The impact of climate change on global tropical cyclone damage

Journal name:
Nature Climate Change
Year published:
Published online
Corrected online


One potential impact from greenhouse-gas emissions is increasing damage from extreme events. Here, we quantify how climate change may affect tropical cyclone damage. We find that future increases in income are likely to double tropical cyclone damage even without climate change. Climate change is predicted to increase the frequency of high-intensity storms in selected ocean basins depending on the climate model. Climate change doubles economic damage, but the result depends on the parameters of the damage function. Almost all of the tropical cyclone damage from climate change tends to be concentrated in North America, East Asia and the Caribbean–Central American region. This paper provides a framework to combine atmospheric science and economics, but some effects are not yet modelled, including sea-level rise and adaptation.

At a glance


  1. Storm tracks and minimum pressure for a sample of synthetic storms.
    Figure 1: Storm tracks and minimum pressure for a sample of synthetic storms.

    The tracks show that storms are more frequent in the western Pacific. The minimum pressure (hpa) or storm intensity is measured by their colour. Storm intensity is higher over the warm waters near the Equator and lower over the cooler waters towards the poles.

  2. The impact of climate change on tropical storm power by ocean and climate models.
    Figure 2: The impact of climate change on tropical storm power by ocean and climate models.

    Storm power consistently increases across all climate models for only the northeast Pacific. Although not consistent across climate models, average storm power increases markedly in the North Atlantic. Other regions see only moderate average effects as climate models predict both increases and decreases of storm intensity.

  3. Present and future baseline tropical cyclone damage by region.
    Figure 3: Present and future baseline tropical cyclone damage by region.

    Changes in income will increase future tropical cyclone damages in 2100 in every region even if climate does not change. Changes are larger in regions experiencing faster economic growth, such as East Asia and the Central America–Caribbean region.

  4. Climate change impacts on tropical cyclone damage by region in 2100.
    Figure 4: Climate change impacts on tropical cyclone damage by region in 2100.

    Damage is concentrated in North America, East Asia and Central America–Caribbean. Damage is generally higher in the CNRM and GFDL climate scenarios.

  5. Climate change impacts on tropical cyclone damage divided by GDP by region in 2100.
    Figure 5: Climate change impacts on tropical cyclone damage divided by GDP by region in 2100.

    The ratio of damage to GDP is highest in the Caribbean–Central American region but North America, Oceania and East Asia all have above-average ratios.

  6. Present and future return period by damage in GFDL climate scenarios.
    Figure 6: Present and future return period by damage in GFDL climate scenarios.

    The return period is 1/probability and reflects the expected time over which an event occurs. The axes are in logs to illustrate the fat tail of the probability density function. Climate change tends to make the distribution even more skewed, resulting in shorter return periods for high (but not low) damage storms.

Change history

Corrected online 08 February 2012
In the version of this Article originally published online, the authors declared no competing financial interests. Although this remains the case, a clarification now appears in all versions.


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Author information


  1. Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 195 Prospect Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06511, USA

    • Robert Mendelsohn,
    • Shun Chonabayashi &
    • Laura Bakkensen
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Atmospheric Science, 77 Mass. Ave. Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA

    • Kerry Emanuel


R.M. and K.E. conceived the integrated assessment model and the climate-change experiment, K.E. carried out the atmospheric science component, S.C. and L.B. carried out the economics component and R.M. and K.E. co-wrote the paper.

Competing financial interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests. However, in the interest of transparency we confirm that the tracks used for this paper were produced by WindRiskTech, LLC (, which Kerry Emanuel founded with business partners in 2005. This paper was written once the results had been analysed for the World Bank, which bought these tracks from the firm. The firm's profit resulting from the sale of these tracks was not dependent on the results being formally published in a research journal. Dr Emanuel is also on the boards of two property and casualty companies: Homesite and Bunker Hill, and also on the board of the AlphaCat Fund, an investment fund dealing with re-insurance transactions. In all three cases, Dr Emanuel receives fixed fees but owns no stocks or shares. Dr Emanuel does not stand to make any personal financial gain through these directorships as a consequence of the reported findings.

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