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  1. Cyclone Jasper struck northern Queensland in mid-December, 2023, causing extensive flooding stemming from torrential rain. Many stations reported rainfall totals exceeding 1 m, and a few surpassed 2 m, possibly making Jasper the wettest tropical cyclone in Australian history. To be better prepared for events like Jasper, it is useful to estimate the probability of rainfall events of Jasper’s magnitude and how that probability is likely to evolve as climate warms. To make such estimates, we apply an advanced tropical cyclone downscaling technique to nine global climate models, generating a total of 27,000 synthetic tropical cyclones each for the climate of the recent past and that of the end of this century. We estimate that the annual probability of 1 m of rain from tropical cyclones at Cairns increases from about 0.8% at the end of the 20th century to about 2.3% at the end of the 21st, a factor of almost three. Interpolating frequency to the year 2023 suggests that the current annual probability of Jasper’s rainfall is about 1.2%, about a 50% increase over that of the year 2000. Further analysis suggests that the primary causes of increasing rainfall are stronger cyclones and a moister atmosphere.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 9, 2025
  2. Observational data have long suggested that in the tropics, when the troposphere locally warms, the lower stratosphere locally cools. Here, the observed anti-correlation between tropospheric and lower stratospheric temperature is confirmed—the lower stratosphere cools by approximately 2 degrees per degree of warming in the mid-troposphere. This anti-correlation is explained through a recently proposed theory holding that there is a quasi-balanced response of the stratosphere to tropospheric heating [J. Lin, K. Emanuel, Tropospheric thermal forcing of the stratosphere through quasi-balanced dynamics.J. Atmos. Sci.(2024).]. The local-scale anti-correlation between tropospheric and lower stratospheric temperature also holds when considering climate change—where the troposphere has been anomalously warming relative to the zonal mean, the lower stratosphere has been anomalously cooling, and vice versa. This suggests that zonally asymmetries in tropospheric temperature trends will be reflected in that of the lower stratospheric temperature trends. The zonally asymmetric trends are also found to be comparable in magnitude to the mean temperature trends in the lower stratosphere, highlighting the importance of the pattern of warming. The results and proposed theory suggest that in addition to forcing via wave-dissipation, the lower stratosphere can also be subject to direct forcing by the troposphere, through quasi-steady, quasi-balanced dynamics. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 12, 2025
  3. Sediment cores from blue holes have emerged as a promising tool for extending the record of long‐term tropical cyclone (TC) activity. However, interpreting this archive is challenging because storm surge depends on many parameters including TC intensity, track, and size. In this study, we use climatological‐hydrodynamic modeling to interpret paleohurricane sediment records between 1851 and 2016 and assess the storm surge risk for Long Island in The Bahamas. As the historical TC data from 1988 to 2016 is too limited to estimate the surge risk for this area, we use historical event attribution in paleorecords paired with synthetic storm modeling to estimate TC parameters that are often lacking in earlier historical records (i.e., the radius of maximum wind for storms before 1988). We then reconstruct storm surges at the sediment site for a longer time period of 1851–2016 (the extent of hurricane Best Track records). The reconstructed surges are used to verify and bias‐correct the climatological‐hydrodynamic modeling results. The analysis reveals a significant risk for Long Island in The Bahamas, with an estimated 500‐year stormtide of around 1.63 ± 0.26 m, slightly exceeding the largest recorded level at site between 1988 and 2015. Finally, we apply the bias‐corrected climatological‐hydrodynamic modeling to quantify the surge risk under two carbon emission scenarios. Due to sea level rise and TC climatology change, the 500‐year stormtide would become 2.69 ± 0.50 and 3.29 ± 0.82 m for SSP2‐4.5 and SSP5‐8.5, respectively by the end of the 21st century. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 25, 2025
  4. Tropical cyclones have long been known to be powered by turbulent enthalpy fluxes from the ocean’s surface and slowed by turbulent momentum fluxes into the surface. Here, we review evidence that the development and structure of these storms are also partially controlled by turbulence in the outflow near the storm’s top. Finally, we present new research that shows that tropical cyclone-like, low-aspect-ratio vortices are most likely in systems in which the bottom heat flux is controlled by mechanical turbulence, and the top boundary is insulating.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  5. Abstract

