We define ‘grey swan’ tropical cyclones as high-impact storms that would not be predicted based on history but may be foreseeable using physical knowledge together with historical data. Here we apply a climatological–hydrodynamic method to estimate grey swan tropical cyclone storm surge threat for three highly vulnerable coastal regions. We identify a potentially large risk in the Persian Gulf, where tropical cyclones have never been recorded, and larger-than-expected threats in Cairns, Australia, and Tampa, Florida. Grey swan tropical cyclones striking Tampa, Cairns and Dubai can generate storm surges of about 6 m, 5.7 m and 4 m, respectively, with estimated annual exceedance probabilities of about 1/10,000. With climate change, these probabilities can increase significantly over the twenty-first century (to 1/3,100–1/1,100 in the middle and 1/2,500–1/700 towards the end of the century for Tampa). Worse grey swan tropical cyclones, inducing surges exceeding 11 m in Tampa and 7 m in Dubai, are also revealed with non-negligible probabilities, especially towards the end of the century.
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We acknowledge the World Climate Research Program’s Working Group on Coupled Modeling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modelling groups for producing and making available their model output. We thank J. Westerink of the University of Notre Dame and C. Dietrich of North Carolina State University for their technical support on the ADCIRC model applied in this study for storm surge analysis. We also thank G. Holland of National Center for Atmospheric Science and J. Nott of James Cook University for their helpful comments. N.L. acknowledges support from Princeton University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science (Project X Fund) and Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment (Innovation Fund). K.E. was supported by NSF Grant 1418508.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Lin, N., Emanuel, K. Grey swan tropical cyclones. Nature Clim Change 6, 106–111 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2777
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