Quantifying the cooling effect of tropical cyclone clouds on the climate system

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The net effect on the upwelling radiation caused by tropical cyclone clouds is calculated over a 20-year global data set, and the corresponding contribution to the earth energy balance is analyzed. Tropical cyclone clouds are shown on average to increase the upwelling radiation at the top of the atmosphere compared with the background non-tropical-cyclone-cloud climatology. This increase in upwelling radiation provides an overall cooling effect on the climate system because the increased reflected shortwave radiation (cooling) outweighs the decreased emitted longwave radiation (warming). While the effect neglects the (likely considerable) contribution due to tropical cyclone drying, the amount of cooling by clouds alone represents a considerable fraction of the excess warming energy in the climate system. Thus, any future change in tropical cyclone activity has the potential to impact the overall energy balance if it substantially alters this total. The seasonal and geographic distribution of warming and cooling effects, and the diurnal dynamics that impact whether any particular cyclone is net cooling or net warming are discussed in this study.

Original languageEnglish
Article number99
Number of pages10
Journalnpj Climate and Atmospheric Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2023

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