Attribution of 2020 hurricane season extreme rainfall

Kevin A. Reed, Michael F. Wehner & Colin M. Zarzycki


Department of Energy, Office of Science, Earth & Environmental Systems Modeling Progam Acknowledged Support: No, other Non-DOE EESM source of support


The 2020 North Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most active on record, causing heavy rains, strong storm surges, and high winds. Human activities continue to increase the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, resulting in an increase of more than 1 °C in the global average surface temperature in 2020 compared to 1850. This increase in temperature led to increases in sea surface temperature in the North Atlantic basin of 0.4–0.9 °C during the 2020 hurricane season. Here we show that human-induced climate change increased the extreme 3-hourly storm rainfall rates and extreme 3-day accumulated rainfall amounts during the full 2020 hurricane season for observed storms that are at least tropical storm strength (>18 m/s) by 10 and 5%, respectively. When focusing on hurricane strength storms (>33 m/s), extreme 3-hourly rainfall rates and extreme 3-day accumulated rainfall amounts increase by 11 and 8%, respectively.

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