Articles | Volume 11, issue 10
Research article
21 Oct 2015
Research article |  | 21 Oct 2015

Tropical cyclone genesis potential across palaeoclimates

J. H. Koh and C. M. Brierley

Abstract. The favourability of the mid-Pliocene, Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and mid-Holocene for tropical cyclone formation is investigated in five climate models. This is measured by a genesis potential index, derived from large-scale atmospheric properties known to be related to storm formation. The mid-Pliocene and Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) were periods where carbon dioxide levels were higher and lower than preindustrial levels respectively, while the mid-Holocene differed primarily in its orbital configuration. The cumulative global genesis potential is found to be fairly invariant across the palaeoclimates in the multi-model mean. Despite this all ensemble members agree on coherent responses in the spatial patterns of genesis potential change.

During the mid-Pliocene and LGM, changes in carbon dioxide led to sea surface temperature changes throughout the tropics, yet the potential intensity (a measure associated with maximum tropical cyclone strength) is calculated to be relatively insensitive to these changes. Changes in tropical cyclone genesis potential during the mid-Holocene are found to be asymmetric about the Equator: being reduced in the Northern Hemisphere but enhanced in the Southern Hemisphere. This is clearly driven by the altered seasonal insolation. Nonetheless, the enhanced seasonality drove localised changes in genesis potential, by altering the strength of monsoons and shifting the intertropical convergence zone. Trends in future tropical cyclone genesis potential are consistent neither between the five models studied nor with the palaeoclimate results. It is not clear why this should be the case.

Short summary
Here we diagnose simulated changes in large-scale climate variables associated with the formation of tropical cyclones (i.e. hurricanes and typhoons). The cumulative potential for storm formation is pretty constant, despite the climate changes between the Last Glacial Maximum and the warm Pliocene. There are, however, coherent shifts in the relative strength of the storm regions. Little connection appears between the past behaviour in the five models studied and their future projections.