Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

More tropical cyclones in past could play role in warmer future

Date:
February 25, 2010
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
More frequent tropical cyclones in Earth's ancient past contributed to persistent El Niño-like conditions, according to a team of climate scientists. Their findings could have implications for the planet's future as global temperatures continue to rise due to climate change.

Cyclone Nargis, from METOP-A channel 2 visible imagery (2008-05-02).
Credit: NOAA

More frequent tropical cyclones in Earth's ancient past contributed to persistent El Niño-like conditions, according to a team of climate scientists led by Yale University. Their findings, which appear in the Feb. 25 issue of the journal Nature, could have implications for the planet's future as global temperatures continue to rise due to climate change.

The team used both cyclone and climate models to study the frequency and distribution of tropical cyclones (also known as hurricanes or typhoons) during the Pliocene epoch, a period three to five million years ago when temperatures were up to four degrees Celsius warmer than today.

The team found that there were twice as many tropical cyclones during this period, that they lasted two to three days longer on average than they do now, and that, unlike today, they occurred across the entire tropical Pacific Ocean.

"The Pliocene is the best analog we have in the past for what could happen in our future," said Christopher Brierley, a Yale postdoctoral associate and an author of the study. "We wondered whether all these storms could have contributed to the warmer climate."

In fact, the team discovered a positive feedback cycle between tropical cyclones and upper-ocean circulation in the Pacific that explains the increase in storms and appears to have led to permanent El Niño-like conditions.

Today, cold water originating off the coasts of California and Chile skirts around the region of tropical cyclone activity on its way to the Equator, where it results in a "cold tongue" that stretches west off the coast of South America. During the Pliocene, however, the team found that this cold water could not avoid being hit by one of the many tropical cyclones, which would churn up and mix warmer water into it. This warming at the Equator led to changes in the atmosphere that in turn created more tropical storms -- and the cycle would repeat.

The team hopes to study how much mixing could result from tropical cyclones in today's ocean waters -- something that is hard to incorporate in global climate models, said Alexey Fedorov, an associate professor at Yale and lead author of the paper.

Fedorov cautioned that there is not necessarily a direct link between what happened during the Pliocene and what might happen in the future, as the team's results for this epoch differed in many respects from current projections for future global warming. For example, the existing consensus is that, while the number of intense hurricanes will increase, the overall number will actually decrease.

"However, unless we understand the causes of these differences, we will not be sure whether our projections are correct," Fedorov said. "Changes in the frequency and distribution of these storms could be a significant component of future climate conditions."

Other authors of this paper include Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Funding for this study was provided by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy Office of Science, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Yale University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Alexey V. Fedorov, Christopher M. Brierley & Kerry Emanuel. Tropical cyclones and permanent El Niño in the early Pliocene epoch. Nature, 2010; 463 (7284): 1066 DOI: 10.1038/nature08831

Cite This Page:

Yale University. "More tropical cyclones in past could play role in warmer future." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100224165225.htm>.
Yale University. (2010, February 25). More tropical cyclones in past could play role in warmer future. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100224165225.htm
Yale University. "More tropical cyclones in past could play role in warmer future." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100224165225.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Newsy (July 30, 2014) — Big waves in parts of the Arctic Ocean are unprecedented, mainly because they used to be covered in ice. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) — Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

AP (July 30, 2014) — A ruptured 93-year-old water main left the UCLA campus awash in 8 million gallons of water in the middle of California's worst drought in decades. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) — Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins