# Hurricanes and Atmospheric Temperature

EDIT -- It appears that everyone is confused by the question. That's probably my fault. Let me say it another way.

Do hurricanes cool the atmosphere (by taking heat out of the ocean/air and using that energy to essentially power the winds)? Does this counter the effect of global warming in any significant way?

Original question wording:

Does the energy expended by a hurricane/typhoon have a cooling effect/counter the effects of average temperature increase caused by climate change?

If so, do any climate predication models account for this? Or is the effect so negligible that there is no need?

• It has been difficult to find evidence for any increase in the intensity or frequency of cyclonic storms in recent history. – Mark Rovetta Nov 10 '13 at 5:31
• @Mark did you read the question? – hvgotcodes Nov 12 '13 at 15:48
• Yes I read your question when I commented, and I upvoted it at the time as well because it deals with an interesting and timely topic. I don't understand what 'energy expended' means but it seems like it must depend on the intensity and frequency - I don't think one storm changes climate much. The ref found no or weak evidence for more intense or frequent storms in recent decades, a period climate models predict warming. That surprised me, because it suggests the connection between rising temperature and storms was not very strong. – Mark Rovetta Nov 15 '13 at 4:58
• @mark i updated my question. You are again talking about "intense or frequent storms in recent decades" which I don't see how my question related, but I reworded it to hopefully make it more clear. – hvgotcodes Nov 17 '13 at 15:33

Energy can't be expanded. The only way the earth can get rid of energy is by radiating it into space.

• updated my question to hopefully be clearer. – hvgotcodes Nov 17 '13 at 15:34

Do hurricanes cool the atmosphere (by taking heat out of the ocean/air and using that energy to essentially power the winds)?

We believe hurricanes form due to thermal inhomogeneities in the atmosphere, similarly to whirls in water being heated on a cooker. The lower parts of the atmosphere are warmer due to heat received by conduction and evaporation, both from the ground and from the ocean. Some energy initially absorbed by the ocean (water absorbs visible light) thus later indeed goes into the atmosphere and heats its lower parts. Since the air expands upon heating, it gets lighter and may move upwards, which creates macroscopic flows of air. These flows of air then lead to storms, and with help of the rotation of the Earth, on larger scale (>1000km) may attain strong vortex character and lead to hurricanes.

So the creation of the hurricane and air flow in general can be said to partially extract energy from the ground and thus has some kind of cooling effect on it. But when the flow is already present, it also gives energy back. When the atmospheric air moves violently above the ocean, it moves the ocean water. Due to internal friction in the latter, the atmosphere does some work on the water. As a result, atmosphere loses some energy (and would lower its temperature if this was the sole mechanism occuring) and the ocean receives it.

Also during the storm the rain water may be falling into the ocean which means the atmosphere gives energy to the ocean. On the other hand the ocean evaporates into the atmosphere at the same time, which brings energy to the atmosphere. There are many such processes with all two effects (refrigerating and heating) possible occurring at the same time, and it is hard to say what will be the net result. It is perhaps fair to say, that on average after long time (1 year?) the atmosphere and the ocean are in dynamic equilibrium that may be shifting slightly.

• it says that hurricanes dramatically cool the upper level of the ocean here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – hvgotcodes Nov 18 '13 at 14:34
• What I meant by "warms" in my first attempt at an answer was that if there is storm, the atmosphere gives energy to ocean by moving its water. This does not mean that the surface water necessarily gets warmer (although I have been told this is so after the storm above the ocean). The cooling of the ocean is explained as due to mixing; albeit the ocean is heated by the atmosphere, the movement leads to mixing with lower water, which is cold. So the surface temperature gets lower, $although$ the ocean was heated (probably better word than "warmed" in this situation:-) – Ján Lalinský Nov 19 '13 at 17:52
• I have also edited my post to better address your question. – Ján Lalinský Nov 19 '13 at 17:53