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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Sensitivity of Tropical Cyclone Rainfall to Idealized Global-Scale Forcings*


Heavy rainfall and flooding associated with tropical cyclones (TCs) are responsible for a large number of fatalities and economic damage worldwide. Despite their large socioeconomic impacts, research into heavy rainfall and flooding associated with TCs has received limited attention to date and still represents a major challenge. The capability to adapt to future changes in heavy rainfall and flooding associated with TCs is inextricably linked to and informed by understanding of the sensitivity of TC rainfall to likely future forcing mechanisms. Here a set of idealized high-resolution atmospheric model experiments produced as part of the U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) Hurricane Working Group activity is used to examine TC response to idealized global-scale perturbations: the doubling of CO2, uniform 2-K increases in global sea surface temperature (SST), and their combined impact. As a preliminary but key step, daily rainfall patterns of composite TCs within climate model outputs are first compared and contrasted to the observational records. To assess similarities and differences across different regions in response to the warming scenarios, analyses are performed at the global and hemispheric scales and in six global TC ocean basins. The results indicate a reduction in TC daily precipitation rates in the doubling CO2 scenario (on the order of 5% globally) and an increase in TC rainfall rates associated with a uniform increase of 2K in SST (both alone and in combination with CO2 doubling; on the order of 10%-20% globally). © 2014 American Meteorological Society.

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