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Letters to Nature
Nature 326, 483 - 485 (08 April 1987); doi:10.1038/326483a0

The dependence of hurricane intensity on climate

Kerry A. Emanuel

Center for Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA

Tropical cyclones rank with earthquakes as the major geophysical causes of loss of life and property1. It is therefore of practical as well as scientific interest to estimate the changes in tropical cyclone frequency and intensity that might result from short-term man-induced alterations of the climate2. In this spirit we use a simple Carnot cycle model to estimate the maximum intensity of tropical cyclones under the somewhat warmer conditions expected to result from increased atmospheric CO2 content. Estimates based on August mean conditions over the tropical oceans predicted by a general circulation model with twice the present CO2 content yield a 40–50% increase in the destructive potential of hurricanes.



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2. National Research Council (eds) Changing Climate, (National Academy Press, Washington, 1983).
3. Emanuel, K. A. J. atmos. Sci. 43, 585−604 (1986). | Article |
4. Holland, G. J. Mon. Weath. Rev. 108, 1212−1218 (1980). | Article |
5. Hansen, J. et al. Mon. Weath. Rev. III, 609−662 (1983).
6. Hansen, J. et al. in Climate Processes and Climate Sensitivity (eds Hansen, J. E. & Takahashi, T.) 368 (American Geophysical Union, Washington, 1984).
7. Gray, W. M. in Intense Atmospheric Vortices (eds Bengtsson, L. & Lighthill, J.) 3−20 (Springer, New York, 1982).

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