Regional climate model projections of rainfall from U.S. landfalling tropical cyclones

Abstract

The eastern United States is vulnerable to flooding from tropical cyclone rainfall. Understanding how both the frequency and intensity of this rainfall will change in the future climate is a major challenge. One promising approach is the dynamical downscaling of relatively coarse general circulation model results using higher-resolution regional climate models (RCMs). In this paper, we examine the frequency of landfalling tropical cyclones and associated rainfall properties over the eastern United States using Zetac, an 18-km resolution RCM designed for modeling Atlantic tropical cyclone activity. Simulations of 1980–2006 tropical cyclone frequency and rainfall intensity for the months of August–October are compared against results from previous studies and observation-based datasets. The 1980–2006 control simulations are then compared against results from three future climate scenarios: CMIP3/A1B (late twenty-first century) and CMIP5/RCP4.5 (early and late twenty-first century). In CMIP5 early and late twenty-first century projections, the frequency of occurrence of post-landfall tropical cyclones shows little net change over much of the eastern U.S. despite a decrease in frequency over the ocean. This reflects a greater landfalling fraction in CMIP5 projections, which is not seen in CMIP3-based projections. Average tropical cyclone rain rates over land within 500 km of the storm center increase by 8–17 % in the future climate projections relative to control. This is at least as much as expected from the Clausius–Clapeyron relation, which links a warmer atmosphere to greater atmospheric water vapor content. Over land, the percent enhancement of area-averaged rain rates from a given tropical cyclone in the warmer climate is greater for larger averaging radius (300–500 km) than near the storm, particularly for the CMIP3 projections. Although this study does not focus on attribution, the findings are broadly consistent with historical tropical cyclone rainfall changes documented in a recent observational study. The results may have important implications for future flood risks from tropical cyclones.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8

References

  1. Berg W, L’Ecuyer T, Kummerow C (2006) Rainfall climate regimes: the relationship of regional TRMM rainfall biases to the environment. J Appl Meteorol Climatol 45(3):434–454

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Chen C-T, Knutson T (2008) On the verification and comparison of extreme rainfall indices from climate models. J Clim 21(7):1605–1621

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Chen SS, Knaff JA, Marks FD (2006) Effects of vertical wind shear and storm motion on tropical cyclone rainfall asymmetries deduced from TRMM. Mon Weather Rev 134(11):3190–3208

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Emanuel K (2005) Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years. Nature 436(7051):686–688

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Emanuel K (2007) Environmental factors affecting tropical cyclone power dissipation. J Clim 20(22):5497–5509

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Evans JL, Hart RE (2003) Objective indicators of the life cycle evolution of extratropical transition for atlantic tropical cyclones. Mon Weather Rev 131(5):909–925

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Frank WM (1977) The structure and energetics of the tropical cyclone I. Storm structure. Mon Weather Rev 105(9):1119–1135

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Galarneau TJ, Bosart LF, Schumacher RS (2010) Predecessor rain events ahead of tropical cyclones. Mon Wea Rev 138(8):3272–3297

  9. Gao Y, Fu JS, Drake JB, Liu Y, Lamarque J-F (2012) Projected changes of extreme weather events in the eastern United States based on a high resolution climate modeling system. Environ Res Lett 7(4):044025

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Gentry MS, Lackmann GM (2006) The sensitivity of WRF simulations of hurricane Ivan to choice of cumulus parameterization. In: Soc AM (ed) 27th conference on hurricanes and tropical meteorology. Monterey, CA, pp 5–14 (preprint)

  11. Groisman PY, Knight RW, Easterling DR, Karl TR, Hegerl GC, Razuvaev VN (2005) Trends in intense precipitation in the climate record. J Clim 18(9):1326–1350

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Habib E, Henschke A, Adler R (2009) Evaluation of TMPA satellite-based research and real-time rainfall estimates during six tropical-related heavy rainfall events over Louisiana, USA. Atmos Res 94(3):373–388

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Han J, Pan H-L (2006) Sensitivity of hurricane intensity forecast to convective momentum transport parameterization. Mon Weather Rev 134(2):664–674

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Hara M, Yoshikane T, Kawase H, Kimura F (2008) Estimation of the impact of global warming on snow depth in japan by the pseudo-global-warming method. Hydrol Res Lett 2:61–64

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Hart RE, Evans JL (2001) A climatology of the extratropical transition of Atlantic tropical cyclones. J Clim 14(4):546–564

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Hill KA, Lackmann GM (2011) The impact of future climate change on TC intensity and structure: a downscaling approach. J Clim 24(17):4644–4661

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. IPCC (2012) Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation: a special report of working groups I and II of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  18. Jiang H, Halverson JB, Simpson J (2008) On the differences in storm rainfall from hurricanes Isidore and Lili. Part I: satellite observations and rain potential. Weather Forecast 23(1):29–43

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Jiang H, Ramirez EM, Cecil DJ (2012) Convective and rainfall properties of tropical cyclone inner cores and rainbands from 11 years of TRMM data. Mon Weather Rev 141(2):431–450

