Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Extratropical cyclone


We estimate, for current and future climates, the annual probability of areally averaged hurricane rain of Hurricane Harvey’s magnitude by downscaling large numbers of tropical cyclones from three climate reanalyses and six climate models. For the state of Texas, we estimate that the annual probability of 500 mm of area-integrated rainfall was about 1% in the period 1981-2000 and will increase to 18% over the period 2081-2100 under Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) AR5 representative concentration pathway 8.5. If the frequency of such event is increasingly linearly between these two periods, then in 2017 the annual probability would be 6%, a sixfold increase since the late 20th century.

Concepts: Precipitation, Climate, Weather, Climate change, Tropical cyclone, Cyclone, Rain, Extratropical cyclone


High-resolution satellite measurements of surface winds and sea-surface temperature (SST) reveal strong coupling between meso-scale ocean eddies and near-surface atmospheric flow over eddy-rich oceanic regions, such as the Kuroshio and Gulf Stream, highlighting the importance of meso-scale oceanic features in forcing the atmospheric planetary boundary layer (PBL). Here, we present high-resolution regional climate modeling results, supported by observational analyses, demonstrating that meso-scale SST variability, largely confined in the Kuroshio-Oyashio confluence region (KOCR), can further exert a significant distant influence on winter rainfall variability along the U.S. Northern Pacific coast. The presence of meso-scale SST anomalies enhances the diabatic conversion of latent heat energy to transient eddy energy, intensifying winter cyclogenesis via moist baroclinic instability, which in turn leads to an equivalent barotropic downstream anticyclone anomaly with reduced rainfall. The finding points to the potential of improving forecasts of extratropical winter cyclones and storm systems and projections of their response to future climate change, which are known to have major social and economic impacts, by improving the representation of ocean eddy-atmosphere interaction in forecast and climate models.

Concepts: Energy, Climate, Weather, Pacific Ocean, Ocean, Tropical cyclone, Cyclone, Extratropical cyclone


Accurately predicting future tropical cyclone risk requires understanding the fundamental controls on tropical cyclone dynamics. Here we present an annually-resolved 450-year reconstruction of western Caribbean tropical cyclone activity developed using a new coupled carbon and oxygen isotope ratio technique in an exceptionally well-dated stalagmite from Belize. Western Caribbean tropical cyclone activity peaked at 1650 A.D., coincident with maximum Little Ice Age cooling, and decreased gradually until the end of the record in 1983. Considered with other reconstructions, the new record suggests that the mean track of Cape Verde tropical cyclones shifted gradually north-eastward from the western Caribbean toward the North American east coast over the last 450 years. Since ~1870 A.D., these shifts were largely driven by anthropogenic greenhouse gas and sulphate aerosol emissions. Our results strongly suggest that future emission scenarios will result in more frequent tropical cyclone impacts on the financial and population centres of the northeastern United States.

Concepts: Earth, United States, Atlantic Ocean, North America, Tropical cyclone, Cyclone, Caribbean, Extratropical cyclone


Large biases in climate model simulations of cloud radiative properties over the Southern Ocean cause large errors in modeled sea surface temperatures, atmospheric circulation, and climate sensitivity. Here, we combine cloud-resolving model simulations with estimates of the concentration of ice-nucleating particles in this region to show that our simulated Southern Ocean clouds reflect far more radiation than predicted by global models, in agreement with satellite observations. Specifically, we show that the clouds that are most sensitive to the concentration of ice-nucleating particles are low-level mixed-phase clouds in the cold sectors of extratropical cyclones, which have previously been identified as a main contributor to the Southern Ocean radiation bias. The very low ice-nucleating particle concentrations that prevail over the Southern Ocean strongly suppress cloud droplet freezing, reduce precipitation, and enhance cloud reflectivity. The results help explain why a strong radiation bias occurs mainly in this remote region away from major sources of ice-nucleating particles. The results present a substantial challenge to climate models to be able to simulate realistic ice-nucleating particle concentrations and their effects under specific meteorological conditions.

Concepts: Scientific method, Precipitation, Climate, Thunderstorm, Meteorology, Tropical cyclone, Rain, Extratropical cyclone


Detection and attribution of past changes in cyclone activity are hampered by biased cyclone records due to changes in observational capabilities. Here we construct an independent record of Atlantic tropical cyclone activity on the basis of storm surge statistics from tide gauges. We demonstrate that the major events in our surge index record can be attributed to landfalling tropical cyclones; these events also correspond with the most economically damaging Atlantic cyclones. We find that warm years in general were more active in all cyclone size ranges than cold years. The largest cyclones are most affected by warmer conditions and we detect a statistically significant trend in the frequency of large surge events (roughly corresponding to tropical storm size) since 1923. In particular, we estimate that Katrina-magnitude events have been twice as frequent in warm years compared with cold years (P < 0.02).

Concepts: Precipitation, Storm, Tropical cyclone, Hurricane Katrina, Cyclone, Tropical cyclone meteorology, Storm surge, Extratropical cyclone


Hurricane-intensity forecast improvements currently lag the progress achieved for hurricane tracks. Integrated ocean observations and simulations during hurricane Irene (2011) reveal that the wind-forced two-layer circulation of the stratified coastal ocean, and resultant shear-induced mixing, led to significant and rapid ahead-of-eye-centre cooling (at least 6 °C and up to 11 °C) over a wide swath of the continental shelf. Atmospheric simulations establish this cooling as the missing contribution required to reproduce Irene’s accelerated intensity reduction. Historical buoys from 1985 to 2015 show that ahead-of-eye-centre cooling occurred beneath all 11 tropical cyclones that traversed the Mid-Atlantic Bight continental shelf during stratified summer conditions. A Yellow Sea buoy similarly revealed significant and rapid ahead-of-eye-centre cooling during Typhoon Muifa (2011). These findings establish that including realistic coastal baroclinic processes in forecasts of storm intensity and impacts will be increasingly critical to mid-latitude population centres as sea levels rise and tropical cyclone maximum intensities migrate poleward.

