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Home » Understanding future projections of tropical cyclone landfall and precipitation

Understanding future projections of tropical cyclone landfall and precipitation


Jorge García Franco, a Research Scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory – Columbia University, has been awarded funding for their climate projections project, “Understanding future projections of tropical cyclone landfall and precipitation.”

Tropical cyclone (TC) landfalls have the potential to cause catastrophic damage to societies, and one of the contributing factors is the associated TC precipitation (TCP). While many aspects of TC responses to anthropogenic forcing remain uncertain, climate change is anticipated to intensify landfall TCP through increased storm intensity and greater TCP. Understanding landfall TC and TCP responses to global warming changes in the coming decades is essential for strategic planning to enhance coastal city resilience, mitigate risks, and adapt to evolving climate patterns.

Global climate models have been pivotal in assessing climate change’s impact on extreme weather events, including TCs. Nevertheless, these models have limitations when studying TCs, particularly their representation of TC intensity, storm-scale wind and rain structures, and the scarcity of sufficient landfall event data.

For this project, Lead Investigator Jorge García Franco and Co-Investigators Chia-Ying Lee, Suzana Camargo, and Michael Tippett will use SPEAR-LE, a global climate model, to scrutinize and diagnose the response of landfall TCP to natural variability and anthropogenic forcing. This will involve analyzing regional landfall statistics such as landfall frequency, storm intensity at landfall, and mean TCP per landfall. The project’s objectives include evaluating SPEAR’s landfall statistics, identifying environmental conditions or TC-specific biases that affect SPEAR’s representation of landfall TCs, and exploring how these biases contribute to uncertainty in future projections. Additionally, the project will compare SPEAR’s results to those from other global climate model simulations to comprehensively understand TC landfall and TCP projections.

“Our project aims to better understand the future projections of tropical cyclone landfall and precipitation using new simulations from a climate model developed by NOAA. Without understanding these simulations, we cannot understand the predictions and projections we are inferring from them, and our project aims to fill that gap. In collaboration with scientists from NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, this project led by Columbia University will help us to understand and extend the projection capabilities of this new climate model for tropical cyclone landfall events,” said Dr. García Franco, recently appointed as a faculty member at the School of Earth Sciences – the National Autonomous University of Mexico. This project will then strengthen collaborative efforts amongst participating institutions in Mexico and the United States to understand the future impacts of TC landfall, a prominent threat to both countries.

Considering the profound societal impacts of TCs, there exists an urgent imperative to understand future TC landfall and associated precipitation projections. This project will not only shed light on total (mean and extreme) precipitation projections, to which TCs make significant contributions in many regions worldwide, but also extend SPEAR’s projection capabilities by incorporating a TC hazard model, the Columbia Hazard model (CHAZ), to estimate TC hazard due to near-surface winds from TC landfalls.

Funding for this project is provided by the NOAA Climate Program Office, MAPP program.

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