    The steady response of the stratosphere to tropospheric thermal forcing via an SST perturbation is considered in two separate theoretical models. It is first shown that an SST anomaly imposes a geopotential anomaly at the tropopause. Solutions to the linearized quasigeostrophic potential vorticity equations are then used to show that the vertical length scale of a tropopause geopotential anomaly is initially shallow, but significantly increased by diabatic heating from radiative relaxation. This process is a quasi-balanced response of the stratosphere to tropospheric forcing. A previously developed, coupled troposphere–stratosphere model is then introduced and modified. Solutions under steady, zonally symmetric SST forcing in the linearβ-plane model show that the upward stratospheric penetration of the corresponding tropopause geopotential anomaly is controlled by two nondimensional parameters: 1) a dynamical aspect ratio and 2) a ratio between tropospheric and stratospheric drag. The meridional scale of the SST anomaly, radiative relaxation rate, and wave drag all significantly modulate these nondimensional parameters. Under Earthlike estimates of the nondimensional parameters, the theoretical model predicts stratospheric temperature anomalies 2–3 larger in magnitude than that in the boundary layer, approximately in line with observational data. Using reanalysis data, the spatial variability of temperature anomalies in the troposphere is shown to have remarkable coherence with that of the lower stratosphere, which further supports the existence of a quasi-balanced response of the stratosphere to SST forcing. These findings suggest that besides mechanical and radiative forcing, there is a third way the stratosphere can be forced—through the tropopause via tropospheric thermal forcing.

    Significance Statement

    Upward motion in the tropical stratosphere, the layer of atmosphere above where most weather occurs, is thought to be controlled by weather disturbances that propagate upward and dissipate in the stratosphere. The strength of this upward motion is important since it sets the global distribution of ozone. We formulate and use simple mathematical models to show the vertical motion in the stratosphere can also depend on the warming in the troposphere, the layer of atmosphere where humans live. We use the theory as an explanation for our observations of inverse correlations between the ocean temperature and the stratosphere temperature. These findings suggest that local stratospheric cooling may be coupled to local tropospheric warming.

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  6. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  7. Abstract It has been proposed that tropical cyclogenesis rates can be expressed as the product of the frequency of “seeds” and a transition probability that depends on the large-scale environment. Here it is demonstrated that the partitioning between seed frequency and transition probability depends on the seed definition and that the existence of such a partition does not resolve the long-standing issue of whether tropical cyclone frequency is controlled more by environmental conditions or by the statistics of background weather. It is here argued that tropical cyclone climatology is mostly controlled by regional environment and that the response of global tropical cyclone activity to globally uniform radiative forcing may be more controlled by the regionality of the response than by the mean response. 
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  8. Abstract

    Atlantic hurricane activity experienced a pronounced lull during the 1970s and 1980s. The current explanation that anthropogenic aerosol radiative forcing cooled the sea surface locally fails to capture the magnitude of this large decrease in activity. To explain this hurricane drought, we propose that the radiative effects of sulfate aerosols from Europe and North-America decreased precipitation in the Sahara-Sahel region, leading to an enhancement of dust regional emissions and transport over the Atlantic. This dust in turn enhanced the local decrease of sea-surface temperature and of hurricane activity. Here, we show that dust emissions from the Sahara peaked in phase with regional sulfate aerosol optical thickness and Sahel drought conditions, and that dust optical depth variations alone can explain nearly half of the sea-surface temperature depression in the 1970s and 1980s.

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  9. Abstract Tropical cyclones (TCs) cause devastating damage to life and property. Historical TC data is scarce, complicating adequate TC risk assessments. Synthetic TC models are specifically designed to overcome this scarcity. While these models have been evaluated on their ability to simulate TC activity, no study to date has focused on model performance and applicability in TC risk assessments. This study performs the intercomparison of four different global-scale synthetic TC datasets in the impact space, comparing impact return period curves, probability of rare events, and hazard intensity distribution over land. We find that the model choice influences the costliest events, particularly in basins with limited TC activity. Modelled direct economic damages in the North Indian Ocean, for instance, range from 40 to 246 billion USD for the 100-yr event over the four hazard sets. We furthermore provide guidelines for the suitability of the different synthetic models for various research purposes. 
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  10. Abstract

    Historical records of Atlantic hurricane activity, extending back to 1851, show increasing activity over time, but much or all of this trend has been attributed to lack of observations in the early portion of the record. Here we use a tropical cyclone downscaling model driven by three global climate analyses that are based mostly on sea surface temperature and surface pressure data. The results support earlier statistically-based inferences that storms were undercounted in the 19thcentury, but in contrast to earlier work, show increasing tropical cyclone activity through the period, interrupted by a prominent hurricane drought in the 1970s and 80 s that we attribute to anthropogenic aerosols. In agreement with earlier work, we show that most of the variability of North Atlantic tropical cyclone activity over the last century was directly related to regional rather than global climate change. Most metrics of tropical cyclones downscaled over all the tropics show weak and/or insignificant trends over the last century, illustrating the special nature of North Atlantic tropical cyclone climatology.

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