Dominant climatic factors controlling the lifetime peak intensity of typhoons are determined from six decades of Pacific typhoon data. We find that upper ocean temperatures in the low-latitude northwestern Pacific (LLNWP) and sea surface temperatures in the central equatorial Pacific control the seasonal average lifetime peak intensity by
setting the rate and duration of typhoon intensification, respectively. An anomalously strong LLNWP upper ocean warming has favored increased intensification rates and led to unprecedentedly high average typhoon intensity during the recent global warming hiatus period, despite a reduction in intensification duration tied to the central
equatorial Pacific surface cooling. Continued LLNWP upper ocean warming as predicted under a moderate [that is, Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 4.5] climate change scenario is expected to further increase the average typhoon intensity by an additional 14% by 2100.