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Tropical cyclone genesis potential index in climate models

Barnston, Anthony G.; Sobel, Adam H.; Camargo, Suzana J.; Emanuel, Kerry A.

The potential for tropical cyclogenesis in a given ocean basin during its active season has been represented by genesis potential indices, empirically determined functions of large-scale environmental variables which influence tropical cyclone (TC) genesis. Here we examine the ability of some of today's atmospheric climate models, forced with historical observed SST over a multidecadal hindcast period, to reproduce observed values and patterns of one such genesis potential index (GP), as well as whether the GP in a given model is a good predictor of the number of TCs generated by that model. The effect of the horizontal resolution of a climate model on its GP is explored. The five analysed models are capable of reproducing the observed seasonal phasing of GP in a given region, but most of them them have a higher GP than observed. Each model has its own unique relationship between climatological GP and climatological TC number; a larger climatological GP in one model compared to others does not imply that that model has a larger climatological number of TCs. The differences among the models in the climatology of TC number thus appear to be related primarily to differences in the dynamics of the simulated storms themselves, rather than to differences in the simulated large-scale environment for genesis. The correlation of interannual anomalies in GP and number of TCs in a given basin also differs significantly from one model to the next. Experiments using the ECHAM5 model at different horizontal resolutions indicate that as resolution increases, model GP also tends to increase. Most of this increase is realized between T42 and T63.

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