A professor from my alma mater, Florida State University, has performed a statistical analysis in an effort to determine if the atmosphere determines the ocean temperature of if the ocean influences the atmosphere. His findings in a nutshell:
He found that average air temperatures during hurricane season between June and November were useful in predicting sea surface temperatures, but not the other way around."It appears that atmospheric warming comes before sea warming," he said, indicating that hurricane damage will be likely to continue increasing because of greenhouse warming.
How did he determine this?
Elsner looked at 135 years of records to examine the statistical connection between Atlantic sea surface temperatures and air temperatures near the sea surface, and then compared them to records of hurricane intensities.
Where does Elsner stand on the current dueling theories of global warming or normal ocean change?
Elsner described himself as "sympathetic" to the idea of human-induced global warming but said his research merely tried to determine whether there was a link between climate change and intense hurricanes."I think there are ocean currents that warm and cool the oceans," he said. "But it's not clear that kind of change is a multidecadal change and I'm not clear that there is a strong natural variability in the Atlantic."
I would need to read the entire scientific paper, but these are the small steps that science makes to either support or refute theories. And the theory that global warming is having an effect on the intensity of hurricanes is gaining. However, it is also true that today we have better tools to measure intensity of hurricanes. How do we know that the hurricane that wiped out the settlement at Pensacola wasn't as big as, say, Hurricane Ivan or Katrina?