Concepts: Precipitation, Atlantic Ocean, Storm, Tropical cyclone, Tornado, Cyclone, Rain, Extratropical cyclone


Extratropical cyclones (ETCs) are the primary driver of large-scale episodic beach erosion along coastlines in temperate regions. However, key drivers of the magnitude and regional variability in rapid morphological changes caused by ETCs at the coast remain poorly understood. Here we analyze an unprecedented dataset of high-resolution regional-scale morphological response to an ETC that impacted southeast Australia, and evaluate the new observations within the context of an existing long-term coastal monitoring program. This ETC was characterized by moderate intensity (for this regional setting) deepwater wave heights, but an anomalous wave direction approximately 45 degrees more counter-clockwise than average. The magnitude of measured beach volume change was the largest in four decades at the long-term monitoring site and, at the regional scale, commensurate with that observed due to extreme North Atlantic hurricanes. Spatial variability in morphological response across the study region was predominantly controlled by alongshore gradients in storm wave energy flux and local coastline alignment relative to storm wave direction. We attribute the severity of coastal erosion observed due to this ETC primarily to its anomalous wave direction, and call for greater research on the impacts of changing storm wave directionality in addition to projected future changes in wave heights.

Concepts: Precipitation, Coast, Thunderstorm, Tropical cyclone, Cyclone, Coastal geography, Tide, Extratropical cyclone


Super typhoons (STYs), intense tropical cyclones of the western North Pacific, rank among the most destructive natural hazards globally. The violent winds of these storms induce deep mixing of the upper ocean, resulting in strong sea surface cooling and making STYs highly sensitive to ocean density stratification. Although a few studies examined the potential impacts of changes in ocean thermal structure on future tropical cyclones, they did not take into account changes in near-surface salinity. Here, using a combination of observations and coupled climate model simulations, we show that freshening of the upper ocean, caused by greater rainfall in places where typhoons form, tends to intensify STYs by reducing their ability to cool the upper ocean. We further demonstrate that the strengthening effect of this freshening over the period 1961-2008 is ∼53% stronger than the suppressive effect of temperature, whereas under twenty-first century projections, the positive effect of salinity is about half of the negative effect of ocean temperature changes.

Concepts: Precipitation, Weather, Storm, Tropical cyclone, Cyclone, Wind, Rain, Extratropical cyclone


Mercury (Hg) wet deposition-transfer from the atmosphere to Earth’s surface by precipitation-in the United States (US) is highest in locations and seasons with frequent deep convective thunderstorms but it has never been demonstrated whether the connection is causal or simple coincidence. We use rainwater samples from over 800 individual precipitation events to show that thunderstorms increase Hg concentrations by 50 % relative to weak convective or stratiform events of equal precipitation depth. Radar and satellite observations reveal that strong convection reaching the upper troposphere-where high atmospheric concentrations of soluble, oxidized mercury species (Hg(II)) are known to reside-produces the highest Hg concentrations in rain. As a result, precipitation meteorology, especially thunderstorm frequency and total rainfall, explains differences in Hg deposition between study sites located in the eastern US. Assessing the fate of atmospheric mercury thus requires bridging the scales of global transport and convective precipitation.

Concepts: Earth, Precipitation, Atmosphere, Tropical cyclone, Rain, Extratropical cyclone, Cloud, Weather radar


Full recovery of coral reefs from tropical cyclone (TC) damage can take decades, making cyclones a major driver of habitat condition where they occur regularly. Since 1985, 44 TCs generated gale force winds (≥17 metres/second) within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP). Of the hurricane strength TCs (≥H1-Saffir Simpson scale; ≥ category 3 Australian scale), TC Yasi (February, 2011) was the largest. In the weeks after TC Yasi crossed the GBRMP, participating researchers, managers and rangers assessed the extent and severity of reef damage via 841 Reef Health and Impact Surveys at 70 reefs. Records were scaled into five damage levels representing increasingly widespread colony-level damage (1, 2, 3) and reef structural damage (4, 5). Average damage severity was significantly affected by direction (north vs south of the cyclone track), reef shelf position (mid-shelf vs outer-shelf) and habitat type. More outer-shelf reefs suffered structural damage than mid-shelf reefs within 150 km of the track. Structural damage spanned a greater latitudinal range for mid-shelf reefs than outer-shelf reefs (400 vs 300 km). Structural damage was patchily distributed at all distances, but more so as distance from the track increased. Damage extended much further from the track than during other recent intense cyclones that had smaller circulation sizes. Just over 15% (3,834 km2) of the total reef area of the GBRMP is estimated to have sustained some level of coral damage, with ~4% (949 km2) sustaining a degree of structural damage. TC Yasi likely caused the greatest loss of coral cover on the GBR in a 24-hour period since 1985. Severely impacted reefs have started to recover; coral cover increased an average of 4% between 2011 and 2013 at re-surveyed reefs. The in situ assessment of impacts described here is the largest in scale ever conducted on the Great Barrier Reef following a reef health disturbance.

Concepts: Coral, Coral reef, Tropical cyclone, Cyclone, Wind, Great Barrier Reef, Beaufort scale, Extratropical cyclone