Erik Fraza and James B. Elsner

Physical Geography

Published date June 23, 2015

A climatological study of the effect of sea-surface temperature on North Atlantic hurricane intensification

  • Examines the climatic influence of sea-surface temperature (SST) on intensification for North Atlantic hurricanes by averaging hourly intensity increases from best-track data over the period 1986–2013 in 4° by 4° latitude–longitude grid cells
  • Averages independent monthly SST data over the same period in the same cells
  • Quantifies the SST effect on intensification at the climate scale (after removing cells with cold water or fast moving hurricanes) by regressing intensification onto SST while controlling for average intensity
  • Model shows a statistically significant relationship, with higher intensification values associated with higher SST values
  • Finds on average, mean intensification increases by 16% [(9, 20)% uncertainty interval] for every 1 °C increase in mean SST
  • Identifies a clustered region where the model underpredicts intensification is noted over the southeastern Caribbean Sea, perhaps related to the fresh water plume from the Orinoco River