Climate Dynamics

, Volume 38, Issue 9–10, pp 1973–1988 | Cite as

Shortcomings in climate model simulations of the ENSO-Atlantic hurricane teleconnection

  • Jeffrey ShamanEmail author
  • Eric D. Maloney


A number of recent studies have used model projections to investigate how the North Atlantic environment in which tropical storms develop, as well as hurricane activity itself, might change in a warming world. However, accurate projection of the North Atlantic environment in the future requires, at a minimum, accurate representation of its mean state and variability in the current climate. Here we examine one metric of Atlantic basin tropical cyclone variability—its well-documented association with the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)—in reanalyses and Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report (AR4) twentieth century and Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project simulations. We find that no individual model provides consistently good representation of ENSO-related variability in the North Atlantic for variables relevant to hurricane activity (e.g. vertical wind shear, genesis potential). Model representation of the ENSO influence is biased due to both inaccurate representation of ENSO itself and inaccurate representation of the response to ENSO within the North Atlantic. Among variables examined, ENSO impacts on vertical wind shear and potential intensity were most poorly simulated. The multi-model ensemble mean representation of North Atlantic environmental response to ENSO is better matched with reanalysis than most individual AR4 models; however, this mean response still possesses some considerable bias. A few models do provide comparable or slightly better simulation of these ENSO-North Atlantic teleconnections than the multi-model ensemble average; however, for both the multi-model mean and the well performing models, good simulation of the ENSO-related variability of genesis potential within portions of the North Atlantic does not stem from accurate representation of the ENSO-related variability of the individual environmental variables that comprise genesis potential (e.g. vertical wind shear, potential intensity).


ENSO Hurricanes Genesis potential Teleconnection Wind shear 



This work was supported by NSF Climate and Large-Scale Dynamics Grant Numbers 0917609 (JS), 0828531, 0946911, and 1025584 (EDM). EDM was also supported under Award #NA080OAR4320893 from NOAA. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations presented here do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF, NOAA, or the Department of Commerce.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Mailman School of Public HealthColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.International Research Institute for Climate and SocietyColumbia UniversityPalisadesUSA
  3. 3.Department of Atmospheric ScienceColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

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