Research ArticleATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE

Northwestern Pacific typhoon intensity controlled by changes in ocean temperatures

Science Advances  29 May 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 4, e1500014
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500014

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Abstract

Dominant climatic factors controlling the lifetime peak intensity of typhoons are determined from six decades of Pacific typhoon data. We find that upper ocean temperatures in the low-latitude northwestern Pacific (LLNWP) and sea surface temperatures in the central equatorial Pacific control the seasonal average lifetime peak intensity by setting the rate and duration of typhoon intensification, respectively. An anomalously strong LLNWP upper ocean warming has favored increased intensification rates and led to unprecedentedly high average typhoon intensity during the recent global warming hiatus period, despite a reduction in intensification duration tied to the central equatorial Pacific surface cooling. Continued LLNWP upper ocean warming as predicted under a moderate [that is, Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 4.5] climate change scenario is expected to further increase the average typhoon intensity by an additional 14% by 2100.

Keywords
  • tropical cyclones
  • hurricanes
  • typhoon intensification
  • intensification rate
  • intensification duration
  • sea surface temperature
  • upper-ocean warming
  • air-sea interaction
  • Climate Variability and Change

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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