Critical behavior of tropical cyclones

  • E. L. WolfEmail author
Original Paper


Critical phenomena have previously been reported in rainfall patterns over the tropical oceans. Confirming and extending that discovery, we identify a critical temperature Tc, and a linear T-Tc power law dependence, typical of a continuous phase transition, in existing data and excellent fits for the power dissipation index (PDI) for Northern Hemisphere hurricanes vs sea surface temperature T. It is suggested that tropical cyclone formation can usefully be regarded as a phase transition of the warm ocean-atmosphere system, driven by disequilibrium in atmospheric water content. The related implication of this previously unrecognized, rapid temperature dependence of tropical cyclone strength is noted.


Tropical cyclone Power PDI Critical temperature Humidity 



The author thanks S. Arnold, K. Becker, K. R. Sreenivasan, and O. Pauluis for helpful discussions. He gratefully acknowledges useful comments from two anonymous reviewers. This work was supported by the NYU Tandon School of Engineering through its Department of Applied Physics. The author particularly acknowledges the support of Prof. Lorcan Folan and assistance from Kunal Mehta and Vishal Vennu.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dept. Applied Physics, Tandon School of EngineeringNew York UniversityBrooklynUSA

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