, Volume 108, Issue 3, pp 543-579

Tropical cyclones, climate change, and scientific uncertainty: what do we know, what does it mean, and what should be done?

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Abstract

The question of whether and to what extent global warming may be changing tropical cyclone (TC) activity is of great interest to decision makers. The presence of a possible climate change signal in TC activity is difficult to detect because interannual variability necessitates analysis over longer time periods than available data allow. Projections of future TC activity are hindered by computational limitations and uncertainties about changes in regional climate, large scale patterns, and TC response. This review discusses the state of the field in terms of theory, modeling studies and data. While Atlantic TCs have recently become more intense, evidence for changes in other basins is not persuasive, and changes in the Atlantic cannot be clearly attributed to either natural variability or climate change. However, whatever the actual role of climatic change, these concerns have opened a “policy window” that, if used appropriately, could lead to improved protection against TCs.