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Jones SC, Harr PA, Abraham J, Bosart LF, Bowyer PJ, Evans JL, Hanley DE, Hanstrum BN, Hart RE, Lalaurette F, Sinclair MR, Smith RK, Thorncroft C (2003) The extratropical transition of tropical cyclones: forecast challenges, current understanding, and future directions. Weather Forecast 18(6):1052–1092

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Kalnay E, Kanamitsu M, Kistler R, Collins W, Deaven D, Gandin L, Iredell M, Saha S, White G, Woollen J, Zhu Y, Leetmaa A, Reynolds R, Chelliah M, Ebisuzaki W, Higgins W, Janowiak J, Mo KC, Ropelewski C, Wang J, Jenne R, Joseph D (1996) The NCEP/NCAR 40-year reanalysis project. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 77(3):437–471

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Karl TR, Knight RW, Easterling DR, Quayle RG (1996) Indices of climate change for the United States. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 77(2):279–292

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Kimball SK (2008) Structure and evolution of rainfall in numerically simulated landfalling hurricanes. Mon Weather Rev 136(10):3822–3847

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Knapp KR, Kruk MC, Levinson DH, Diamond HJ, Neumann CJ (2010) The international best track archive for climate stewardship (IBTrACS). Bull Am Meteorol Soc 91(3):363–376

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Knutson TR, McBride JL, Chan J, Emanuel K, Holland G, Landsea C, Held I, Kossin JP, Srivastava AK, Sugi M (2010) Tropical cyclones and climate change. Nat Geosci 3(3):157–163

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Knutson TR, Sirutis JJ, Garner ST, Held IM, Tuleya RE (2007) Simulation of the recent multidecadal increase of atlantic hurricane activity using an 18-km-grid regional model. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 88(10):1549–1565

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Knutson TR, Sirutis JJ, Garner ST, Vecchi GA, Held IM (2008) Simulated reduction in Atlantic hurricane frequency under twenty-first-century warming conditions. Nat Geosci 1(6):359–364

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Knutson TR, Sirutis JJ, Vecchi GA, Garner ST, Zhao M, Kim H-S, Bender M, Tuleya RE, Held IM, Villarini G (2013) Dynamical downscaling projections of 21st century Atlantic hurricane activity: CMIP3 and CMIP5 model-based scenarios. J Clim 26:6591–6617

  29. Kummerow C, Barnes W, Kozu T, Shiue J, Simpson J (1998) The tropical rainfall measuring mission (TRMM) sensor package. J Atmos Ocean Technol 15(3):809–817

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Kunkel KE, Easterling DR, Kristovich DAR, Gleason B, Stoecker L, Smith R (2010) Recent increases in U.S. heavy precipitation associated with tropical cyclones. Geophys Res Lett 37(24):706

    Google Scholar 

  31. Lackmann GM (2013) The South-Central U.S. flood of May 2010: present and future. J Clim 26(13):4688–4709

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Langousis A, Veneziano D (2009a) Long-term rainfall risk from tropical cyclones in coastal areas. Water Resour Res 45(11):W11430

  33. Langousis A, Veneziano D (2009b) Theoretical model of rainfall in tropical cyclones for the assessment of long-term risk. J Geophys Res Atmos 114(D2):D02106

  34. Lau K-M, Zhou YP, Wu H-T (2008) Have tropical cyclones been feeding more extreme rainfall? J Geophys Res Atmos 113(D23):D23113

  35. Lonfat M, Marks FD, Chen SS (2004) Precipitation distribution in tropical cyclones using the tropical rainfall measuring mission (TRMM) microwave imager: a global perspective. Mon Weather Rev 132(7):1645–1660

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Mallard MS, Lackmann GM, Aiyyer A, Hill K (2013) Atlantic hurricanes and climate change. Part I: experimental design and isolation of thermodynamic effects. J Clim 26(13):4876–4893

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Marks FD (1985) Evolution of the structure of precipitation in Hurricane Allen (1980). Mon Weather Rev 113(6):909–930

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Matyas CJ (2010) A geospatial analysis of convective rainfall regions within tropical cyclones after landfall. Int J Appl Geosp Res 1(2):71–91

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Matyas CJ, Cartaya M (2009) Comparing the rainfall patterns produced by Hurricanes Frances (2004) and Jeanne (2004) over Florida. Southeast Geogr 49(2):132–156

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Meehl GA, Covey C, Taylor KE, Delworth T, Stouffer RJ, Latif M, McAvaney B, Mitchell JFB (2007) The WCRP CMIP3 multimodel dataset: a new era in climate change research. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 88(9):1383–1394

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Miller BI (1958) Rainfall rates in Florida Hurricanes. Mon Weather Rev 86(7):258–264

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Min S-K, Zhang X, Zwiers FW, Hegerl GC (2011) Human contribution to more-intense precipitation extremes. Nature 470(7334):378–381

