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Will Warmer Water Temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico Lead to More Severe Weather This Spring?

The answer: it might but there are lots of other factors.

The general idea is warmer water temperatures in the Gulf will lead to higher evaporation rates. This in turn will increase the humidity of the air above the water.

How many times have you heard the phrase “the return of Gulf moisture” when southerly winds blow for a few days and sure enough, the humidity increases. The warmer waters have a chance to “spike” this normal flow of moisture.

In theory, higher humidity leads to more energy release when it condenses back into water in thunderstorms and clouds. So thunderstorms would have stronger updrafts.

CREDIT: Cameron Nixon

Also, higher humidity could lead to heavier rain would in turn might increase the risk of flooding.

But the pattern set-up has to favor cloud and storm development. Flooding is greatly enhanced by slow moving or stalled weather systems.

Severe thunderstorms have certain patterns favorable to their development as well, most notably strong wind shear both through the depth of the atmosphere and near the surface.

Orange and Red are Above-Normal Water Temperatures.

For tornadoes, the near surface wind shear is important. One interesting possibly with increased low level humidity is increased tornado strength. Higher humidity can lead to lower severe thunderstorm cloud bases and this has been correlated with more violent tornadoes.

Although too early to tell, if the warmer waters persist, it could have an impact on any hurricanes or tropical systems which form or move into the Gulf of Mexico .

As I write this, the pattern is setting up for more storms in the Great Plains over the next week or two. Will everything come together? Only time will tell.

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