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Holland and Bruyère: Recent intense hurricane response to global climate change

2013 April 11

Fig 3. Anthropogenic influence on: a annual frequency of global tropical cyclones and hurricanes; b hurricane proportions in each of the Saffir–Simpson hurricane categories

Fig 4. Relationship of anthropogenic change defined from a CMIP3 and, b CCSM4 with annual proportions of Cat 1–2 and Cat 4–5 hurricanes. Note the different scales for the ACCI. A 5-year running mean smoother has been used (indicated by the SM in the legend), thin solid (dashed) lines indicate linear (quadratic) trends, and all variances have p 0.01 (using unsmoothed data)

ABSTRACT: An Anthropogenic Climate Change Index (ACCI) is developed and used to investigate the potential global warming contribution to current tropical cyclone activity. The ACCI is defined as the difference between the means of ensembles of climate simulations with and without anthropogenic gases and aerosols. This index indicates that the bulk of the current anthropogenic warming has occurred in the past four decades, which enables improved confidence in assessing hurricane changes as it removes many of the data issues from previous eras. We find no anthropogenic signal in annual global tropical cyclone or hurricane frequencies. But a strong signal is found in proportions of both weaker and stronger hurricanes: the proportion of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has increased at a rate of ~25–30 % per °C of global warming after accounting for analysis and observing system changes. This has been balanced by a similar decrease in Category 1 and 2 hurricane proportions, leading to development of a distinctly bimodal intensity distribution, with the secondary maximum at Category 4 hurricanes. This global signal is reproduced in all ocean basins. The observed increase in Category 4–5 hurricanes may not continue at the same rate with future global warming. The analysis suggests that following an initial climate increase in intense hurricane proportions a saturation level will be reached beyond which any further global warming will have little effect.

Recent intense hurricane response to global climate change
Greg Holland and Cindy L. Bruyère

Climate Dynamics
Observational, Theoretical and Computational Research on the Climate System

Greg Holland
Received: 5 September 2012
Accepted: 21 February 2013
Published online: 15 March 2013

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  1. 2013 April 29 at 2:33 pm
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