The water mass transformation framework and variability in hurricane activity

Harris, Elizabeth A.; Marsh, Robert; Grist, Jeremy. P. ORCID:; McCarthy, Gerard. D.. 2022 The water mass transformation framework and variability in hurricane activity. Climate Dynamics.

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Hurricane activity has been higher since 1995 than in the 1970s and 1980s. This rise in activity has been linked to a warming Atlantic. In this study, we consider variability of the volume of water warmer than 26.5 ºC, considered widely to be the temperature threshold crucial to hurricane development. We find the depth of the 26.5 ºC isotherm better correlated with seasonal hurricane counts than SST in the early part of the Atlantic hurricane season in some regions. The volume of water transformed by surface heat fluxes to temperatures above 26.5 ºC is directly calculated using the Water Mass Transformation framework. This volume is compared with the year-to-year changes in the volume of water of this temperature to see how much of the volume can be explained using this calculation. In some years, there is notable correspondence between transformed and observed volume anomalies, but anomalies in other years must be largely associated with other processes, such as the divergence of horizontal heat transport associated with the AMOC. This technique provides evidence that, in a given year, coordinated physical mechanisms are responsible for the build-up of anomalous ocean heat; not only net surface heat exchange but also the convergence of horizontal heat transport from ocean currents, to provide fuel for larger numbers of intense hurricanes.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0930-7575
Date made live: 06 Jun 2022 11:10 +0 (UTC)

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