Changes in Atlantic Tropical Cyclones and the Bermuda High: Clues from the Last Millennium to Inform the Future

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Rice University

Current anthropogenic climate change is expected to increase hurricane intensity, with stronger winds, higher rainfall, and increased flooding, all of which pose a major threat to coastal communities. However, climate models vary in their predictions of how climate change will impact hurricane frequency and tracks, and 20th century data sources are limited given the brevity of the satellite era. To address this knowledge gap, we study the strength and position of the Bermuda High and how it has changed over the past millennium. The Bermuda High is a semipermanent high-pressure system over the Atlantic Ocean which impacts hurricane tracks and steering currents. To study its behavior, we evaluate two climate products with sea level pressure data spanning the past 1000 years: the Last Millennium Reanalysis and the Community Earth System Model. We compare various Bermuda High indices (BHI) as defined by previous studies, representing different measures of position and strength of the high-pressure system. Maps of sea level pressure anomalies and hurricane tracks are generated during years with high vs. low BHI values. This allows us to better understand the relationship between the Bermuda High and hurricane characteristics over the last 1000 years, providing important context for the future. This work is critical to better constrain hurricane risks under anthropogenic climate change and may help protect the people and environments at risk.

Senior Thesis
hurricanes, tropical cyclones, Bermuda High

Pitchon, Emilia. "Changes in Atlantic Tropical Cyclones and the Bermuda High: Clues from the Last Millennium to Inform the Future." Undergraduate thesis, Rice University, 2023.

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