Led by oceanographer Anand Gnanadesikan, the study used computer
simulations to look for links between ocean color and strong tropical
cyclones—called hurricanes in the North Atlantic Ocean and the northeastern
Pacific and known as typhoons in the northwestern Pacific. "Our group develops
climate models," said Gnanadesikan, of the U.S. Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in
Princeton New Jersey. "One of my jobs is to try to make those more realistic.
"One way to make the models more realistic is to look more closely at
little-studied variables, such as ocean color.
In the North Pacific the
predominant color is green, thanks to an abundance of minute, chlorophyll-packed
plants called phytoplankton. By absorbing sunlight, the floating plants help
keep the ocean surface relatively warm. When there are fewer of them, the sun's
heat concentrates deeper down.