According to a recent news release from NASA’s Earth Observatory site (http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/), a link between changes in the temperature of the surface of the sea and increases in hurricane activity in the North Atlantic has been quantified for the first time. The release cites research by scientists at University College London (UCL) that shows that a 0.5 degree Celsius increase in sea surface temperature can be associated with an approximately 40 percent increase in hurricane activity. The research focused on storms in the tropical North Atlantic, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, where close to 90 percent of the hurricanes that reached the United States between 1950 and 2005 were produced.
The study was conducted by Professor Mark Saunders and Dr. Adam Lea of the Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre and the UCL Tropical Storm Risk forecasting venture. Professor Saunders, the lead author of the study, explained, "We created a statistical model based on two environmental variables – local sea surface temperature and an atmospheric wind field - which replicated 75-80 percent of the variance in tropical Atlantic hurricane activity and frequency between 1965 and 2005. By removing the influence of winds from the model we were able to assess the contribution of sea surface temperature and found that it has a large effect." More information on the study is available at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/media/library/AtlanticHurricanesFINAL