Simulated changes to tropical cyclones across the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) boundary

Jeffrey T. Kiehl, Colin M. Zarzycki, Christine A. Shields, Mathew V. Rothstein

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13 Scopus citations


Tropical cyclones are an important meteorological and climatological process in Earth's climate system. These intense, localized storms mainly form over warm equatorial oceans, and propagate poleward. During their lifetime, tropical cyclones can strengthen leading to intense winds and rainfall events. These storms also carry moist energy that contribute to the poleward transport of atmospheric energy. Presently, concern exists about how the characteristics of tropical cyclones will change in a future warming world. The Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) was a time in Earth's deep past in which the planet warmed by 5° - 8 °C due to an increase in atmospheric CO2. It is thus of interest to understand how past warming affected tropical cyclone behavior. Here, a high resolution (25 km) atmospheric model is used to study changes in tropical cyclones across the PETM boundary. Orbital variation is also investigated as an additional forcing mechanism at the time of the PETM. The climate simulations indicate that greenhouse forcing leads to a poleward shift in TCs, much like projected future scenarios and in simulations of other warm periods in Earth history. It is also found that the orbital forcing response is very different than the greenhouse cases due to the difference in thermal response, which, in turn, induces a different dynamical response in wind shear. Although the spatial pattern between changes across the PETM and the future differ, there are still many similarities in TC response for these two very different periods in time, indicating the robustness of the TC response to greenhouse warming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110421
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
StatePublished - Jun 15 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology


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