Sea surface temperature difference from average. (WeatherBell.com)
Water temperatures at the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and near South Florida are on fire. They spurred a historically warm winter from Houston to Miami and could fuel intense thunderstorms in the spring from the South to the Plains.
In the Gulf, the average sea surface temperature never fell below 73 degrees over the winter for the first time on record, reported Eric Berger of Ars Technica.
Galveston, Tex., has tied or broken an astonishing 33 record highs since Nov. 1, while neighboring Houston had its warmest winter on record. Both cities have witnessed precious few days with below-normal temperatures since late fall.
Average temperature rankings along the coast of the western Gulf of Mexico this winter. (Southeast Regional Climate Center)
More often than not, temperatures have averaged at least 10 degrees warmer than normal. “The consistency and persistence of the warmth was the defining element of this winter,” said Matt Lanza, a Houston-based meteorologist, who has closely tracked the region’s temperatures.
Warmer-than-normal weather is predicted to continue in Galveston and Houston, with afternoon temperatures of 80 to 85 degrees through the weekend (normal highs are in the mid-70s).
“A steamy Gulf has meant that any time winds blow out of the south, we’re not going to cool down that much overnight, and daytime temperatures can warm pretty quickly,” wrote Berger, who also pens the Houston weather blog Space City Weather.