Purdue University researchers have found evidence that tropical cyclones and hurricanes play an important role in the ocean circulation patterns that transport heat and maintain the climate of North America and Europe.
According to Matthew Huber, Purdue University professor of earth and atmospheric sciences who led the research group, the findings support a 2001 theory by MIT professor Kerry Emanuel that suggests there is an additional factor to be included in climate models that may change predictions of future climate scenarios.
"It was thought that hurricanes occurred over too short of a time period and over too small of an area to affect the global system. This research provides evidence that hurricanes play an important role and may be one of the missing pieces in the climate modelling puzzle, said Prof. Huber.
Prof. Huber said their research also showed that hurricanes cool the tropics, forming in response to higher temperatures and acting as a thermostat for the area.
"Warm water fuels hurricanes, which have been shown to leave cold water in their wake. I like to say the good news is that hurricanes function like a thermostat for the tropics, and the bad news is that hurricanes function like a thermostat for the tropics, said Prof. Huber.
The logical conclusion of this finding, taking into account past research into the impact of rising temperatures on cyclone and hurricane intensity, is that as the world and the tropics warm, there will be an increase in the integrated intensity of hurricanes, he said.
Ryan Sriver, the paper's lead author and a Purdue graduate student said, that while normally, the upper part of the atmosphere works like a conveyer belt travelling from the south to the north, passing through the Pacific Ocean and Indian oceans and past warmer latitudes warming the water brought to North America and Europe, in the tropics, this pattern must be reversed.
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