Can warmer than normal Gulf water temps increase our chance for severe weather?

Looking ahead to spring, it is possible that above average ocean warmth could influence our threat for strong storms

Can warmer than normal Gulf water temps increase our chance for severe weather?
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Montgomery just recorded its warmest March in history, breaking a 113-year-old record; a contributor to that is the very warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico that we are currently seeing.

Right now, sea surface temperatures range anywhere from 70° to 80°+, which is a good two to four degrees above normal. But how does this warmer than normal water temperature impact us here locally?

The hypothesis is that strong to severe thunderstorms in parts of the Deep South can be influence by the mild water. When temperatures are higher in the Gulf, there is more energy available for thunderstorms, hence you have an ample supply of moisture and instability needed for strong to severe storms to develop.

There also is a link between these warm Gulf of Mexico temperatures to more storms that are capable of producing tornadoes... data suggests this to be true in not only Alabama, but in Mississippi and other surrounding states in the Deep South during the springtime months (March through July). While it’s not a guarantee, but interaction of these warm waters with passing cold fronts can help trigger stronger, more robust storms.

Combine more heat, more moisture, more energy and you have a higher probability of producing storms that have the capability to cause impact because the ingredients are there to support a higher probability of strong and severe thunderstorms.

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