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Hurricanes Laura and Marco briefly “cool” the Gulf of Mexico

Parts of Gulf of Mexico now below average in terms of sea surface temperature

Below average temperatures (blue) are now showing up in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Laura (red line) moved across the Gulf of Mexico. Above average temperatures (orange) remain elsewhere in the Gulf.
Below average temperatures (blue) are now showing up in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Laura (red line) moved across the Gulf of Mexico. Above average temperatures (orange) remain elsewhere in the Gulf.

Orlando, Fla. – It’s no secret tropical systems need warm water to grow and thrive. Oftentimes, especially in cases of strong and/or slow-moving tropical systems, they can steal the energy for the next storm if it were to travel in the same general location.

This impacts Laura, and to a lesser degree Marco, have had on water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are now evident. Prior to those storms developing last week, most of the water in the Gulf of Mexico was running in the upper 80s to near 90 degrees.

In the areas especially where Laura traveled, water temperatures have dipped into the low-to-mid 80s!

Water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico. Temperatures have dropped in the areas where hurricanes Laura and Marco passed over due to upwelling.
Water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico. Temperatures have dropped in the areas where hurricanes Laura and Marco passed over due to upwelling.

Tropical systems typically want the water temperature to be 80 degrees or above for development. While the temperatures are still sufficient for tropical development in these parts of the Gulf, it’s not the jet fuel Laura had to work with as it rapidly strengthened on approach to the Louisiana coastline.

The large waves created by the strong winds of these systems help to bring up cooler water that resides beneath the surface of the ocean. The counterclockwise flow of these massive low pressure systems also displaces the water at the surface. Cooler water from below the surface then has to replace that water. This process is known as upwelling.

The drop in sea surface temperatures in the Gulf is just a short term change, but another impact of these monster storms.


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