Impacts of Climate Change on Tropical Cyclones Robert Brewer Geog 8901 Tropical Cyclones and Climate Change Thomas R. Knutson, John l. Mcbride, Johnny Chan, Kerry Emanuel, Greg Holland, Chris Landsea, Isaac Held, James P. Kossin, A. K. Srivastava and Masato Sugi February 21, 2010 Nature Geoscience Goal Investigate whether tropical cyclones have changed or will change in a warming climate Huge topic of discussion often leading to conflicting results Problems Large amplitude fluctuations in the frequency and intensity in tropical cyclones make it difficult to establish long-term trends. These fluctuations also make it complicated to detect their attribution to rising levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Availability and quality of global historical records of tropical cyclones further deter trend detection. Main Issue Remains uncertain if past changes in tropical cyclone activity have exceeded the variability from natural causes. Can rising global greenhouse gases make an impact on tropical cyclone frequency and intensity? Summary High resolution models and theory suggest that tropical cyclone intensity will increase due to greenhouse warming. 2-11% by 2100 Existing studies also suggest a decrease in globally averaged frequency of tropical cyclones Down 6-34% Summary Cont. New high resolution modelling studies project an increase of intense tropical cyclone frequency. Project increases on the order of 20% of precipitation rate within 100 km (~62 mi) of the storm center For all cyclone parameters, modelling studies show large variations in projected changes of the individual basins. (Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, etc) Challenge to Everyone Determining whether observed changes in tropical cyclone activity exceeds the variability of natural causes. If so, attribute the changes to climate forcings greenhouse gases aerosols Challenges Cont. Developing reliable projections that simulate the effect of local and remote climate factors on tropical cyclone activity Intensity Frequency Storm track distribution Recent Conclusions Sea surface temperatures (SST) in regions where tropical cyclone formations occur have increased over the past several decades. Several tenths of a degree (C) .1° C = .18° F Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that most of the global surface temperature increase is due to increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. Recent Conclusions US Climate Change Science Program further concluded that the rise in SST in hurricane formation regions can “very likely” be blamed on the rise of humaninduced greenhouse gases Recent decades have shown an increase in damages caused from tropical cyclones. Increase in population density in coastal regions Infrastructure value increases Can further warming, coupled with other environmental changes, have an effect on tropical cyclone activity? Purpose / Guidance Discuss issues related to tropical cyclones Detection Attribution Future projections Projection statements apply to the IPCC A1B scenario as of the late 21st century 1.7-4.4° C (3.06-7.92° F) increase by 2090-2099 0.21-0.48 m sea level rise (excluding changes in ice flow) New satellite intensity analysis Improved downscaling techniques New simulations with higher resolution global models Focus on Atlantic basin Warming SST Tropical Atlantic SST has increased rapidly Warming: Natural multidecadal variability or aerosol forcing Climate models suggest warming is not strongly influenced by greenhouse gas forcing Concluded increase in power dissipation index (hurricane activity) is due to factors other than greenhouse gas warming *Noticed SST and power dissipation show a very weak correlation in the northwest Pacific. # of category 4 and 5 typhoons show little relation to increased SST Tropical Cyclone Frequency Looked at tropical Atlantic SST variability Multidecadal SST variability is evident Causes: Climate variability and radiative forcing changes? African lake sediments indicate rainfall variability before the 20th century is at least as large as that seen in the 21st century Increases the plausibility of natural climatic variability in the tropical Atlantic Multidecadal SST variability complicates trend detection in the tropical Atlantic Model simulations indicate that the rise in observed SST arise from greenhouse gas warming Tropical Cyclone Frequency First noted that tropical storm frequency can be modelled by SST increases. Greatly reduced because of an estimated amount of storms unaccounted for Low reporting-ship track density Pre-satellite years (pre 1966) The trend in storm count in original data was large in part to storms lasting <2 days Smaller increasing trend in storms lasting >2 days Tropical Cyclone Frequency Hurricane counts show a significant increase from 1800 to present No trend from 1850 -present Other studies infer a low-bias in Atlantic storm intensities (18501920) If corrected- possibly eliminates any long-term increasing