Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Geography

Document Type



In recent decades, the scientific ability to project tropical cyclone (TC) intensities and tracks has improved. Hurricanes undergoing the process of rapid intensification (RI) have created new barriers in formulating predictions of TC paths and peak velocities. Current research suggests the warming climate may produce more intense TCs with a higher probability of undergoing RI during their life cycle. The increased likelihood of rapidly intensifying TCs necessitates the development of an RI climatology spanning the current North Atlantic record. A time series count analysis suggests a significant increasing trend of RI events in the Atlantic basin by 29.1% (17%–45%) from the years 1900 to 2017. Cluster analysis illustrates the onset of RI typically begins within the Western Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. RI storms reach their Lifetime maximum windspeed in the Gulf of Mexico most frequently. Quantile regression analysis suggests that the top 10% of RI storm intensities have a significant, positive relationship with SSTs within the GOM. Moran’s I corroborates these findings, suggesting environmental forcing from SSTs as opposed to a random spatial relationship. Choropleth maps highlight the northwestern and southeastern GOM as areas where storms frequently undergo RI or reach their LMI. Educational outreach to highschool students proved to increase students perceived knowledge and confidence in understanding the physical x dynamics of hurricanes, their hazards, climate change’s potential effect, and preparedness strategies. Students viewing the video presentations created by the initial class also showed improvement in their understanding of these subject areas. This research is necessary in order to find substantive trends in RI events that may aid future predictions of tropical cyclones as well as appropriate educational methods to increase understanding and empowerment of affected communities; thus, leading to the potential decrease of lives lost and the cost of damage that these storms are known to cause.



Committee Chair

Trepanier, Jill C.

Available for download on Monday, June 01, 2026