The Role of Hurricanes in the Climate System

Kevin Trenberth

Hurricanes are very intense but relatively short-lived features whereas the climate deals with long-term large-scale changes. Are hurricanes merely embroidery; part of the rich phenomena that occur in the atmosphere, or do they occur for a reason and act systematically to rectify the climate? The answers to these questions are key to say how and why hurricanes change as the climate changes. To explore the role of hurricanes in the climate system, a detailed analysis is made of the bulk atmospheric moisture budget of several simulated storms, with detailed results given for Ivan in September 2004 and Katrina in August 2005. In turn these have implications for the energy budget. If our basic premise is correct, namely that hurricanes do indeed play a fundamental role in climate, what does this mean for all climate models, which do not include these in their simulations?

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