trends in hurricane counts in the Atlantic basin US landfalling tropical storms show no long-term increase. Basin wide major hurricane counts do show a significant increase Blamed on unreliable climate- trend estimatation before airplane reconnaissance before 1944 Tropical Cyclone Frequency Considering past observational studies and accounting for potential errors from previous observational capabilities, it remains uncertain whether or not tropical cyclone frequency has exceeded the variability expected through natural causes. Tropical Cyclone Frequency Projection Progress has been made in developing dynamical and statistical models in seasonal tropical cyclone frequency Global coupled climate models High-resolution atmospheric models running over observed and projected SST distributions Regional climate models used to downscale solutions from global coupled models New statistical/dynamical techniques aimed at avoiding the limitations of intensity simulations in dynamical models Frequency projection Models reproduce key aspects of observed tropical cyclone variability Frequency simulations are highly dependent on the ability of global coupled climate models (GCCMs) to correctly simulate the changes in large-scale conditions that affect cyclone creation Confidence in global and projections of tropical storms is starting to rise. Confidence in individual basins remains low Uncertainties of large-scale patterns of future tropical climate change Lack of agreement between model projections of patterns of tropical SST changes Limitations in downscaling strategies Frequency Projection Conclusion Likely that the global mean tropical cyclone frequency will either decrease or essentially remain the same because of greenhouse warming. Decrease of 6-34% globally Increase in vertical wind shear which inhibits atmospheric convection For individual basins there is much more uncertainty in tropical storm frequency projections Changes of up to ±50% or more are projected by various models Tropical Cyclone Intensity Future surface warming and changes within the thermodynamic properties of the tropical atmosphere, as shown in projected climate models, will lead to the increase in the limits in storm intensities. High-resolution models project not only and increase in mean storm intensities, but also their frequency. These shifts are observed in the best track records of tropical storm intensity Records contain a large amount of heterogeneities which can lead to a trend in a shift of stronger storms A global increase (x2) has been reported of high intensity storms (Cat. 4 or 5) from 1975 to 2004. This is contested with concerns of data quality Tropical Cyclone Intensity Satellite based intensity estimations from 1981 show that this best track data is indeed exaggerated. Do support an increase globally of the intensities of the strongest tropical cyclones New satellite intensity data was designed to be more homogeneous but still carry uncertainties. Ex. Indian Ocean where satellite records are less consistent Projected intensity changes caused by the effects of greenhouse gas induced warming are small Given data limitations, detection of an intensity change of magnitude consistent with model projections caused by greenhouse warming is not possible at this time Other factors relating to SST distribution such as vertical wind shear, reduce the ability to attribute intensity changes to greenhouse gas warming. Cyclone Intensity Projection Increase in mean maximum wind speed is expected of tropical cyclones with projected 21st century warming. Increases may not occur in all basins Studies based on potential intensity theory and higher resolution models project mean global maximum wind speed increases. +2 to +11% (+3 to +21% central pressure drop) over the 21st century At the individual basin scale, multimodal ensemble projections show a range of intensity changes from -1 to +9%. Cyclone Intensity Projection Clear that higher resolution models project a clear increase in frequency of more intense tropical cyclones. Intensity levels varies between models A very small shift of storms towards higher intensities can lead to a large fractional increase in the occurrence rate of the strongest tropical storms. A recent downscaling study using a high resolution model projected an increase in Category 4 and 5 hurricanes in the Atlantic over the 21st century. Increased tropical cyclone intensity frequency is more likely than not globally. (This may not occur in all tropical regions) Model projection results occur from a battle of increased storm intensities versus decreased tropical storm frequency. Intensity Projection Conclusion Further studies are needed to evaluate model projections of tropical cyclone intensities. Ex. comparing model simulations of the interannual variability of intensities to observations Tropical cyclone intensities deserve more attention (Category 3-5) Noted: Category 3-5 cyclones have accounted for ~85% of US hurricane damage, despite