The influence of an increased sea surface temperature (SST) on the frequency and intensity of cyclones over the North Atlantic is investigated using two data sets from simulations with the Rossby Centre regional climate model RCA3. The model domain comprises large parts of the North Atlantic and the adjacent continents. RCA3 is driven by reanalysis data for May to December 1985–2000 at the lateral and lower boundaries, using SST and lateral boundary temperatures. A realistic interannual variation in tropical storm and hurricane counts is simulated. In an idealized sensitivity experiment, SSTs and boundary condition temperatures at all levels are increased by 1 K to ensure that we can distinguish the SST from other factors influencing the development of cyclones. An increase in the count of strong hurricanes is simulated. There is not much change in the location of hurricanes. Generally weaker changes are seen in the extratropical region and for the less extreme events. Increases of 9% in the count of extratropical cyclones and 39% in the count of tropical cyclones with wind speeds of at least 18 m/s are found.