Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Wood, Kimberly

Committee Member

Dyer, Jamie

Committee Member

Mercer, Andrew

Date of Degree


Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Open Access


Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Geosciences


Decades of research have fostered a greater understanding of the environmental controls that drive tropical cyclone (TC) intensity change, yet the community has achieved only small improvements in intensity forecasting. Numerous environmental factors impact TC intensity, such as vertical wind shear and sea surface temperatures (SSTs), but little research has focused on establishing if SST change under the TC, or SST gradients, influence these intensity changes. This study investigated three methods to compute SST gradients. The first method calculated the SST change within fixed distances along the track. In the second and third methods, the SST was calculated over the distance traversed by the TC in two separate six-hour periods. By examining 455 24-hour weakening episodes in the eastern North Pacific, this study revealed that the first SST gradient method explained the highest 24-hour weakening variance for TCs located within SSTs at or lower than 26.5 degrees C.