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Mitchell KE, Lohmann D, Houser PR, Wood EF, Schaake JC, Robock A, Cosgrove BA, Sheffield J, Duan Q, Luo L, Higgins RW, Pinker RT, Tarpley JD, Lettenmaier DP, Marshall CH, Entin JK, Pan M, Shi W, Koren V, Meng J, Ramsay BH, Bailey AA (2004) The multi-institution North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS): utilizing multiple GCIP products and partners in a continental distributed hydrological modeling system. J Geophys Res Atmos 109(D7):D07S90

  44. Prat OP, Nelson BR (2012) Precipitation contribution of tropical cyclones in the Southeastern United States from 1998 to 2009 using TRMM satellite data. J Clim 26(3):1047–1062

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Rappaport EN (2000) Loss of life in the United States associated with recent Atlantic tropical cyclones. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 81(9):2065–2073

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Rasmussen R, Liu C, Ikeda K, Gochis D, Yates D, Chen F, Tewari M, Barlage M, Dudhia J, Yu W, Miller K, Arsenault K, Grubišić V, Thompson G, Gutmann E (2011) High-resolution coupled climate runoff simulations of seasonal snowfall over colorado: a process study of current and warmer climate. J Clim 24(12):3015–3048

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Rowe ST, Villarini G (2013) Flooding associated with predecessor rain events over the Midwest United States. Environ Res Lett 8(2):024007

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Shepherd JM, Grundstein A, Mote TL (2007) Quantifying the contribution of tropical cyclones to extreme rainfall along the coastal southeastern United States. Geophys Res Lett 34(23):L23810

  49. Smith JA, Villarini G, Baeck ML (2011) Mixture distributions and the hydroclimatology of extreme rainfall and flooding in the Eastern United States. J Hydrometeorol 12(2):294–309

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Taylor KE, Stouffer RJ, Meehl GA (2011) An overview of CMIP5 and the experiment design. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 93(4):485–498

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Tuleya RE, DeMaria M, Kuligowski RJ (2007) Evaluation of GFDL and simple statistical model rainfall forecasts for U.S. landfalling tropical storms. Weather Forecast 22(1):56–70

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Vecchi GA, Knutson TR (2008) On estimates of historical North Atlantic tropical cyclone activity. J Clim 21(14):3580–3600

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Villarini G, Goska R, Smith JA, Vecchi GA (2014a) North Atlantic tropical cyclones and U.S. flooding. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 95:1381–1388

  54. Villarini G, Lavers DA, Scoccimarro E, Zhao M, Wehner MF, Vecchi GA, Knutson TR, Reed KA (2014b) Sensitivity of tropical cyclone rainfall to idealized global-scale forcings. J Clim 27(12):4622–4641

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Villarini G, Smith JA (2010) Flood peak distributions for the eastern United States. Water Resour Res 46(6):W06504

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Villarini G, Smith JA, Baeck ML, Marchock T, Vecchi GA (2011) Characterization of rainfall distribution and flooding associated with U.S. landfalling tropical cyclones: analyses of Hurricanes Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne (2004). J Geophys Res 116:D23116

  57. Villarini G, Smith JA, Vecchi GA (2012) Changing frequency of heavy rainfall over the Central United States. J Clim 26(1):351–357

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Villarini G, Vecchi GA (2012a) Projected Increases in North Atlantic tropical cyclone intensity from CMIP5 models. J Clim 26(10):3231–3240

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Villarini G, Vecchi GA (2012b) Twenty-first-century projections of North Atlantic tropical storms from CMIP5 models. Nat Clim Change 2(8):604–607

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Wright D, Smith J, Baeck M (2014a) Critical examination of area reduction factors. J Hydrol Eng 19(4):769–776

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Wright DB, Smith JA, Baeck ML (2014b) Flood frequency analysis using radar rainfall fields and stochastic storm transposition. Water Resour Res 50(2):1592–1615

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Wright DB, Smith JA, Villarini G, Baeck ML (2013) Estimating the frequency of extreme rainfall using weather radar and stochastic storm transposition. J Hydrol 488:150–165

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Wright DB, Smith JA, Villarini G, Baeck ML (2014c) Long-term high-resolution radar rainfall fields for urban hydrology. J Am Water Resour Assoc 50(3):713–734

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Zhao M, Held IM, Lin S-J (2012) Some counterintuitive dependencies of tropical cyclone frequency on parameters in a GCM. J Atmos Sci 69(7):2272–2283

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This work was partially funded by the Willis Research Network, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Cooperative Institute for Climate Sciences (Grant NOAA CICS NA08OAR4320752), and the the National Science Foundation (Grant CBET-1058027) and the NASA Postdoctoral Program. We would like to thank Joseph Sirutis of NOAA GFDL for providing climate model data, Joshua Roundy of Princeton University and NASA GSFC for preparing the NLDAS rainfall data, and Timothy Marchok and Baoqiang Xiang of NOAA GFDL for their thoughtful comments.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daniel B. Wright.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wright, D.B., Knutson, T.R. & Smith, J.A. Regional climate model projections of rainfall from U.S. landfalling tropical cyclones. Clim Dyn 45, 3365–3379 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-015-2544-y

Download citation

Keywords

  • Tropical cyclones
  • Extreme rainfall
  • Floods
  • Climate impacts
  • Climate modeling
  • Dynamical downscaling