Hurricane Sandy before 1900 and after 2100

Lackmann, Gary M.

Année de publication

To what extent did large-scale thermodynamic climate change contribute to the intensity and unusual track of Hurricane Sandy, which affected the U.S. mid-Atlantic region in late October 2012? How much of an impact would projected future climate change have on a storm such as Sandy? These questions are investigated using an ensemble of high-resolution numerical simulations in conjunction with analyzed and projected changes from a suite of general circulation models (GCMs). Simulations initialized with current analyses from the midpoint of Sandy’s life cycle, while the system was centered near the Bahamas, adequately replicate the observed intensity and track of Sandy. Initial and boundary condition data are then altered with thermodynamic change fields obtained from a five-member GCM ensemble, allowing hypothetical replication of the synoptic weather pattern that accompanied Hurricane Sandy, but for large-scale thermodynamic conditions corresponding to the 1880s and for projections to the twenty-second century. The past ensemble produces a slightly weaker storm that makes landfall south of the observed location. The future ensemble depicts a significantly more intense system that makes landfall farther north, near Long Island, New York. Within the limitations of the methods used, it is suggested that climate change to date exerted only a modest influence on the intensity and track of Sandy. The strengthening in the simulations run with projected future warming is consistent with increased condensational heating; changes in the synoptic steering flow also appear to result from diabatic processes. The questions of how climate change affected Sandy’s genesis and early life cycle, changes in the frequency of this type of synoptic pattern, and changes in impacts related to coastal development and sea level rise are not considered here.

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