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Friday, June 5, 2009

Tropical Cyclones Adding to Global Warming?

Eyewall of Hurricane Ivan.

Usually, when most people see the words global warming and tropical cyclones put together, they think about the influences (or lack of) of global warming on tropical cyclones, and not the other way around.

In this new study from Harvard University, we read about the possible influence of tropical cyclones on climate.

Using 23 years of infrared satellite imagery, global tropical cyclone best-track data, and reanalysis of tropopause temperature, the authors found that tropical cyclones contribute a disproportionate amount of the tropical deep convection that overshoots the troposphere and reaches the stratosphere, according to the ScienceDaily article.

Diagram of the hurricane eyewall.

The authors of the study found that tropical cyclones contribute 7% of deep convection in the tropics, but that 15% of that convection reaches the statosphere.

Based on this information, the research team concluded that tropical cyclones could play a key role in adding water vapor (the most widespread greenhouse gas) to the stratosphere, which has shown to increase surface temperature. This leads them to conclude that there is the possibility of a positive feedback between tropical cyclones and global warming.

If this is in fact true, I would think the influence would be extremely small based on the percentages, especially when you think globally.

This paper is published in the Geophysical Research Letters.

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