Granger causality and Atlantic hurricanes

  • Elsner J
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Atlantic tropical cyclones have been getting stronger recently with a trend that is related to an increase in the late summer/early fall sea-surface temperature over the North Atlantic. Some studies attribute the increasing ocean warmth and hurricane intensity to a natural climate fluctuation, known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation; others suggest that climate change related to anthropogenic greenhouse gases emissions is the cause. Noting that the only difference between these two hypotheses is the causal connection between global mean near-surface air temperature (GT) and Atlantic sea-surface temperature (SST), the author previously showed how to use statistical tests to examine this hypothesis. Here the author expands on this research. In particular, a more comprehensive explanation of the techniques and additional tests and checks against misspecification are provided. The earlier results are confirmed in showing that preceding GT anomalies have a significant statistical relationship to current SST anomalies but not conversely so that if causality exists between Atlantic SST and global temperature, the causal direction likely goes from GT to SST. The result is robust against a small amount of noise added to the data. Identical tests applied to surrogate time series fail to identify causality as expected. The work underscores the importance of using data models to understand relationships between hurricanes and climate.

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  • James B. Elsner

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