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In most cyclone prediction models, sea surface temperature (SST) is the only oceanographic input, even though storms are known to be impacted by the thermal energy available through oceanic heat content, not just by SST alone. In the tropical Indian Ocean (TIO; 30° S -30° N, 30-120° E), there are no studies that examine the relationship between instantaneous cyclone intensity (CI) and SST as a function of time. Here, we explore that relationship using SST data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission Microwave Imager and CI data (maximum sustained winds) from the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre. We find that out of 75 TIO cyclones studied during 1998-2011, more than 50% of the cyclones have no significant correlation between CI and SST. The numbers having significant negative (positive) correlations are 31 (3), 13 (10), and 17 (14) with SST leading CI by one, two, and three days, respectively. These results demonstrate that SST is not a useful indicator of CI in the TIO.
Date of Publication: July 2013