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Research finds evidence tropical cyclones have climate-control role

e mixing necessary to match what is needed in climate models.

"Our results suggest that this is the missing mixing and it is a vital part of ocean circulation," Huber said.

Steven Jayne, an assistant scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, said Huber and Sriver present strong evidence for a cyclone-driven heat pump.

"It is remarkable how closely the amount of mixing generated by the cyclones and the location of this mixing matches what appears to be needed to improve climate models," Jayne said. "People suspected these connections, but no one had done the necessary detailed calculations. It means there may be another feedback loop in the climate system, and that is significant."

Huber and Sriver studied the cooling effects of hurricanes from 1981 to the present using the cold wakes that follow a hurricane.

"These cold wakes can be easily observed," Sriver said. "The typical size is about 200 kilometers across and about 1,000 kilometers long, or about as big as the Eastern Seaboard."

The researchers used surface temperature data during the cold wakes to obtain an estimate of the cooling in the tropics due to cyclones and hurricanes. The data analyzed was provided by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The team then examined the process that leads to this cooling and evaluated the ocean water mixing.

"Multiple studies have shown that tropical cyclones are an excellent source of inertial oscillations, or internal waves that cause mixing in the upper layer of the ocean," Huber said. "It is like putting sugar in a cup of coffee. The sweetened coffee is more dense and will form a layer at the bottom of the cup. It needs to be stirred or agitated somehow to bring the sweet layer up to mix with the rest. The same thing is needed to mix ocean water. Dense water
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Contact: Elizabeth K. Gardner
ekgardner@purdue.edu
765-494-2081
Purdue University
31-May-2007


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