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Concept: Tropical cyclone


The flood hazard in New York City depends on both storm surges and rising sea levels. We combine modeled storm surges with probabilistic sea-level rise projections to assess future coastal inundation in New York City from the preindustrial era through 2300 CE. The storm surges are derived from large sets of synthetic tropical cyclones, downscaled from RCP8.5 simulations from three CMIP5 models. The sea-level rise projections account for potential partial collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet in assessing future coastal inundation. CMIP5 models indicate that there will be minimal change in storm-surge heights from 2010 to 2100 or 2300, because the predicted strengthening of the strongest storms will be compensated by storm tracks moving offshore at the latitude of New York City. However, projected sea-level rise causes overall flood heights associated with tropical cyclones in New York City in coming centuries to increase greatly compared with preindustrial or modern flood heights. For the various sea-level rise scenarios we consider, the 1-in-500-y flood event increases from 3.4 m above mean tidal level during 1970-2005 to 4.0-5.1 m above mean tidal level by 2080-2100 and ranges from 5.0-15.4 m above mean tidal level by 2280-2300. Further, we find that the return period of a 2.25-m flood has decreased from ∼500 y before 1800 to ∼25 y during 1970-2005 and further decreases to ∼5 y by 2030-2045 in 95% of our simulations. The 2.25-m flood height is permanently exceeded by 2280-2300 for scenarios that include Antarctica’s potential partial collapse.

Concepts: Oceanography, Storm, New York City, Tropical cyclone, Antarctica, Flood, Storm surge, Weather hazards


We estimate, for current and future climates, the annual probability of areally averaged hurricane rain of Hurricane Harvey’s magnitude by downscaling large numbers of tropical cyclones from three climate reanalyses and six climate models. For the state of Texas, we estimate that the annual probability of 500 mm of area-integrated rainfall was about 1% in the period 1981-2000 and will increase to 18% over the period 2081-2100 under Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) AR5 representative concentration pathway 8.5. If the frequency of such event is increasingly linearly between these two periods, then in 2017 the annual probability would be 6%, a sixfold increase since the late 20th century.

Concepts: Precipitation, Climate, Weather, Climate change, Tropical cyclone, Cyclone, Rain, Extratropical cyclone


Coastal flood hazard varies in response to changes in storm surge climatology and the sea level. Here we combine probabilistic projections of the sea level and storm surge climatology to estimate the temporal evolution of flood hazard. We find that New York City’s flood hazard has increased significantly over the past two centuries and is very likely to increase more sharply over the 21st century. Due to the effect of sea level rise, the return period of Hurricane Sandy’s flood height decreased by a factor of ∼3× from year 1800 to 2000 and is estimated to decrease by a further ∼4.4× from 2000 to 2100 under a moderate-emissions pathway. When potential storm climatology change over the 21st century is also accounted for, Sandy’s return period is estimated to decrease by ∼3× to 17× from 2000 to 2100.

Concepts: Statistics, Oceanography, Storm, New York City, Tropical cyclone, 21st century, Flood, Storm surge


Solar geoengineering refers to a range of proposed methods for counteracting global warming by artificially reducing sunlight at Earth’s surface. The most widely known solar geoengineering proposal is stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI), which has impacts analogous to those from volcanic eruptions. Observations following major volcanic eruptions indicate that aerosol enhancements confined to a single hemisphere effectively modulate North Atlantic tropical cyclone (TC) activity in the following years. Here we investigate the effects of both single-hemisphere and global SAI scenarios on North Atlantic TC activity using the HadGEM2-ES general circulation model and various TC identification methods. We show that a robust result from all of the methods is that SAI applied to the southern hemisphere would enhance TC frequency relative to a global SAI application, and vice versa for SAI in the northern hemisphere. Our results reemphasise concerns regarding regional geoengineering and should motivate policymakers to regulate large-scale unilateral geoengineering deployments.

Concepts: Earth, Atlantic Ocean, Season, Pacific Ocean, Tropical cyclone, Antarctica, Equator, Northern Hemisphere


As exposure to coastal hazards increases there is growing interest in nature-based solutions for risk reduction. This study uses high-resolution flood and loss models to quantify the impacts of coastal wetlands in the northeastern USA on (i) regional flood damages by Hurricane Sandy and (ii) local annual flood losses in Barnegat Bay in Ocean County, New Jersey. Using an extensive database of property exposure, the regional study shows that wetlands avoided $625 Million in direct flood damages during Hurricane Sandy. The local study combines these models with a database of synthetic storms in Ocean County and estimates a 16% average reduction in annual flood losses by salt marshes with higher reductions at lower elevations. Together, the studies quantify the risk reduction ecosystem services of marsh wetlands. Measuring these benefits in collaboration with the risk modelling industry is crucial for assessing risk accurately and, where appropriate, aligning conservation and risk reduction goals.

