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Precise Prediction of Hurricane Power vs Ocean Temperature

It has long been known that hurricanes, the strongest and most destructive atmospheric events, do not occur below a sea surface temperature near 26 C. The detailed dependence of hurricane power on ocean temperature is of increasing interest and concern in the prospect of continuing global warming. The hurricane power was usefully quantified by Emanuel in 2005 with the definition and tabulations of the power dissipation index, PDI. This is the integral over the relevant sea areas of the cube of the maximum windspeed, representiting the power dissipated over one year. In his important 2005 paper Emanuel found that the PDI for the North Atlantic increased strongly in recent decades and showed in plots a close correlation of PDI with sea surface temperature. A critical temperature Tc, and a linear T-Tc power law dependence, typical of a continuous phase transition, for hurricanes have prcviously (Wolf, 2020) been inferred from plots of the power dissipation index PDI vs sea surface temperature T. This implies that tropical cyclone formation can usefully be regarded as a second order phase transition of the warm ocean-atmosphere system, driven by disequilibrium in atmospheric water content. We here show that the theory of phase transitions allows a precise prediction of the temperature dependence of hurricane power and windspeed on ocean surface temperature. We find that the wind velocity transition of the hurricane is in the same universality class as the Ising Model, the uniaxial antiferromagenet and the vapor- liquid transition of simple fluids, and shares their critical exponent. An implication for the applicability of potential intensity theory is noted.

Tropical Cyclone, Power, PDI, Critical Temperature, Universality Class, ISING Model, Continuous Phase Transition

Edward Wolf. (2021). Precise Prediction of Hurricane Power vs Ocean Temperature. International Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, 5(1), 1-5.

Copyright © 2021 Authors retain the copyright of this article.
This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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