Past and Future Hurricane Intensity Change along the U.S. East Coast

Ting, Mingfang; Kossin, James P.; Camargo, Suzana J.; Li, Cuihua

The ocean and atmosphere in the North Atlantic are coupled through a feedback mechanism that excites a dipole pattern in vertical wind shear (VWS), a metric that strongly controls Atlantic hurricanes. In particular, when tropical VWS is under the weakening phase and thus favorable for increased hurricane activity in the Main Development Region (MDR), a protective barrier of high VWS inhibits hurricane intensification along the U.S. East Coast. Here we show that this pattern is driven mostly by natural decadal variability, but that greenhouse gas (GHG) forcing erodes the pattern and degrades the natural barrier along the U.S. coast. Twenty-first century climate model projections show that the increased VWS along the U.S. East Coast during decadal periods of enhanced hurricane activity is substantially reduced by GHG forcing, which allows hurricanes approaching the U.S. coast to intensify more rapidly. The erosion of this natural intensification barrier is especially large following the Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 (rcp8.5) emission scenario.


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Also Published In

Scientific Reports

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Ocean and Climate Physics
Published Here
January 8, 2020