Concepts: Marsh, Wetland, Tropical cyclone, New Jersey, Jersey Shore, Island Beach State Park, Ocean County, New Jersey, Toms River, New Jersey


High-resolution satellite measurements of surface winds and sea-surface temperature (SST) reveal strong coupling between meso-scale ocean eddies and near-surface atmospheric flow over eddy-rich oceanic regions, such as the Kuroshio and Gulf Stream, highlighting the importance of meso-scale oceanic features in forcing the atmospheric planetary boundary layer (PBL). Here, we present high-resolution regional climate modeling results, supported by observational analyses, demonstrating that meso-scale SST variability, largely confined in the Kuroshio-Oyashio confluence region (KOCR), can further exert a significant distant influence on winter rainfall variability along the U.S. Northern Pacific coast. The presence of meso-scale SST anomalies enhances the diabatic conversion of latent heat energy to transient eddy energy, intensifying winter cyclogenesis via moist baroclinic instability, which in turn leads to an equivalent barotropic downstream anticyclone anomaly with reduced rainfall. The finding points to the potential of improving forecasts of extratropical winter cyclones and storm systems and projections of their response to future climate change, which are known to have major social and economic impacts, by improving the representation of ocean eddy-atmosphere interaction in forecast and climate models.

Concepts: Energy, Climate, Weather, Pacific Ocean, Ocean, Tropical cyclone, Cyclone, Extratropical cyclone


Do people judge hurricane risks in the context of gender-based expectations? We use more than six decades of death rates from US hurricanes to show that feminine-named hurricanes cause significantly more deaths than do masculine-named hurricanes. Laboratory experiments indicate that this is because hurricane names lead to gender-based expectations about severity and this, in turn, guides respondents' preparedness to take protective action. This finding indicates an unfortunate and unintended consequence of the gendered naming of hurricanes, with important implications for policymakers, media practitioners, and the general public concerning hurricane communication and preparedness.

Concepts: Male, Causality, Death, Female, Gender, Sex, Experiment, Tropical cyclone


Accurately predicting future tropical cyclone risk requires understanding the fundamental controls on tropical cyclone dynamics. Here we present an annually-resolved 450-year reconstruction of western Caribbean tropical cyclone activity developed using a new coupled carbon and oxygen isotope ratio technique in an exceptionally well-dated stalagmite from Belize. Western Caribbean tropical cyclone activity peaked at 1650 A.D., coincident with maximum Little Ice Age cooling, and decreased gradually until the end of the record in 1983. Considered with other reconstructions, the new record suggests that the mean track of Cape Verde tropical cyclones shifted gradually north-eastward from the western Caribbean toward the North American east coast over the last 450 years. Since ~1870 A.D., these shifts were largely driven by anthropogenic greenhouse gas and sulphate aerosol emissions. Our results strongly suggest that future emission scenarios will result in more frequent tropical cyclone impacts on the financial and population centres of the northeastern United States.

Concepts: Earth, United States, Atlantic Ocean, North America, Tropical cyclone, Cyclone, Caribbean, Extratropical cyclone


Prevailing abiotic conditions may positively or negatively impact insects at both the individual and population levels. For example while moderate rainfall and wind velocity may provide conditions that favour development, as well as movement within and between habitats, high winds and heavy rains can significantly decrease life expectancy. There is some evidence that insects adjust their behaviours associated with flight, mating and foraging in response to changes in barometric pressure. We studied changes in different mating behaviours of three taxonomically unrelated insects, the curcurbit beetle, Diabrotica speciosa (Coleoptera), the true armyworm moth, Pseudaletia unipuncta (Lepidoptera) and the potato aphid, Macrosiphum euphorbiae (Hemiptera), when subjected to natural or experimentally manipulated changes in atmospheric pressure. In response to decreasing barometric pressure, male beetles exhibited decreased locomotory activity in a Y-tube olfactometer with female pheromone extracts. However, when placed in close proximity to females, they exhibited reduced courtship sequences and the precopulatory period. Under the same situations, females of the true armyworm and the potato aphid exhibited significantly reduced calling behaviour. Neither the movement of male beetles nor the calling of armyworm females differed between stable and increasing atmospheric pressure conditions. However, in the case of the armyworm there was a significant decrease in the incidence of mating under rising atmospheric conditions, suggesting an effect on male behaviour. When atmospheric pressure rose, very few M. euphorbiae oviparae called. This was similar to the situation observed under decreasing conditions, and consequently very little mating was observed in this species except under stable conditions. All species exhibited behavioural modifications, but there were interspecific differences related to size-related flight ability and the diel periodicity of mating activity. We postulate that the observed behavioral modifications, especially under decreasing barometric pressure would reduce the probability of injury or death under adverse weather conditions.

Concepts: Psychology, Insect, Weather, Atmospheric pressure, Behavior, Human behavior, Tropical cyclone, Wind


Surface-ocean circulation in the northern Atlantic Ocean influences Northern Hemisphere climate. Century-scale circulation variability in the Atlantic Ocean, however, is poorly constrained due to insufficiently-resolved paleoceanographic records. Here we present a replicated reconstruction of sea-surface temperature and salinity from a site sensitive to North Atlantic circulation in the Gulf of Mexico which reveals pronounced centennial-scale variability over the late Holocene. We find significant correlations on these timescales between salinity changes in the Atlantic, a diagnostic parameter of circulation, and widespread precipitation anomalies using three approaches: multiproxy synthesis, observational datasets, and a transient simulation. Our results demonstrate links between centennial changes in northern Atlantic surface-circulation and hydroclimate changes in the adjacent continents over the late Holocene. Notably, our findings reveal that weakened surface-circulation in the Atlantic Ocean was concomitant with well-documented rainfall anomalies in the Western Hemisphere during the Little Ice Age.

Concepts: Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Ocean, Tropical cyclone, Gulf of Mexico, Antarctica, Equator, Greenland