Hot Water and Weird Weather

January 29, 2016
Birth of a Tropical Storm

In the West the California rainy season just ended. It was dry with several grim records for drought.

In the East, the Atlantic Hurricane season looks like it might begin a month early. What connects both of these weird, warped seasons is hot water. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, the US is in hot water!

North America is surrounded by hot water and it’s creating weird weather.

The water temperatures are amazing. All of the waters area above normal and some temperatures are as much a 5°C (9°F) warmer than average. This is not surprising, given the fact we are in an El Niño, but when it is this hot, it creates very strange weather.

The California rainy season ends around the end of April, usually getting 95% of all the rain it will receive by that date. Hot temperatures off shore both blocked winter rainfall and evaporated any moisture that actually arrived. The heat strengthened the “Triple R” (Ridiculously Resilient Ridge or long lasting high atmospheric pressure) that blocked Pacific storms from hitting the West Coast. This Ridge or atmospheric High is usually present in summer (California’s dry season) but the hot waters have kept it off shore in winter for the past 4 years. As a result, the state’s snowpack, which normally delivers about of a third of the state’s water supply, is only 3% of normal!

The atmospheric HIGH or Ridiculously Resilient Ridge that is blocking Pacific storms from reaching California

Meanwhile, the waters off the East Coast are as hot as they usually are in June, meaning the temperatures are favorable for tropical storms. The tropical winds are being shaped by an El Niño, which means they are unfavorable for hurricane development. However, just north of these winds, the weather could create a tropical storm. Occasionally, if waters are hot enough, a rain storm can drift off into the Atlantic and heat up into a tropical storm. Experts are saying that that might happen in the first week of May. Even if it doesn’t, this summer the hot waters will energize any tropical storm that, like Hurricane Sandy, drifts north of the tropics.

Is this the birth of 2015’s first tropical storm or a false alarm? Source: NASA

When a person is in hot water, they are in trouble. Who knew that it is just as true for a continent!


About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to “Weather Whispers” by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these articles. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.