Christina M. Patricola and Michael F. Wehner

Anthropogenic Influences on Major Tropical Cyclone Events

Nature, Nov. 2018

Simulated tropical cyclone data


Convection-permitting regional climate model simulations of tropical cyclone events in historical and future climates


There is no consensus on whether climate change has yet affected the statistics of tropical cyclones, owing to their large natural variability and the limited period of consistent observations. In addition, projections of future tropical cyclone activity are uncertain, because they often rely on coarse-resolution climate models that parameterize convection and hence have difficulty in directly representing tropical cyclones. Here we used convection-permitting regional climate model simulations to investigate whether and how recent destructive tropical cyclones would change if these events had occurred in pre-industrial and in future climates. We found that, relative to pre-industrial conditions, climate change so far has enhanced the average and extreme rainfall of hurricanes Katrina, Irma and Maria, but did not change tropical cyclone wind-speed intensity. In addition, future anthropogenic warming would robustly increase the wind speed and rainfall of 11 of 13 intense tropical cyclones (of 15 events sampled globally). Additional regional climate model simulations suggest that convective parameterization introduces minimal uncertainty into the sign of projected changes in tropical cyclone intensity and rainfall, which allows us to have confidence in projections from global models with parameterized convection and resolution fine enough to include tropical cyclones.