File:Tropical Storm Map.png

From Global Warming Art



History of storms in the North Atlantic broken into three categories according to their intensity.

This map shows the tracks and intensity of all recorded tropical storms, cyclones, and hurricanes. The more intense storms, as defined by the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, are plotted in front so as to emphasize areas where powerful storms can develop, but not all disturbances in these areas will develop into major storms.

Tropical storms generally require three components to develop, warm sea surface temperatures, low wind shear, and Corriolis driven rotation. The last requirement explains why tropical storms do not form at the equator. The combined influences of temperature and wind shear, make these storms much more common in some ocean basins, such as the western Pacific, than in others. While tropical storm systems do occasionally form in both the South Atlantic and Southeast Pacific, they are not routinely tracked because they are very rare and almost never affect land. Consequently, only South Atlantic Hurricane Catarina is represented from these areas. (See also: South Atlantic tropical cyclones).

Models suggest that global warming will lead to an increase in the maximum intensity of tropical storms[1]. Some studies report a recent increase in the percentage of storms reaching major status (Category 3+) across various basins[2] and associate this to increased sea surface temperatures[3]. However, due to the limitations of the available data and the large inter-decadal fluctuations in storm intensity and frequency, there remains at present no agreement as to whether or not tropical storms have already been influenced by global warming [1].

Data quality

Tracking data for storms in the North Atlantic and East Pacific is from the National Hurricane Center.[2] Tracking data for storms in the Indian Ocean, the Northwest and South Pacific is from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.[3] Tracking data for Hurricane Catarina in the South Atlantic was published in Gary Padgett's April 2004 Monthly Tropical Cyclone Summary and was originally produced by Roger Edson, University of Guam.

Though the North Atlantic has a reasonably complete record of ship based encounters since ~1860, for most regions reliable information on storm tracks and intensity are not available before the satellite era of the 1960s. Further, only in the North Atlantic do planes routinely fly into hurricanes to measure their intensity. In all other regions, the intensity of the storms while far from land must be inferred from less accurate satellite observations. As a result, our understanding of tropical storms in the North Atlantic is much more complete than those over any other ocean basin, and the resulting portion of the image is more detailed.


This image was prepared by Robert A. Rohde, after being inspired by a similiar image by Nilfanion. This version is available under the Global Warming Art license.

Global Warming Art License

This image is an original work created for Global Warming Art by Robert A. Rohde.

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  1. ^ Knutson, Thomas R. and Robert E. Tuleya (2004). "Impact of CO2-Induced Warming on Simulated Hurricane Intensity and Precipitation:Sensitivity to the Choice of Climate Model and Convective Parameterization". Journal of Climate 17 (18): 3477-3494. 
  2. ^ P. J. Webster, G. J. Holland, J. A. Curry, H.-R. Chang (2005). "Changes in Tropical Cyclone Number, Duration, and Intensity in a Warming Environment". Science 309 (5742): 1844-1846. 
  3. ^ Kerry Emanuel (2005). "Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years". Nature 436: 686-688. 

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