An investigation of mechanisms that drive compounding connections between tropical cyclones and marine heatwaves in the coastal ocean

Project Leader:Dr. Brian Dzwonkowski

Project Details

Primary Research Areas: The proposed project will investigate interactions between marine heatwaves, tropical cyclones, and climate modes, which addresses fundamental questions related to air-sea interaction and is directly related to a primary scientific goal of the NASA physical oceanography program by improving the ‘understanding of the ocean’s role in climate variability and its prediction’. Broadening the understanding of the role of the coastal ocean and its associated air-sea couplings in generating extreme events (i.e., marine heatwaves and tropical storm intensification) is critical information needed to improve modeling and prediction efforts. Thus, this project is consistent with areas of research emphasized by the program call which states that ‘understanding and modeling the state of the coupled ocean-atmosphere system are fundamental to climate studies’. The project findings will enhance the capacity to predict extreme conditions, a significant area of need for risk analysis and vulnerability assessments in coastal communities.


Upper ocean dynamics have long been recognized as critically coupled to tropical cyclone development, however very limited work has focused on shelf regions where such storm events are most likely to be significant marine hazards. In particular, a robust understanding of the coupled interactions between tropical cyclones and marine heatwaves in coastal regions is lacking. As such, the proposed project will use NASA satellite data, oceanic and atmospheric reanalysis products, and in situ observations of opportunity across the global coastal ocean to develop an enhanced understanding of compounding air-sea interactions that lead to marine heatwaves and their relationships with tropical cyclones. The proposed work will focus on the 40-year time period associated with satellite-era and be guided by the following objectives:

  • Objective #1 Investigate relationships between landfall storms and marine heatwaves with the goal of understanding potential predictive characteristics for continental shelf intensification
  • Objective #2 Improve the understanding of extreme events with a particular focus on identifying compounding processes that drive marine heatwaves on continental shelves.
  • Objective #3 Broaden the understanding of the climatological coupling between coastal marine heatwaves and tropical cyclones in order to better identify conditions conducive to the development of extreme events.
  • The objectives and associated analyses of the proposed project will build a synergetic understanding of the connections between two types of extreme events impacting the coastal ocean. As such, the findings will have significant implications for the coastal resiliency of both anthropogenic development and natural ecosystems. Being at the nexus of extreme events, tropical cyclone intensification, and marine heatwaves, the proposed project addresses topics of critical interest to a broad range of scientists, commercial and industrial stakeholders, policy makers, and the general public.