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Dynamical downscaling projections of late twenty-first-century U.S. landfalling hurricane activity

Abstract

In this paper, U.S. landfalling tropical cyclone (TC) activity is projected for the late twenty-first century using a two-step dynamical downscaling framework. A regional atmospheric model, is run for 27 seasons, to generate tropical storm cases. Each storm case is -resimulated (up to 15 days) using the higher-resolution Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory hurricane model. Thirteen CMIP3 or CMIP5 climate change scenarios are explored. Robustness of projections is assessed using statistical significance tests and comparing changes across models. The proportion of TCs making U.S. landfall increases for the warming scenarios, due, in part, to an increases in the percentage of TC genesis near the U.S. coast and a change in climatological steering flows favoring more U.S. landfall events. The increases in U.S. landfall proportion leads to an increase in U.S. landfalling category 4–5 hurricane frequency, averaging about + 400% across the models; 10 of 13 models/ensembles project an increase (which is statistically significant in three of 13 models). We have only tentative confidence in this latter increase, which occurs despite a robust decrease in Atlantic basin category 1–5 hurricane frequency, no robust change in Atlantic basin category 4–5 and U.S. landfalling category 1–5 hurricane frequency, and no robust change in U.S. landfalling hurricane intensities. Rainfall rates, averaged within a 100-km radius of the storms, are projected to increase by about 18% for U.S. landfalling TCs. Important caveats to the study include low correlation (skill) for interannual variability of modeled vs. observed U.S. TC landfall frequency and model bias of excessive TC genesis near and east of the U.S. east coast in present-day simulations.

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Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request. There are no special materials involved in the study.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the CMIP3 and CMIP5 modeling groups for contributing to the CMIP database. We thank the three anonymous reviewers as well as Hiro Murakami and Tim Marchok from GFDL/NOAA for providing valuable comments to improve our manuscript.

Funding

This work was performed by T. Knutson and J. Sirutis as part of their regular job duties as U.S. government employees at GFDL/NOAA, by B. Schenkel as part of his regular job duties as an employee at the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Severe and High-impact Weather Research, and by Morris Bender as part of his regular duties as a Professional Specialist at Princeton University, funded by NOAA award NA18OAR4320123. R. Tuleya was unfunded.

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Authors

Contributions

T. Knutson designed the study, directed Joe Sirtutis on the analysis and model runs, and wrote the manuscript. J. Sirutis, who is now deceased, performed all the model runs and most of the analysis contained in the study. R. Tuleya and M. Bender assisted in the model setup and technical issues for the GFDL hurricane model and assisted in writing the manuscript. B. Schenkel contributed several analysis plots to the paper, and assisted in writing the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Thomas R. Knutson.

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Not applicable because the study does not report the results of studies involving humans and/or animals. Consent to participate is not applicable because the study does not report the results of studies involving humans and/or animals.

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Not applicable because the study does not report the results of studies involving humans and/or animals.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

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Joseph J. Sirutis is deceased.

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Knutson, T.R., Sirutis, J.J., Bender, M.A. et al. Dynamical downscaling projections of late twenty-first-century U.S. landfalling hurricane activity. Climatic Change 171, 28 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-022-03346-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-022-03346-7

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Hurricane activity
  • Tropical cyclone