The influence of sea surface temperature on the intensity and associated storm surge of tropical cyclone Yasi: a sensitivity study

Lavender, Sally L. and Hoeke, Ron K. and Abbs, Deborah J. (2018) The influence of sea surface temperature on the intensity and associated storm surge of tropical cyclone Yasi: a sensitivity study. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 18 (3). pp. 795-805. ISSN 1561-8633

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Abstract

Tropical cyclones (TCs) result in widespread damage associated with strong winds, heavy rainfall and storm surge. TC Yasi was one of the most powerful TCs to impact the Queensland coast since records began. Prior to Yasi, the SSTs in the Coral Sea were higher than average by 1-2ĝ€°C, primarily due to the 2010/2011 La Niña event. In this study, a conceptually simple idealised sensitivity analysis is performed using a high-resolution regional model to gain insight into the influence of SST on the track, size, intensity and associated rainfall of TC Yasi. A set of nine simulations with uniform SST anomalies of between ĝ'4 and 4ĝ€°C applied to the observed SSTs are analysed. The resulting surface winds and pressure are used to force a barotropic storm surge model to examine the influence of SST on the associated storm surge of TC Yasi. An increase in SST results in an increase in intensity, precipitation and integrated kinetic energy of the storm; however, there is little influence on track prior to landfall. In addition to an increase in precipitation, there is a change in the spatial distribution of precipitation as the SST increases. Decreases in SSTs result in an increase in the radius of maximum winds due to an increase in the asymmetry of the storm, although the radius of gale-force winds decreases. These changes in the TC characteristics also lead to changes in the associated storm surge. Generally, cooler (warmer) SSTs lead to reduced (enhanced) maximum storm surges. However, the increase in surge reaches a maximum with an increase in SST of 2ĝ€°C. Any further increase in SST does not affect the maximum surge but the total area and duration of the simulated surge increases with increasing upper ocean temperatures. A large decrease in maximum storm surge height occurs when a negative SST anomaly is applied, suggesting if TC Yasi had occurred during non-La Niña conditions the associated storm surge may have been greatly diminished, with a decrease in storm surge height of over 3ĝ€m when the SST is reduced by 2ĝ€°C. In summary, increases in SST lead to an increase in the potential destructiveness of TCs with regard to intensity, precipitation and storm surge, although this relationship is not linear.


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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: © Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Faculty / Department / School: No Faculty
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2019 02:11
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2019 04:23
Uncontrolled Keywords: coastal zone; hazard assessment; kinetic energy; precipitation intensity; sea surface temperature; sensitivity analysis; storm surge; surface wind; tropical cyclone event; Australia; Queensland; Anthozoa
Fields of Research : 04 Earth Sciences > 0401 Atmospheric Sciences > 040107 Meteorology
04 Earth Sciences > 0401 Atmospheric Sciences > 040105 Climatology (excl.Climate Change Processes)
Identification Number or DOI: 10.5194/nhess-18-795-2018
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/35920

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