Global projections of intense tropical cyclone activity are derived from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) High Resolution Atmospheric Model (HiRAM; 50-km grid) and the GFDL hurricane model using a two-stage downscaling procedure. First, tropical cyclone genesis is simulated globally using HiRAM. Each storm is then downscaled into the GFDL hurricane model, with horizontal grid spacing near the storm of 6 km, including ocean coupling (e.g., ‘‘cold wake’’ generation).

Twenty-first-century projections of Atlantic climate change are downscaled to explore the robustness of potential changes in hurricane activity. Multimodel ensembles using the phase 3 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3)/Special Report on Emissions Scenarios A1B (SRES A1B; late-twenty-first century) and phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5)/representative concentration pathway 4.5 (RCP4.5; early- and late-twenty-first century) scenarios are examined.

Whether the characteristics of tropical cyclones have changed or will change in a warming climate — and if so, how — has been the subject of considerable investigation, often with conflicting results. Large amplitude fluctuations in the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones greatly complicate both the detection of long-term trends and their attribution to rising levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Trend detection is further impeded by substantial limitations in the availability and quality of global historical records of tropical cyclones.

Using projected boundary conditions for the end of the twenty-first century, the frequency of Atlantic tropical cyclones and hurricanes in a regional climate model of the Atlantic basin is reduced compared with observed boundary conditions at the end of the twentieth century. This is inconsistent with the idea that higher levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases will result in increased Atlantic hurricane activity.