Associate Professor David Nolan and postdoctoral researcher Eric Rappin of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science developed the new computer model for evaluating hurricane frequency and formation in present and future tropical climates.
The scientists said current computer simulations of global climate change represent the coarsest features of hurricanes, and thus might be in error.
Nolan and Rappin said they created a more precise computer model.
"We designed the computer simulations to show that as the ocean temperature increased, hurricanes would form more rapidly and easily, even in the presence of wind shear," said Nolan. "Instead, we got exactly the opposite result. As the water temperature increased, the effectiveness of the wind shear in suppressing hurricane formation actually became greater."
The simulations suggest that in a global warming world, there would be fewer hurricanes, but those that do form could become stronger.
The study that included Professor Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was reported in the July issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.