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Jump in, the water's fine!
Submitted by Tim Buckley on Wed, 08/18/2010 - 8:37am.
While we've mainly focused on the oppressive heat so far this summer, the incredible water temperatures up the East Coast are just as impressive. In fact, some temperatures in the Atlantic are downright unprecedented.
Let's start right here in our backyard, where Frying Pan Shoals is cooking up some deliciously warm water temperatures. If you're not familiar with Frying Pan - it's essentially an extension of the Cape Fear River. Where collections of sediment flowing out of the river make for exceptionally shallow waters. The National Data Buoy Center has maintained a buoy at the edge of Frying Pan since 1984.
Due to its location very near the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, Frying Pan Shoals is often one of the warmest buoys found off the shores of the Cape Fear Region. But this year - it's been even warmer.
Check out these numbers from the past week. On Tuesday the 17th, temperatures at the buoy hovered between 88 and 89 degrees during the afternoon, topping out at a whopping 89.2°F! While I won't call that bathwater (I hate that term) it's certainly delightfully warm for the Atlantic Ocean.
If you date back all the way to when the buoy was first installed, that temperature is warmer than 99.97% of the observations in the 227,000 hours of data! Anybody up for a swim?
Take a trip up the coast and the picture is even more dramatic. Places like the Long Island, Cape Cod, and the Jersey Shore (no I'm not talking about Snookie) are certainly not known for their warm waters - but this year it's been pleasant. Temperatures well into the 70's have been found as far north as Martha's Vineyard.
This chart of Sea Surface Temperatre Anomaly shows how much above, or below, normal the temperature is in the Atlantic. The biggest warm water spikes have been in the Northeast; where the water is as much as 2°C above normal. While it might not sound like much, that's a big deal for the ocean!
So what does this all mean? Well one thing's for sure. Beachgoers, vacationers, and chamber of commerce offices along the coast will be celebrating the warmer waters. One question that remains is what effect this will have on hurricanes.
Hurricanes thrive in waters that are warmer than 28°C, or 82°F. This year, the 28°C isotherm extends farther north and farther east than in a typical year. This leads meteorologists to believe, myself included, that should strong hurricanes develop - they'll be able to strengthen in different areas this year than they had in the past, meaning stronger storms. We'll see!
That's all for now. As always keep checking back right here on Buckley's Blog for fun facts and updates on the weather.
By: Tim Buckley