Climate change is probably increasing the intensity of tropical cyclones

Thomas Knutson, Maya Chung, Gabriel Vecchi, Jingru Sun, Tsung-Lin Hsieh, Adam Smith

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


This ScienceBrief Review examines the link between climate change and tropical cyclones (TCs, including tropical storms, hurricanes, and typhoons). It synthesises findings from more than 90 peer−reviewed scientific articles gathered using ScienceBrief. Warming of the surface ocean from anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change is likely fuelling more powerful TCs. The destructive power of individual TCs through flooding is amplified by rising sea level, which very likely has a substantial contribution at the global scale from anthropogenic climate change. In addition, TC precipitation rates are projected to increase due to enhanced atmospheric moisture associated with anthropogenic global warming. The proportion of severe TCs (category 3 & 5) has increased, possibly due to anthropogenic climate change. This proportion of very intense TCs (category 4 & 5) is projected to increase, yet most climate model studies project the total number of TCs each year to decrease or remain approximately the same. Additional changes such as increasing rates of rapid intensification, the poleward migration of the latitude of maximum intensity, and a slowing of the forward motion of TCs have been observed in places, and these may be climate change signals emerging from natural variability. While there are challenges in attributing these past observed changes to anthropogenic forcing, models project that with global warming in coming decades some regions will experience increases in rapid intensification, a poleward migration of the latitude of maximum intensity or a slowing of the forward motion of TCs.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2021

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