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      Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years

      Nature

      Springer Science and Business Media LLC

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          Abstract

          Theory and modelling predict that hurricane intensity should increase with increasing global mean temperatures, but work on the detection of trends in hurricane activity has focused mostly on their frequency and shows no trend. Here I define an index of the potential destructiveness of hurricanes based on the total dissipation of power, integrated over the lifetime of the cyclone, and show that this index has increased markedly since the mid-1970s. This trend is due to both longer storm lifetimes and greater storm intensities. I find that the record of net hurricane power dissipation is highly correlated with tropical sea surface temperature, reflecting well-documented climate signals, including multi-decadal oscillations in the North Atlantic and North Pacific, and global warming. My results suggest that future warming may lead to an upward trend in tropical cyclone destructive potential, and--taking into account an increasing coastal population--a substantial increase in hurricane-related losses in the twenty-first century.

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          Most cited references 21

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          Global analyses of sea surface temperature, sea ice, and night marine air temperature since the late nineteenth century

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            The recent increase in Atlantic hurricane activity: causes and implications.

            The years 1995 to 2000 experienced the highest level of North Atlantic hurricane activity in the reliable record. Compared with the generally low activity of the previous 24 years (1971 to 1994), the past 6 years have seen a doubling of overall activity for the whole basin, a 2.5-fold increase in major hurricanes (>/=50 meters per second), and a fivefold increase in hurricanes affecting the Caribbean. The greater activity results from simultaneous increases in North Atlantic sea-surface temperatures and decreases in vertical wind shear. Because these changes exhibit a multidecadal time scale, the present high level of hurricane activity is likely to persist for an additional approximately 10 to 40 years. The shift in climate calls for a reevaluation of preparedness and mitigation strategies.
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              Reduced drag coefficient for high wind speeds in tropical cyclones.

              The transfer of momentum between the atmosphere and the ocean is described in terms of the variation of wind speed with height and a drag coefficient that increases with sea surface roughness and wind speed. But direct measurements have only been available for weak winds; momentum transfer under extreme wind conditions has therefore been extrapolated from these field measurements. Global Positioning System sondes have been used since 1997 to measure the profiles of the strong winds in the marine boundary layer associated with tropical cyclones. Here we present an analysis of these data, which show a logarithmic increase in mean wind speed with height in the lowest 200 m, maximum wind speed at 500 m and a gradual weakening up to a height of 3 km. By determining surface stress, roughness length and neutral stability drag coefficient, we find that surface momentum flux levels off as the wind speeds increase above hurricane force. This behaviour is contrary to surface flux parameterizations that are currently used in a variety of modelling applications, including hurricane risk assessment and prediction of storm motion, intensity, waves and storm surges.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                August 2005
                July 31 2005
                August 2005
                : 436
                : 7051
                : 686-688
                Article
                10.1038/nature03906
                16056221
                © 2005

                http://www.springer.com/tdm

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