Can we use ocean temperatures to predict seasonal Pacific typhoon intensity?

  • 15 June 2015
  • Number of views: 2205

Tropical cyclones (TCs) are one of the most powerful natural hazards in the world. TCs with the greatest intensity (maximum windspeed) are located over the northwestern Pacific, and northwestern Pacific TCs that reach hurricane strength are termed typhoons. However, typhoon intensity is hard to predict due to the different environmental factors affecting typhoon development. Forecasting typhoon intensity becomes an even greater challenge at longer lead times. Accurate predictions of typhoon intensity are essential for protecting our communities and ecosystems.

Research funded by the Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections program, recently published in Science Advances, evaluated the factors affecting seasonal variability in northwestern Pacific typhoon peak intensity. The authors of the study found that low-latitude northwestern Pacific upper ocean temperatures establish how rapidly typhoons intensify, and central equatorial Pacific sea surface temperatures govern the length of time that typhoons intensify. Together, these factors were found to influence the seasonal average peak intensity of northwestern Pacific typhoons. Applying a moderate climate change scenario (RCP 4.5), the study projected an 14% increase in average seasonal peak typhoon intensity due to upper ocean warming in the northwestern Pacific by 2100.  


W. Mei, S.P. Xie, F. Primeau, J.C. McWilliams, and C. Pasquero. 2015. Northwestern Pacific typhoon intensity controlled by changes in ocean temperatures. Science Advances. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1500014. http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/4/e1500014-0  
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