What is it about?

The deep clouds that make up tropical disturbances, the precursors to more intense tropical cyclones (TCs) (including hurricanes and typhoons), effectively trap the infrared radiation emitted by Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere. Our study demonstrates that the local atmospheric warming caused by this “cloud greenhouse effect” is a key trigger for promoting and accelerating the evolution of such precursor storms into intense TCs.

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Why is it important?

This study helps advance our fundamental understanding of how tropical cyclones form. The forecasting of TC formation remains extremely challenging, while the representation of cloud processes and their feedback with radiation is a large source of uncertainty in the numerical models that these forecasts depend on. Our results suggest that focusing future research on constraining these processes in models holds promise for key progress in the prediction of these devastating storms.

Perspectives

Tropical cyclones are a scientific problem with many outstanding challenges, dealing with basic understanding, numerical modeling, forecasting, predictability, and detecting and anticipating their changes associated with global climate change. I am truly humbled to have the opportunity to devote my time to researching this problem, especially to share in the enthusiasm of such bright and creative collaborators.

James Ruppert
Pennsylvania State University

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This page is a summary of: The critical role of cloud–infrared radiation feedback in tropical cyclone development, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 2020, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2013584117.
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