only representing 24% of US landfalling hurricanes Tropical Cyclone Rainfall Climate models are unanimous that the integrated water column in the tropics will increase as the atmosphere warms. Moisture convergence will be enhanced Rainfall rates in systems (tropical cyclones) will be increased. (speculation) Storm wind intensities will increase which also will aid moisture convergence. Despite this speculation, tropical cyclone related rainfall has not been established in existing studies. Increase in heavy precipitation events have been observed and studied, but none of these events isolate tropical cyclone precipitation rates. Tropical Cyclone Rainfall Projection Tropical cyclone related rainfall rates are likely to increase with greenhouse warming. Robust projection of rainfall in model simulations of tropical cyclones in a warmer climate All available studies (7) support substantial increase in storm-centered rainfall 21st century projections of +3 to +37% Percent increase is very sensitive to the average radius considered in tropical cyclones. Larger sensitivities reported for smaller radii Smaller sensitivities reported for larger radii Typical projected changes are about +20% within 100km (~62 mi) of the storm center “Average annual rainfall from tropical cyclones could decrease if the decreased frequency of storms exceeds that of increased rainfall rates in individual storms” – not been quantified Genesis, Tracks, Duration, and Surge Flooding No conclusive evidence of any observed changes in tropical cyclone genesis, track, duration, and surge flooding exceed the variability expected from natural causes. However – suggestions of storm track/ genesis location in the Atlantic Ocean Explanation for the lack of increasing trends in US and Gulf Coast landfalling storms. Century scale trend analysis of Atlantic tropical-cyclone-track density show a decrease in density in the western part of the basin and increase in the middle and eastern part. Increases in the eastern Atlantic are likely attributed to observing-system changes according to recent studies of ship track density data and storm occurrence by duration class Unlikely that the decrease in the western basin is attributable to the same observing-system changes. A long term decrease in average tropical storm duration has been reported in the Atlantic basin. Upward trend of short duration storms (<2 days) ○ Interpreted (accredited to observing-system changes rather than climate change) Little change in longer lived storms (>2 days) Genesis, Tracks, Duration, and Surge Flooding Sea level has risen globally by 0.17m (~6.7in) in the 20th century Owing to various factors, climate-change related and otherwise Decrease in coastal wetlands and local variations in land arising from coastal development. Detectable increases in tropical storm surge flooding has not been established. Genesis, Tracks, Duration, and Surge Flooding Projections Low-level confindence Model projections do not show large scale changes in these features. Tropical cyclone storm surge flooding is expected to increase Sea level rise Increasing population density in coastal regions Progress Summary and Outlook Progress has been achieved from the previous World Meteorological Organization (WMO) expert team assessment on tropical cyclones and climate change Improvements New analyses of global data on hurricane intensity Important studies of data quality issues in Atlantic tropical cyclone records ○ Affected conclusions about climate change detection Higher resolution global modelling ○ Improved simulations of global storm frequencies ○ Provides support for theoretical expectations for a globally averaged increase in tropical cyclone intensity and rainfall Dynamical and statistical/dynamical downscaling tools have improved for tropical cyclone activity Progress Summary and Outlook Increased confidence concerning several aspects of cyclone activity projections Tropical cyclone activity is likely to decrease or essentially remain the same in the future Project a future increase in the globally averaged frequency of the strongest tropical cyclones Outlook Anthropogenic signals in past cyclone data can not be conclusively indentified at this time Substantial human influence on future tropical cyclones can not be ruled out but can arise from other mechanisms. Oceanic warming Sea level rise Circulation changes Dependent on theoretical, observational and modelling studies to assess future climate changes in tropical cyclone activity Credible but have limitations Final Thoughts Societal impacts of topical cyclones are huge Further research is strongly needed in their understanding Increasingly fine resolution models and new approaches for improving past tropical cyclone records are key to their future understanding Progressively reducing the amount of uncertainties provides hope in the understanding of causes of past changes, and future projections of tropical cyclone activity. Questions, Comments, or Concerns?