Energy budgets of Atlantic hurricanes and changes from 1970

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Abstract

[1] On the basis of the current observational record of tropical cyclones and sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Atlantic, estimates are made of changes in surface sensible and latent heat fluxes and hurricane precipitation from 1970 to 2006. The best track data set of observed tropical cyclones is used to estimate the frequency that storms of a given strength occur after 1970. Empirical expressions for the surface fluxes and precipitation are based on simulations of hurricane Katrina in August 2005 with the advanced Weather and Research Forecasting (WRF) model at 4 km resolution without parameterized convection. The empirical relationships are computed for the surface fluxes and precipitation within 400 km of the eye of the storm for all categories of hurricanes based upon the maximum simulated wind and the observed sea surface temperature and saturation specific humidity. Strong trends are not linear but are better depicted as a step function increase from 1994 to 1995, and large variability reflects changes in SSTs and precipitable water, modulated by El Niño events. The environmental variables of SST and water vapor are nonetheless accompanied by clear changes in tropical cyclone activity using several metrics.

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