SINT MAARTEN/CARIBBEAN – “This has been a winter of records across much of the United States. First and foremost, ocean water temperatures across the western Atlantic are currently the warmest on record, especially across the Gulf of Mexico,” according to Crown Weather.
“In addition, the ocean water temperatures across the Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic are the warmest start to a year on record. In addition to the very warm ocean water temperatures, the winter of 2016-17 is expected to be the warmest winter on record in places such as Houston and Miami.
“Bottom line is that the lack of any serious cold weather intrusions into the Gulf of Mexico and western Atlantic has led to a hot Gulf of Mexico and western Atlantic and this is concerning for not only the severe weather season, but it is also potentially concerning for the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
The reason why this is concerning for the severe weather season is because the warmer the water is in the Gulf of Mexico, the more moisture will be available to be pulled northward into any eastward moving troughs of low pressure. So, this marked increase in available unstable humid air could lead to an above average to perhaps even a much above average severe weather season from the Plains States eastward through the Midwest, southern and south-eastern United States as well as across the eastern United States.
“Obviously, the availability of very warm ocean waters in the Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic will not be enough to produce severe weather, it's just one of the ingredients. To produce the severe weather, troughs of low pressure with available energy will need to tap into this ocean water and in fact we are already starting to see this so far this season.
“The very warm ocean waters in the Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic are particularly concerning when looking forward towards the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season. If we continue to see these well above average ocean temperatures into June and July, then it could be very worrisome as it would give any developing tropical systems an added boost in intensity and development if the other environmental conditions are favorable for development.
“You see when we talk about potential tropical development during the hurricane season, we look at more than just ocean water temperatures, we also look at wind shear forecasts and any dry air outbreaks. So, even if there is plenty of very warm ocean waters across the Atlantic, if the other conditions are not favorable for development, then robust tropical development probably will not happen.
“The reason why I mention this is because there is the possibility for a El Nino to develop this summer during the height of the hurricane season. If we do see a El Nino develop, then it could lead to abnormally high wind shear values across the Atlantic. Should this happen, then it could lead to a below average hurricane season.
“With that said, I am not completely convinced that we are going to see this quick of a transition into El Nino conditions. Instead, it would not surprise me to see conditions peak later this summer as a weak El Nino rather than the moderate to strong El Nino some of the model guidance are forecasting.
“So, if we do see conditions go into a weak El Nino, then it could have little or no effect on the overall hurricane season. At this point, I still think that we may see 12-14 named storms, 5-7 of those storms becoming hurricanes and 2-3 of those hurricanes becoming major hurricanes during the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
“So, any storms pushing into the abnormally warm ocean waters in the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico this season could lead to a scenario of a rapidly intensifying tropical cyclone in the western Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. Finally, given the very warm ocean waters, it would not surprise me at all to see a May or June tropical system this year,” concludes Crown Weather.