TC counts and TC days) are more predictable.

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Suzana J. Camargo, Michael K. Tippett, Adam H. Sobel, Gabriel A. Vecchi, and Ming Zhao

Abstract

Tropical cyclone genesis indices (TCGIs) are functions of the large-scale environment that are designed to be proxies for the probability of tropical cyclone (TC) genesis. While the performance of TCGIs in the current climate can be assessed by direct comparison to TC observations, their ability to represent future TC activity based on projections of the large-scale environment cannot. Here the authors examine the performance of TCGIs in high-resolution atmospheric model simulations forced with sea surface temperatures (SST) of future, warmer climate scenarios. They investigate whether the TCGIs derived for the present climate can, when computed from large-scale fields taken from future climate simulations, capture the simulated global mean decreases in TC frequency. The TCGIs differ in their choice of environmental predictors, and several choices of predictors perform well in the present climate. However, some TCGIs that perform well in the present climate do not accurately reproduce the simulated future decrease in TC frequency. This decrease is captured when the humidity predictor is the column saturation deficit rather than relative humidity. Using saturation deficit with relative SST as the other thermodynamic predictor overpredicts the TC frequency decrease, while using potential intensity in place of relative SST as the other thermodynamic predictor gives a good prediction of the decrease’s magnitude. These positive results appear to depend on the spatial and seasonal patterns in the imposed SST changes; none of the indices capture correctly the frequency decrease in simulations with spatially uniform climate forcings, whether a globally uniform increase in SST of 2 K, or a doubling of CO2 with no change in SST.

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