Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Meteorology and Physical Oceanography (Marine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Brian J. Soden

Second Committee Member

David S. Nolan

Third Committee Member

Gabriel A. Vecchi


Considerable research has been done on the impacts of surface and atmospheric warming on hurricane intensity, however the changes in subsurface ocean temperatures and their impacts on tropical cyclone activity have received less attention. By examining the roles of both atmospheric and oceanic changes, a more complete understanding of the impact of climate change on hurricanes can be developed. Several studies have assumed that increases in ocean heat content will lead to stronger or more frequent hurricanes. However, changes in MPI are not necessarily determined by absolute changes in temperature, but by relative changes in temperature. Vecchi et al. (2008) show that the relative SST hypothesis is also consistent with theoretical expectations and numerical model simulations of the response of hurricane activity to a warming climate. However, these studies only considered the effects of changes in ocean surface temperature. The goal of the research is to investigate whether the relative warming hypothesis extends to subsurface ocean changes using a simple hurricane model coupled to a mixed layer ocean model. A simple axisymmetric model is used compute the numerical MPI of hurricanes with and without ocean mixing. Results indicate that the mean effect of the ocean, not changes in the subsurface ocean temperature profile, are the primary cause of the differing response of the coupled model calculations as compared to the atmosphere only simulations. The results indicate that parameter values that lead to stronger values of MPI in the base climate also result in a greater sensitivity to a warmer climate.


Hurricanes; Climate Change; MPI; Ocean Warming