The power dissipation of Atlantic tropical cyclones has risen dramatically during the last decades and the increase is correlated with an increase in the underlying sea surface temperature (SST) at low (decadal) frequencies. Because of the large positive correlation between global mean surface air temperature (GT) and Atlantic SST it has been speculated that increases in the power dissipation might, in part, be related to human activity. Here we investigate the question of the relationship between GT and hurricane power dissipation directly using statistical analysis and show that after removing the effect of SST, the correlation between GT and hurricane power dissipation is negative. This suggests that the positive influence of global temperature on Atlantic hurricanes appears to be limited to an indirect connection with tropical Atlantic SST. We also show that the relationship between hurricane power dissipation and Atlantic SST is significant at the high-frequency time scales. El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) plays an important role in statistically explaining the variations in hurricane power at these higher frequencies.

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Department of Geography, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

Atmospheric Sciences Group, Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin