Nick Dunstone of the Met Office Hadley Centre in Exeter says a new analysis shows the incidence of storms falls when pollution rises and increases when pollution drops.
Pollution in the atmosphere can increase the brightness and lifetime of low-level marine clouds, Dunstone said, and adding this effect into climate models showed such clouds cooling the surface more than expected.
Cooling the north Atlantic reduces the energy available to create and sustain hurricanes, he said.
As a result, he said, changes in aerosol emissions appear to drive cyclical variations in north Atlantic tropical storms -- more pollution, fewer storms; less pollution, more storms.
If existing pollution controls are made even stricter, they "could reduce aerosols so quickly that we have record numbers of tropical storms for the next decade or two," Dunstone told NewScientist.com.