June 19, 2018
Web Feature

Oceanic Divide Factors Into Tropical Cyclone Strength

Sea surface temperatures have less influence on tropical cyclone intensification in the Atlantic than in the Pacific

The schematic shows the strength of the relationship between tropical cyclone intensification rate and pre-storm SST.

The Science

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.

The Impact

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]

Key Capabilities

Published: June 19, 2018

Research Team

Gregory R. Foltz, NOAA/Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory
Karthik Balaguru and Samson Hagos, PNNL