B.H. Bossak and J.B. Elsner (2004). Plotting Early Nineteenth-Century Hurricane Information (more info) , EOS, Vol. 85, No. 20, 18 May 2004
This article from EOS magazine highlights the authors' work to build a GIS tool for tracking hurricanes that hit North America between 1800 and 1850. The Historical Hurricane Impact Tool (HHIT) they describe is available through the Hurricane Climate Institute at Florida State University in a CD-ROM version, and as a view-only Web version ( This site may be offline. ) .
Emanuel, K. (2005). Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years. Nature, 436, 686-688.
Abstract - Theory and modeling 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 multidecadal 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.
Emanuel, K. (2006). Hurricanes: Tempests in a greenhouse (more info) . Physics Today, 59(8), 74.
This article from Physics Today describes hurricanes as enormous heat engines and details how rising global temperatures and sea surface temperatures contribute to the severity and frequency of occurrence of hurricanes.
Hoyos, C.D., P.A. Agudelo, P.J. Webster, J.A. Curry (2006). Deconvolution of the Factors Contributing to the Increase in Global Hurricane Intensity. Science, Vol. 312. no. 5770, pp. 94-97.
Abstract - To better understand the change in global hurricane intensity since 1970, we examined the joint distribution of hurricane intensity with variables identified in the literature as contributing to the intensification of hurricanes. We used a methodology based on information theory, isolating the trend from the shorter-term natural modes of variability. The results show that the trend of increasing numbers of category 4 and 5 hurricanes for the period 1970-2004 is directly linked to the trend in sea-surface temperature; other aspects of the tropical environment, although they influence shorter-term variations in hurricane intensity, do not contribute substantially to the observed global trend.
Knutson, T.R. and Tuleya, R.E. (2004) Impact of CO2-induced warming on simulated hurricane intensity and precipitation: Sensitivity to the choice of climate model and convective parameterization. J. Clim. 17, 3477-3495
Abstract - Previous studies have found that idealized hurricanes, simulated under warmer, high-CO2 conditions, are more intense and have higher precipitation rates than under present-day conditions. The present study explores the sensitivity of this result to the choice of climate model used to define the CO2-warmed environment and to the choice of convective parameterization used in the nested regional model that simulates the hurricanes. Approximately 1300 five-day idealized simulations are performed using a higher-resolution version of the GFDL hurricane prediction system (grid spacing as fine as 9 km, with 42 levels). All storms were embedded in a uniform 5 m s−1 easterly background flow. The large-scale thermodynamic boundary conditions for the experiments- atmospheric temperature and moisture profiles and SSTs-are derived from nine different Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP2+) climate models. The CO2-induced SST changes from the global climate models, based on 80-yr linear trends from +1% yr−1 CO2 increase experiments, range from about +0.8° to +2.4°C in the three tropical storm basins studied. Four different moist convection parameterizations are tested in the hurricane model, including the use of no convective parameterization in the highest resolution inner grid. Nearly all combinations of climate model boundary conditions and hurricane model convection schemes show a CO2-induced increase in both storm intensity and near-storm precipitation rates. The aggregate results, averaged across all experiments, indicate a 14% increase in central pressure fall, a 6% increase in maximum surface wind speed, and an 18% increase in average precipitation rate within 100 km of the storm center. The fractional change in precipitation is more sensitive to the choice of convective parameterization than is the fractional change of intensity. Current hurricane potential intensity theories, applied to the climate model environments, yield an average increase of intensity (pressure fall) of 8% (Emanuel) to 16% (Holland) for the high-CO2 environments. Convective available potential energy (CAPE) is 21% higher on average in the high-CO2 environments. One implication of the results is that if the frequency of tropical cyclones remains the same over the coming century, a greenhouse gas-induced warming may lead to a gradually increasing risk in the occurrence of highly destructive category-5 storms.
Kossin, J.P., K.R. Knapp, D.J. Vimont, R.J. Murnane, and B.A. Harper (2007), A globally consistent reanalysis of hurricane variability and trends, Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L04815.
Abstract - Recently documented trends in the existing records of hurricane intensity and their relationship to increasing sea surface temperatures suggest that hurricane intensity may be increasing due to global warming. However, it is presently being argued that the existing global hurricane records are too inconsistent to accurately measure trends. As a first step in addressing this debate, we constructed a more homogeneous global record of hurricane intensity and found that previously documented trends in some ocean basins are well supported, but in others the existing records contain trends that may be inflated or spurious.
Landsea, Christopher W., Bruce A. Harper, Karl Hoarau, John A. Knaff (2006). Can We Detect Trends in Extreme Tropical Cyclones? Science, Vol. 313. no. 5786, pp. 452 - 454
Abstract - Subjective measurements and variable procedures make existing tropical cyclone databases insufficiently reliable to detect trends in the frequency of extreme cyclones.
Trenberth, K. (2005). Uncertainty in Hurricanes and Global Warming. Science, Vol. 308. no. 5729, pp. 1753 - 1754
Abstract - The marked increase in land-falling hurricanes in Florida and Japan in 2004 has raised questions about whether global warming is playing a role. In his Perspective, Trenberth explains that the observational hurricane record reveals large natural variability from El Niño and on multidecadal time scales, and that trends are therefore relatively small. However, sea surface temperatures are rising and atmospheric water vapor is increasing. These factors are potentially enhancing tropical convection, including thunderstorms, and the development of tropical storms. These changes are expected to increase hurricane intensity and rainfall, but the effect on hurricane numbers and tracks remains unclear.
Webster, P.J., G.J. Holland, J.A. Curry, H.R. Chang (2005). Science, Vol. 309. no. 5742, pp. 1844 - 1846
Abstract - We examined the number of tropical cyclones and cyclone days as well as tropical cyclone intensity over the past 35 years, in an environment of increasing sea surface temperature. A large increase was seen in the number and proportion of hurricanes reaching categories 4 and 5. The largest increase occurred in the North Pacific, Indian, and Southwest Pacific Oceans, and the smallest percentage increase occurred in the North Atlantic Ocean. These increases have taken place while the number of cyclones and cyclone days has decreased in all basins except the North Atlantic during the past decade.