Tropical cyclones intensify using heat from the ocean surface, so sea surface temperatures (SSTs) under the eye of the storm are critical to their development. However, pre-storm SSTs are poor predictors of tropical cyclone intensification in the Atlantic basin compared to the eastern and northwest Pacific.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory contributed to a study showing that SST does not have as much influence in the Atlantic as in the Pacific. They uncovered a combination of factors explaining why the relationship between SST and tropical cyclone intensification differs among ocean basins.
Sea surface temperatures are one of the most important predictors in statistical intensity prediction models, which consistently perform better in the Pacific compared to the Atlantic. The findings of this study could help improve statistical model predictions for the Atlantic.
Reference: G.R. Foltz, K. Balaguru, S. Hagos, "Interbasin Differences in the Relationship between SST and Tropical Cyclone Intensification." Monthly Weather Review 146(3), 853-870 (2018). [DOI: 10.1175/MWR-D-17-0155.1]