07 Oct 2021

07 Oct 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal WCD.

Extreme Atlantic hurricane seasons made more likely by ocean warming

Peter Pfleiderer1,2, Shruti Nath1,3, and Carl-Friedrich Schleussner1,2 Peter Pfleiderer et al.
  • 1Climate Analytics, Berlin, Germany
  • 2Humboldt University, Geographie, IRI-Thesys, Berlin, Germany
  • 3Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland

Abstract. Tropical cyclones are among the most damaging and fatal extreme weather events. An increase in Atlantic tropical cyclone activity has been observed, but attribution to global warming remains challenging due to large inter-annual variability and modelling challenges. Here we show that the increase in Atlantic tropical cyclone activity since the 1980s can be robustly ascribed to changes in atmospheric circulation as well as sea surface temperature (SST) increase. Using a novel weather pattern based statistical model, we find that the forced warming trend in Atlantic SSTs over the 1982–2018 period increased the probability of extremely active tropical cyclone seasons by 14 %. Seasonal atmospheric circulation remains the dominant factor explaining both inter-annual variability and the observed increase. Our weather pattern-based statistical decomposition helps to understand the role of atmospheric variability for the Atlantic tropical cyclone activity and provides a new perspective on the role of ocean warming.

Peter Pfleiderer et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on wcd-2021-64', Anonymous Referee #1, 10 Nov 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Peter Pfleiderer, 16 Dec 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on wcd-2021-64', Anonymous Referee #2, 12 Nov 2021
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Peter Pfleiderer, 16 Dec 2021

Peter Pfleiderer et al.

Model code and software

tropical_cyclone_emulator Peter Pfleiderer

Peter Pfleiderer et al.


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Short summary
Tropical cyclones are amongst the most dangerous weather events. Here we develop an empirical model that allows to estimate the number and strengths of tropical cyclones for given atmospheric conditions and sea surface temperatures. An application of the model shows that atmospheric circulation is the dominant factor for seasonal tropical cyclone activity. However, warming sea surface temperatures have increased the likelihood of extremely active hurricane seasons in the past decades.