Atlantic hurricane trends linked to climate change



Increases in key measures of Atlantic hurricane activity over recent decades are believed to reflect, in large part, contemporaneous increases in tropical Atlantic warmth [e.g., Emanuel, 2005]. Some recent studies [e.g., Goldenberg et al., 2001] have attributed these increases to a natural climate cycle termed the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), while other studies suggest that climate change may instead be playing the dominant role [Emanuel, 2005; Webster et al., 2005].

Using a formal statistical analysis to separate the estimated influences of anthropogenic climate change from possible natural cyclical influences, this article presents results indicating that anthropogenic factors are likely responsible for long-term trends in tropical Atlantic warmth and tropical cyclone activity. In addition, this analysis indicates that late twentieth century tropospheric aerosol cooling has offset a substantial fraction of anthropogenic warming in the region and has thus likely suppressed even greater potential increases in tropical cyclone activity.