Research Article

Dominant effect of relative tropical Atlantic warming on major hurricane occurrence

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Science  27 Sep 2018:
eaat6711
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat6711

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Abstract

We explore factors potentially linked to the enhanced major hurricane activity in the Atlantic during 2017. Using a suite of high-resolution model experiments, we show that the increase in 2017 major hurricanes was not primarily caused by La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean, but mainly by pronounced warm sea surface conditions in the tropical North Atlantic. It is further shown that, in the future, a similar pattern of North Atlantic surface warming, superimposed upon long-term increasing sea surface temperature from increases in greenhouse gas concentrations and decreases in aerosols, will likely lead to even higher numbers of major hurricanes. The key factor controlling Atlantic major hurricane activity appears to be how much the tropical Atlantic warms relative to the rest of the global ocean.

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