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In this study, the effect of thermodynamic environmental changes on hurricane intensity is extensively investigated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory hurricane model for a suite of experiments with different initial upper-tropospheric temperature anomalies up to ±4°C and sea surface temperatures ranging from 26° to 31°C given the same relative humidity profile.

The results indicate that stabilization in the environmental atmosphere and sea surface temperature (SST) increase cause opposing effects on hurricane intensity. The offsetting relationship between the effects of atmospheric stability increase (decrease) and SST increase (decrease) is monotonic and systematic in the parameter space. This implies that hurricane intensity increase due to a possible global warming associated with increased CO2 is considerably smaller than that expected from warming of the oceanic waters alone. The results also indicate that the intensity of stronger (weaker) hurricanes is more (less) sensitive to atmospheric stability and SST changes. The model-attained hurricane intensity is found to be well correlated with the maximum surface evaporation and the large-scale environmental convective available potential energy. The model-attained hurricane intensity is highly correlated with the energy available from wet-adiabatic ascent near the eyewall relative to a reference sounding in the undisturbed environment for all the experiments. Coupled hurricane–ocean experiments show that hurricane intensity becomes less sensitive to atmospheric stability and SST changes since the ocean coupling causes larger (smaller) intensity reduction for stronger (weaker) hurricanes. This implies less increase of hurricane intensity related to a possible global warming due to increased CO2.