Monday, February 18, 2013

A Warm Atlantic Even Into February

The lack of winter until a few weeks ago has allowed the Atlantic Ocean to remain above average on its oceanic temperatures through the course of the winter by a few to several degrees depending on location.  Ocean temperatures off of the Jersey and Delaware coastlines are in the mid 30's to around 40 degrees, which is between two and five degrees above what is considered typical for the month of February.  While snapshot water temperatures can vary a bit, the overall trend is for ocean temperatures to be pretty mild on the whole.

Water temperatures farther out into the Atlantic are also pretty mild as well -- running anywhere from a few to several degrees above average along the Gulf Stream and just north of it.  A couple of abnormally warm eddies in the Western Atlantic are also fueling temperatures that are as high as ten degrees per satellite estimates to east of Cape Hatteras.

At the surface, this yields water temperatures around 70 degrees pumping along the Gulf Stream up to the east of Hatteras and the Virginia Beach area.  The Gulf Stream typically runs warm in the winter season, temperatures into the upper half of the 60's are typical and not out of the realm of normal.  Around 70 is a good bit warmer than average though (evidenced by the map above).  Oceanic warmth has fueled the two recent powerhouse storms that developed -- the blizzard that popped Long Island and New England the weekend before last and this weekend's recent explosive development of a storm.  The temperature contrast between a cold push from the continent, a trough aloft in the atmosphere and warm oceans will allow for explosive, dynamic storm development if there's energy tracking along in the right spot.

These warm waters, if they continue to remain warmer than average into the heart of hurricane season, could provide sustenance for tropical systems if they were pulled north and northwest towards the East Coast.   That part is several months out but the warm Atlantic, which has been rather warm since the mid 90's on the whole, continues to remain a trend that will likely continue into the coming summer.