"The global warming influence provides a new background level that increases the risk of future enhancements in hurricane activity," Trenberth says. The study appears 27 June in Geophysical Research Letters, published by the American Geophysical Union.
Thestudy contradicts recent claims that natural cycles are responsible for the upturn in Atlantic hurricane activity since 1995. It also adds support to the premise that hurricane seasons will become more active as global temperatures rise. Last year produced a record 28 tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic. Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma all reached Category 5 strength.
Trenberth and Shea's research focuses on an increase in ocean temperatures. During much of last year's hurricane season, sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic between 10 degrees north and 20 degrees north, which is where many Atlantic hurricanes originate, were a record 0.9 degrees Celsius [1.6 degrees Fahrenheit] above the 1901-1970 average. While researchers agree that the warming waters fueled hurricane intensity, they have been uncertain whether Atlantic waters have heated up because of a natural, decades-long cycle, or because of global warming.
By analyzing worldwide data on sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) since the early 20th century, Trenberth and Shea were able to calculate the causes of the increased temperatures in the tropical North Atlantic. Their calculations show that global warming explained about 0.45 degrees Celsius [0.81 degrees Fahrenheit] of this rise. Aftereffects from the 2004-2005 El Nino accounted for about 0.2 degrees Celsius [0.4 degrees Fahrenheit]. The Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO), a 60-to-80-year natural cycle in sea surface temperature, explained less than 0.1 degrees Celsius [0.2 degrees Fahrenheit] of the rise, according to Trenberth. The remainder is due to year-to-year variability in temperatures.
Previous studies have attributed the warming and cooling patterns of North Atlantic ocean temperatures in the 20th century--and associated hurricane activity--to the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation. But Trenberth, suspecting that global warming was also playing a role, looked beyond the Atlantic to temperature patterns throughout Earth's tropical and midlatitude waters. He subtracted the global trend from the irregular Atlantic temperatures--in effect, separating global warming from the Atlantic natural cycle. The results show that the AMO is actually much weaker now than it was in the 1950s, when Atlantic hurricanes were also quite active. However, the AMO did contribute to the lull in hurricane activity from about 1970 to 1990 in the Atlantic.
Global warming does not guarantee that each year will set new records for hurricanes, according to Trenberth. He notes that last year's activity was related to very favorable upper-level winds as well as the extremely warm sea surface temperatures. Each year will bring ups and downs in tropical Atlantic SSTs, due to natural variations, such as the presence or absence of El Nino, he says. However, he adds, the long-term ocean warming should raise the baseline of hurricane activity.
The study was supported by the National Science Foundation.
Harvey Leifert | AGU
In times of climate change: What a lake’s colour can tell about its condition
21.09.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
Did marine sponges trigger the ‘Cambrian explosion’ through ‘ecosystem engineering’?
21.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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