Abnormally Warm Gulf Waters – Higher Severe Weather Risk?

We are coming off the 6th warmest winter in Mobile and temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are ranging about 2-4° above normal. Do both of these items spell an increase in severe weather potential? Well the quick easy answer is yes and no, but let’s talk it out.

Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly

While warmer air can lead to an increase in instability, the thing that helps severe storms get going and sustain them, it doesn’t say for sure whether or not it will happen or not.





The way in which warm Gulf waters can contribute, is as air moves over the warm water of the Gulf, the air moving over the water will start to pick up some of the heat due to the water and as it’s pulled inland this may provide more fuel to a potential storm. The two main things warmer water contributes is air with a higher temperature and an increase in moisture.

Now while those are very important ingredients to severe weather, both of these aren’t the be all end all. You still need a lot more ingredients. Things like wind shear and things to get the air to rise, which can be aided by warmer water.

So while it may enhance severe weather, it’s almost impossible to say warmer Gulf waters and a warm winter will lead to an increased severe weather season.

I know what a lot of you are thinking? With the warmer waters in the Gulf of Mexico, will this impact hurricane season? We all know that warm water is necessary for tropical development, but like the development of severe weather a lot more goes into it than just warm water. Also, with the potential emergence of El Niño, this may inhibit some tropical activity, but like everything it only takes on severe storm or one hurricane to make it a bad season for you. We can’t emphasize enough, have a plan and always be ready!

Courtesy to meteorologist Jason Beaman & The National Weather Service in Mobile, AL.

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