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Near-Term Tropical Cyclone Risk and Coupled Earth System Model Biases (Invited Presentation)

Presentation Date
Wednesday, January 31, 2024 at 8:30am - Wednesday, January 31, 2024 at 8:45am
The Baltimore Convention Center - 342



Most current climate models predict that the equatorial Pacific will evolve under greenhouse gas–induced warming to a more El Niño-like state over the next several decades, with a reduced zonal sea surface temperature gradient and weakened atmospheric Walker circulation. Yet, observations over the last 50 years show the opposite trend, toward a more La Niña-like state. Recent research provides evidence that the discrepancy cannot be dismissed
as due to internal variability but rather that the models are incorrectly simulating the equatorial Pacific response to greenhouse gas warming. This implies that projections of regional tropical cyclone activity may be incorrect as well, perhaps even in the direction of change, in ways that can be understood by analogy to historical El Niño and La Niña events: North Pacific tropical cyclone projections will be too active, North Atlantic ones not active enough, for example. Other perils, including severe convective storms and droughts, will also be projected erroneously. While it can be argued that these errors
are transient, such that the models’ responses to greenhouse gases may be correct in equilibrium, the transient response is relevant for climate adaptation in the next several decades. Given the urgency of understanding regional patterns of climate risk in the near term, it would be desirable to develop projections that represent a broader range of possible future tropical Pacific warming scenarios—including some in which recent historical trends continue—even if such projections cannot currently be produced using existing coupled earth system models.

This talk will be based on a perspective article, with the same title and abstract as above, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Additional, new material from ongoing projects on the same topic may also be included.

Funding Program Area(s)