Oceans and Weather

Climate and Atlantic Hurricane Activity

Climate and Atlantic Hurricane Activity

PIs: Chunzai Wang, David B. Enfield, Sang-Ki Lee, Hailong Liu, and Robert Atlas

When a hurricane or tropical cyclone (TC) makes landfall, it normally leaves many people homeless and causes great damage. Atlantic hurricane activity has been shown to have largely increased in frequency and intensity since the late 1980s. In particular, Atlantic hurricane activity was largely increased in frequency and intensity from 1995-2005, but its activity was near or below normal from 2006-2009. The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season had 19 named storms, 12 hurricanes, 5 major hurricanes and an accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) index of 160.0 (104 kt2), all of which indicate that the 2010 season was extremely active. However, for the 2010 hurricane season, not a single hurricane made landfall in the United States. The recent variability in Atlantic tropical cyclone activity has fueled a debate on the role of global warming and natural climate variability in TC variability. Thus, improving the understanding of impacts of climate variability and global warming on Atlantic hurricane activity is both scientifically and socially important.

Using both observational data and numerical models, we investigate climate variability, large-scale atmospheric and oceanic circulation, global warming and their impact on hurricane activity. Major goals are to (1) understand how and why global ocean warming affects Atlantic hurricane activity; (2) improve the understanding of natural climate variability influences on hurricane activity such as ENSO, Pacific decadal oscillation, Atlantic multidecadal oscillation and Atlantic warm pool; (3) investigate the relative role of the tropical oceans in affecting Atlantic hurricane activity; (4) investigate the relationship between tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic and the eastern North Pacific and associated mechanisms; and (5) examine physical mechanisms controlling the hurricane track.

Figure 1. Time series of accumulated cyclone energy (ACE; in units of 104 square knots) in the North Atlantic (NA) and eastern North Pacific (ENP) from 1949-2007. Shown are the (a) total, (b) multidecadal, and (c) interannual variations. ACE is a common measure used to represent overall tropical cyclone activity.


Wang C., H. Liu, S.-K. Lee, and R. Atlas, 2011. Does an active Atlantic hurricane season mean more United States landfalling hurricanes? To be submitted.

Larson S., S.-K. Lee, C. Wang, D. B. Enfield, 2011. Diminishing impact of El NiƱos on Atlantic Hurricane Activity. To be submitted.

Lee, S.-K., D. B. Enfield and C. Wang, 2011. Future Impact of Differential Inter-Basin Ocean Warming on Atlantic Hurricanes. Journal of Climate, In-press.

Lee, S.-K., C. Wang and D. B. Enfield, 2010. On the Impact of Central Pacific Warming events on Atlantic Tropical Storm Activity. Geophysical Research Letters, 37, L17702, doi:10.1029/2010GL044459.

Wang C. and S.-K. Lee, 2010. Is Hurricane Activity in One Basin Tied to Another? EOS, 91, 93-94, doi:10.1029/2009ES002729.

Wang C. and S.-K. Lee, 2009. Co-variability of Tropical Cyclones in the North Atlantic and the Eastern North Pacific. Geophysical Research Letters, 36, L24702, doi:10.1029/2009GL041469.

Wang, C. and S.-K. Lee, 2009. Reply to comment by Joseph J. Barsugli on "Global warming and United States landfalling hurricanes". Geophysical Research Letters, 36, L01706, doi:10.1029/2008GL035111.

Wang, C., S.-K. Lee and D. B. Enfield, 2008. Atlantic Warm Pool Acting as a Link between Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Activity. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 9, Q05V03, doi:10.1029/2007GC001809. (In the special issue of "Interactions between climate and tropical cyclones on all timescales")

Wang, C., S.-K. Lee and D. B. Enfield, 2008. Climate Response to Anomalously Large and Small Atlantic Warm Pools During the Summer. Journal of Climate, 21, 2437-2450.

Wang, C. and S.-K. Lee, 2008. Global Warming and United States Landfalling Hurricanes. Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 35, No. L02708, doi:10.1029/2007GL032396.

Wang, C., S.-K. Lee and D. B. Enfield, 2007. Impact of the Atlantic Warm Pool on the Summer Climate of the Western Hemisphere . Journal of Climate, Vol. 20, No. 20, 5021-5040.

Wang, C. and S.-K. Lee, 2007. Atlantic Warm Pool, Caribbean Low-Level Jet, and Their Potential Impact on Atlantic Hurricanes. Geophysical Research Letter, Vol. 34, No. L02703, doi:10.1029/2006GL028579.

Wang, C., D. B. Enfield, S.-K. Lee, C. W. Landsea, 2006. Influences of Atlantic Warm Pool on Western Hemisphere Summer Rainfall and Atlantic Hurricanes. Journal of Climate, Vol. 19, No. 12, 3011-3028.