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WIREs Clim Change
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Tropical cyclones in climate models

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In this review, we provide a historical overview of the simulation of tropical cyclones (TCs) in climate models, from the first attempts in the 1970s to the current state‐of‐the‐art models. We discuss the status of TC simulation across multiple time scales, from intraseasonal, seasonal, and decadal, to climate change. One of the limitations on the simulation of TCs in climate models has been, and continues to be, balancing the high resolution necessary to accurately simulate TCs themselves with the need to run simulations for many years and using many ensemble members. Several approaches to inferring TC activity indirectly, rather than relying on the models own under‐resolved TCs, are reviewed, including the use of TC genesis indices based on the large‐scale environment and downscaling methods such as the use of regional climate models and statistical–dynamical techniques. We also provide an update on the status of climate change projections from the current class of models, where it is feasible to directly track the model's TCs. While there has been great progress in the capability of climate models to simulate TCs and provide useful forecasts and projections across multiple time scales, there remains much work to be done. We list some of the sources of uncertainty and model sensitivity, describe where improvements are necessary, and provide a few suggestions for promising research directions. WIREs Clim Change 2016, 7:211–237. doi: 10.1002/wcc.373 This article is categorized under: Climate Models and Modeling > Knowledge Generation with Models
Tracks of tropical cyclones from the points of origin (indicated by an x). Symbols indicate positions at 1‐day intervals. The simulation is forced with February SSTs. The storms were identified in the 40‐day period of the simulation. (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 1970 American Meteorological Society)
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Global distribution of TC tracks during all seasons from 1979 to 2003 for (a) observations, (b) the PD simulation using AGCM20_3.1—Meteorological Research Institute (MRI) atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) version 3.1, (c) the PD (present day) simulation using AGCM20_3.2 (MRI AGCM version 3.2), and (d) the GW projection using AGCM20_3.2. The numbers for each basin show the annual mean number of TCs. TC tracks are colored according to the intensities of the TCs as categorized by the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale [e.g., tropical depression (TD), tropical storms (TSs), and Categories C1–C5]. (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 2012 American Meteorological Society)
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Retrospective and future forecasts of hurricane frequency: (top) retrospective forecasts for 5‐year‐running hurricane frequency and (bottom) 9‐year‐running forecasts, showing results from (left) uninitialized and (right) initialized experiments. Black lines show the observed 5‐ and 9‐year hurricane counts from the NOAA Hurricane Database (HURDAT; Jarvinen et al., 1984, McAdie et al., 2009), which includes an adjustment for observing inhomogeneity prior to 1966 described in Vecchi and Knutson (2011). For the retrospective forecasts, the red line shows the forecasts from the GFDL CM2.1 (coupled model version 2.1) system, the blue line shows the UKMO‐DePreSys PPE System (United Kingdom MetOffice decadal prediction system), and the yellow line shows the two‐system ensemble mean. (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 2013 American Meteorological Society)
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Tropical storm density anomalies (×1000) as a function of MJO phases in (left) observations and in the (right) model hindcasts for the period November to April 1989–2008. The MJO phases are defined by Wheeler and Hendon. The anomalies are computed relative to the 1989–2008 climatology. Yellow and red colors indicate an increase of tropical cyclone activity. The blue colors indicate a reduction of tropical cyclone activity. (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 2009 American Geophysical Union), made available under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC‐BY) License.
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Number of North Atlantic tropical storms from July to November predicted by EUROSIP (median) starting on June 1 (thick black line) for the period 1993–2006. Retrospective forecasts were used for the period 1993–2004, and real‐time forecast ensembles (calibrated using the median) were used for the period 2005–2006. The dashed gray line represents observations from July to November and the vertical lines represent two standard deviations within the multi‐model ensemble distribution. (Adapted from Ref with permission. Copyright 2007 American Geophysical Union. Made available under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC‐BY) License)
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Frequency distribution of windspeed for 10 years of NW Pacific storms. Solid columns: control simulation. Cross‐hatched columns: on doubling CO2. (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 1993 Springer Science and Business Media)
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(Left) Tracks for all storms reaching category 4 or 5 intensity, for the control and the warmed 18‐model ensemble conditions, as obtained using the GFDL/NWS hurricane model. (Right) the spatial distribution of category 4 and 5 occurrences (scaled by storm counts per decade) for the combined control (average of the GFDL and GFDN model versions, top right); the combined CMIP3 18‐model ensemble warmed climate results (middle right); and the difference between the warmed climate and control intense hurricane occurrences (bottom right). (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 2015 AAAS)
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Model versus observed Atlantic hurricane counts and distributions of maximum tropical cyclone wind speeds. (a) Annual (August–October) counts of Atlantic hurricanes in observations and for the model using observed SSTs and large‐scale nudging of the interior solution toward reanalyses. (b,c) Histograms of maximum wind speeds m s−1 (one value per storm) for each Atlantic storm observed or simulated by the model for the control 1980–2006 (August–October) and global warming cases. The normalized histogram (c) was obtained by dividing the total number of storms observed or simulated during the 27‐year period. This controls for differences in storm frequency between experiments or between the control and observations. (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 2008 MacMillan Publishers Ltd: Nature Geoscience)
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Genesis potential index climatology in (a) February and (b) September. The black dots show individual genesis events over the period from (a) 1970–2004 and (b) 1970–2005. (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 2007 American Meteorological Society)
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Two‐dimensional cross section of tangential wind (m s−1), vertical velocity (Pa s−1), and vorticity (10−5 s−1) for the maximum stage of the development of a tropical cyclone in ECHAM3 with resolution T106 (left panel) and T42 (right panel). (Adapted from Ref with permission. Made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC_BY) License)
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