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Research finds evidence tropical cyclones have climate-control role

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue University researchers have found evidence that tropical cyclones and hurricanes play an important role in the ocean circulation patterns that transport heat and maintain the climate of North America and Europe.

These findings support a 2001 theory by Kerry Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and suggest that there is an additional factor to be included in climate models that may change predictions of future climate scenarios.

"It was thought that hurricanes occurred over too short of a time period and over too small of an area to affect the global system," said Matthew Huber, the Purdue University professor of earth and atmospheric sciences who led the research group. "This research provides evidence that hurricanes play an important role and may be one of the missing pieces in the climate modeling puzzle."

The research also showed that hurricanes cool the tropics, forming in response to higher temperatures and acting as a thermostat for the area, Huber said.

"Warm water fuels hurricanes, which have been shown to leave cold water in their wake," said Huber, who also is a member of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center at Discovery Park.

"I like to say the good news is that hurricanes function like a thermostat for the tropics, and the bad news is that hurricanes function like a thermostat for the tropics. The logical conclusion of this finding, taking into account past research into the impact of rising temperatures on cyclone and hurricane intensity, is that as the world and the tropics warm, there will be an increase in the integrated intensity of hurricanes."

Movies such as "The Day After Tomorrow" brought into the spotlight information about the ocean conveyer belt and its impact on climate. The upper part of the conveyer belt travels from the south to the north, passing through the Pacific Ocean and Indian
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Contact: Elizabeth K. Gardner
ekgardner@purdue.edu
765-494-2081
Purdue University
31-May-2007


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