Warm Gulf of Mexico Waters could cause more spring storms


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Sea surface temperature difference from average. (WeatherBell.com)
Jake Slobe | April 17, 2017

This On The Radio segment discusses the abnormally warm temperature of the Gulf of Mexico this winter and the potential effect on springtime storms.

Gulf of Mexico waters have been exceptionally warm, which could mean explosive springtime storms.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

 This winter, the average sea surface temperature of the Gulf of Mexico never fell below 73 degrees for the first time on record.  Water temperatures at the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and near South Florida are on fire. The warm waters caused historically warm winter in the southern United States and could fuel intense thunderstorms in the spring throughout the southern and central U.S. While this relationship is far from absolute, scientists have found that when the Gulf of Mexico tends to be warmer than normal, there is more energy for severe storms and tornadoes to form than when the Gulf is cooler.

A study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in December found that the warmer the Gulf of Mexico sea surface temperatures, the more hail and tornadoes occur during March through May over the southern U.S.

The implications of the warm water for hurricane season are less clear. Warmer than normal water temperatures can make tropical storms and hurricanes more intense, but wind shear and atmospheric moisture levels often play more important roles in hurricane formation.

To learn more about the warm water temperatures and their effects, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

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