Beryl feasted on water at record temperatures. Here’s why this is important for Florida

Beryl feasted on water at record temperatures. Here’s why this is important for Florida

Beryl feasted on water at record temperatures. Here’s why this is important for Florida

Hurricane Beryl’s record strength for such an early-forming storm has raised alarm bells for scientists in the Atlantic Ocean, where waters are warmer than ever and show no signs of cooling.

Typically, the most intense hurricanes don’t arrive until late summer, but Beryl became the earliest Category 5 hurricane and the strongest July storm on record in Atlantic history. It was driven by ocean waters that were already “as warm as they would be at the peak of the season,” University of Miami researcher Brian McNoldy wrote on his blog.

Throughout 2024, especially in the tropics, the water has been historic warm. “Every two weeks this year have been the warmest North Atlantic on record, and that goes back to 1850,” said Matthew Rosencrans, lead hurricane season forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center.

Warmer water provides more fuel to tropical storms, helping them grow into major hurricanes.

The tropical Atlantic, the stretch east of the Caribbean where most hurricanes develop, is recording record highs for both sea surface temperatures and ocean heat content, a more robust, long-term measurement.

Average surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic, North Atlantic and Caribbean were more than 2 degrees above normal on Wednesday, based on the past three decades.

Just a couple of hours’ flight from Tampa, waters near Venezuela had reached 6 degrees above normal in mid-June.

In a small change, the Gulf of Mexico is no longer experiencing record temperatures, but is just above average. But the Gulf varies from week to week, McNoldy noted.

Scientists hope that cooling will not occur soon.

“Overall, the Atlantic continues to warm throughout the summer,” said Kim Wood, a meteorology professor at the University of Arizona. “So if it starts out warm early in the year, as it did in 2024, it’s unlikely to cool down during the summer months.”

For that reason, Tampa Bay must remain on alert.

“I think people in the Gulf and Florida should take Beryl as a good reminder to prepare for the season,” Rosencrans said.

Beryl follows in the footsteps of recent storms Ian and Idalia, which also quickly became major hurricanes.

When that happens, governments and local residents have less time to prepare or evacuate.

Scientists have found that climate change has made these rapid intensification events more common over time.

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