An emerging tropical cyclone–deadly heat compound hazard

Abstract

Climate change may bring new hazards through novel combinations of extreme weather (compound events)1. Here we evaluate the possibility of dangerous heat following major tropical cyclones (TCs)—a combination with serious potential consequences given that mega-blackouts may follow powerful TCs2, and the heavy reliance on air conditioning3. We show that ‘TC–heat’ events are already possible along densely populated coastlines globally but, to date, only an estimated 1,000 people have been impacted. However, this number could rise markedly with over two million at risk under a storyline of the observed TCs recurring in a world 2 °C warmer than pre-industrial times. Using analogues as focusing events we show, for example, that if the catastrophic 1991 Bangladesh cyclone occurred with 2 °C global warming, there would be >70% chance of subsequent dangerous heat. This research highlights a gap in adaptation planning and a need to prepare for an emerging TC–heat compound hazard.

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Fig. 1: Observed TCs and extreme heat.
Fig. 2: Seasonal climatologies for major TC occurrence and extent of HI40.6 by ocean basin.
Fig. 3: Composite impact of a major TC passage on meteorology across all ocean basins.
Fig. 4: Change in TC–heat hazard under climate change.
Fig. 5: Analogue major TCs under climate warming.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank M. Foote for discussion on the TC–heat hazard before TCs make landfall.

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T.M. conceived the study and conducted the analysis. All authors contributed equally to study design and writing the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to T. Matthews.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information: Nature Climate Change thanks Ning Lin, Jakob Zscheischler and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Notes, Supplementary Fig. 1, Supplementary Table 1 and Supplementary References

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Matthews, T., Wilby, R.L. & Murphy, C. An emerging tropical cyclone–deadly heat compound hazard. Nat. Clim. Chang. 9, 602–606 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-019-0525-6

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