baltimoresun.com

« New hurricane forecast is in: a busy season ahead | Main | Whew! This was hottest first week in April on record »

April 9, 2010

Cool Gulf may be suppressing tornado season

The three-month stretch from January through March this year was the coldest such period on record for Florida, the second-coldest for Louisiana and the third-coldest for Mississippi and Alabama. The fact is, the Gulf of Mexico itself is colder  (yellow shows temperatures on top map; blue on the lower map shows departures below the average, while yellow shows departures above the average in the Atlantic) than normal this spring, and that may be why the spring tornado season - which is fueled in part by heat and humidity off the Gulf - has been so Sea surface temperaturesslow.

NOAA's National Climatic Data Center and the Storm Prediction Center said this week that the preliminary U.S. tornado count for March was just 36. That was a tie for the fourth-quietest March for tornado activity since they started keeping records in 1950. The three-year average for March tornados is 138.

On average, however, the contiguous 48 states were warmer and drier than average, NOAA says. Thirteen states had average March temperatures that ranked among their 10 warmest. Rhode Island had its warmest March ever. Maine had its second-warmest and New Hampshire had its third-warmest.

Dry weather was the rule in Michigan, which saw its driest January-to-March period ever. Wisconsin saw its fourth-driest while Montana and Wyoming had their sixth driest.NOAA

Big coastal storms brought parts of the mid-Atlantic and New England states wet weather and flooding in March. It was the wettest January-to-March on record for Massachusetts, Rhode Island (photo, right) and New Jersey. Delaware and Vermont saw their second- and fifth-wettest Marches on record.

And just so you know, mid-March ice cover on the Great Lakes (yes, they record such things) was at a record low, just 3.5 percent of the lakes' surface. The average ice extent for that period is 31 percent, according to records dating back to 1973.

(AP PHOTO/Joe Giblin)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:59 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Tornadoes
        

Comments

I'm confused. In your previous post you said the higher hurricane forecast was due to "unusually warm sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic". In this post, you have a picture showing that the Gulf of Mexico is cooler this spring.

Is there some reason to expect that the cooler water in the Gulf (which looks to me like it's part of the Atlantic Ocean) will warm up so that it will be warmer than normal? Is there a part of the Atlantic that is warmer than normal and other parts that are cooler than normal?

As I said, I'm confused.

FR: As I understand it, the warm surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic are part of a multi-decadal cycle that began in 1995. The cool surface temps in the Gulf - which is much smaller and shallower - are the result of cold weather across the South this winter. It will warm up quickly this summer. You can already see a tongue of warmer water in that satellite map, moving up into the Gulf between the Yucatan and Cuba.

Frank - Nice use of the SST graphics! A better one might be the SST anomaly graphic at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutsst.shtml

For much of the late winter and early spring (now), the northern Gulf of Mexico has been 2 to 4 degrees Celsius below normal, quite significant.

The SST anomaly map would help with the tropical question as well. Also, the GOM is like a big bathtub and will have no problem warming up. Many parts of the GOM see surface water temps near 90F come late summer, so even if it's a tad cooler than normal, there's still plenty of potential.

Keep up the good work with your blog.

FR: Thanks!

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff
-- ADVERTISEMENT --

Sign up for FREE weather alerts*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for weather text alerts
SKY NOTES WEATHER

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Maryland Weather Center


Area Weather Stations
Resources and Sun coverage
• Weather news

• Readers' photos

• Data from the The Sun's weather station

• 2011 stargazers' calendar

• Become a backyard astronomer in five simple steps

• Baltimore Weather Archive
Daily airport weather data for Baltimore from 1948 to today

• National Weather Service:
Sterling Forecast Office

• Capital Weather Gang:
Washington Post weather blog

• CoCoRaHS:
Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. Local observations by volunteers

• Weather Bug:
Webcams across the state

• National Data Buoy Center:
Weather and ocean data from bay and ocean buoys

• U.S. Drought Monitor:
Weekly maps of drought conditions in the U.S.

• USGS Earthquake Hazards Program:
Real-time data on earthquakes

• Water data:
From the USGS, Maryland

• National Hurricane Center

• Air Now:
Government site for air quality information

• NWS Climate Prediction Center:
Long-term and seasonal forecasts

• U.S. Climate at a Glance:
NOAA interactive site for past climate data, national, state and city

• Clear Sky Clock:
Clear sky alerts for stargazers

• NASA TV:
Watch NASA TV

• Hubblesite:
Home page for Hubble Space Telescope

• Heavens Above:
Everything for the backyard stargazer, tailored to your location

• NASA Eclipse Home Page:
Centuries of eclipse predictions

• Cruise Critic: Hurricane Zone:
Check to see how hurricanes may affect your cruise schedule

• Warming World:
NASA explains the science of climate change with articles, videos, “data visualizations,” and space-based imagery.

• What on Earth:
NASA blog on current research at the space agency.
Most Recent Comments
Blog updates
Recent updates to baltimoresun.com news blogs
 Subscribe to this feed
Charm City Current
Stay connected