Warmer water helps hurricanes develop

By Ros Runner - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – We are more than 2 months into what is expected to be a very busy 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. It's been quiet so far in the tropics, with only 3 named storms.

June 21 marks the Summer Solstice and a time when the sun's rays are most intense in the northern hemisphere. However, our warmest days don't come until later in July and early August.

It's because of what meteorologists call the "seasonal lag".

Tropical storms and hurricanes require warm ocean water to grow and develop, usually temperatures of 80 degrees or warmer. It takes time for that water to warm up through the spring and summer months. Think back to your first trip to the pool around Memorial Day weekend. It may have been 90 degrees outside, but the water...not so much. By Labor Day, it is a different story.

With the seasonal lag and the slow warming of the ocean, water temperatures are hitting their peak just as summer comes to a close.

On average we typically see only a few storms in June and July with a rapid increase in storm frequency through the month of August, the peak occurring on September 10. And we all remember Hurricane Isabel, which formed right at the peak of hurricane season, hitting Richmond on September 18, 2003.

So ocean water temperatures are still climbing, and La Nina is reducing the wind shear that could disrupt a storm's development. That means NOAA's forecast of 14-20 named storms is still within reach. Remember, it only takes one landfalling hurricane to make for a devastating season. 

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