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Research finds evidence tropical cyclones have climate-control role

oceans and past warmer latitudes warming the water brought to North America and Europe, Huber said.

In the tropical oceans, this pattern must be reversed; warm, buoyant water must be mixed downward, and cold, dense water must be mixed upward. This process, called vertical mixing, plays an important role in the conveyer belt's circulation. It was known that this mixing occurred, but the cause was not well-understood, said Ryan Sriver, the paper's lead author and a Purdue graduate student.

"Climate models today use what is called 'background mixing' to solve this problem," he said. "They represent the mixing as an average of the total amount that is needed and apply it over these regions consistently. However, we believe this mixing is not consistent; it is not everywhere all of the time. It is sporadic and happens over a small area for a limited amount of time."

In some areas of the world, such as the equator, there are no cyclones, and no mixing occurs.

"If cyclones were added to models in place of the background mixing, there would be zero mixing at the equator," Huber said. "This is very important because it is well-known that to get El Nio right in a climate model, the background mixing at the equator must be greatly reduced. Our data has a beautiful no-mixing zone right where there should be no mixing."

This explains some of the mystery of the observed temperatures from the distant past during a greenhouse climate. The poles were much warmer than today, about 82 degrees Fahrenheit, but the tropics were not much warmer than the present, he said.

"Using the best, most comprehensive models in existence, we could not obtain results that matched this past climate that we know existed," Huber said. "We knew a basic, fundamental process that cooled the tropics was missing from the models."

The results of the study, being published in the May 31 issue of Nature, are consistent with providing all of th
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Contact: Elizabeth K. Gardner
ekgardner@purdue.edu
765-494-2081
Purdue University
31-May-2007


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