Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/wcd-2021-83
https://doi.org/10.5194/wcd-2021-83
 
04 Jan 2022
04 Jan 2022
Status: a revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal WCD and is expected to appear here in due course.

The Response of Tropical Cyclone Intensity to Temperature Profile Change

James M. Done1,2,, Gary M. Lackmann3,, and Andreas F. Prein1 James M. Done et al.
  • 1National Center for Atmospheric Research, 3090 Center Green Drive, Boulder, Colorado 80301, USA
  • 2Willis Research Network, 51 Lime St, London, EC3M 7DQ, UK
  • 3Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27607, USA
  • These authors contributed equally to this work.

Abstract. Theory indicates that tropical cyclone intensity should respond to changes in the vertical temperature profile. While the sensitivity of tropical cyclone intensity to sea surface temperature is well understood, less is known about sensitivity to the temperature profile. In this paper, we combine historical data analysis and idealised modelling to explore the extent to which historical tropospheric warming and lower stratospheric cooling can explain observed trends in the tropical cyclone intensity distribution. Observations and modelling agree that historical global temperature profile changes coincide with higher lifetime maximum intensities. But observations suggest the response depends on the tropical cyclone intensity itself. Historical lower- and upper-tropospheric temperatures in hurricane environments have warmed significantly faster than the tropical mean. In addition, hurricane-strength storms have intensified at twice the rate of weaker storms per unit warming at the surface and at 300-hPa. Idealized simulations respond in the expected sense to various imposed changes in the temperature profile and agree with tropical cyclones operating as heat engines. Yet lower stratospheric temperature changes have little influence. Idealised modelling further shows an increasing altitude of the TC outflow but little change in outflow temperature. This enables increased efficiency for strong tropical cyclones despite the warming upper troposphere. Observed sensitivities are generally larger than modelled sensitivities, suggesting that observed tropical cyclone intensity change responds to a combination of the temperature profile change and other environmental factors.

James M. Done et al.

Status: closed

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse

Status: closed

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse

James M. Done et al.

James M. Done et al.

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Short summary
Understanding how tropical cyclones (TCs) are changing is key for the protection of lives and livelihoods in vulnerable regions. We know that warm oceans generally favour TC activity. Less is known about the role of air temperature above the oceans and extending into the lower stratosphere. Our analysis of historical records and computer simulations suggests that TCs strengthen in response to historical temperature change while also being influenced by other environmental factors.