On Monday, as much of the country warmed in bubbling heat, a sizzling milestone was reached: A buoy in Florida recorded a staggering 101.1 degrees Fahrenheit water temperature.
While the readings would have been considered a possible outlier or sensor error, the surrounding buoys recorded similarly high temperatures, with 99.3F at Murray Key and 98.4F at Johnson Key.
Another reason these water temperature readings are taken seriously is the fact that experts have been tracking exceptionally warm water temperature readings that have ranged from 92 to 97 degrees since early July.
For most of the month, an unusual weather pattern for the region’s summer months has been the driving factor. That pattern has featured a stagnant configuration fueled by a strong area of high pressure that has led to days of above-average and, in many cases, record-breaking air temperatures.
The pattern has also led to weaker-than-average trade winds. Trade winds generally produce southeasterly winds and a sea breeze for southern Florida, helping to keep sea surface temperatures in check. Instead, the winds have been from the westerly and weak, allowing the sea surface temperature to warm.
Still, despite a month of record water temperatures already in the history books, the 100-degree water temperature Sunday and Monday stunned experts.
Factors that could have played a role in the rise in water temperatures above 100 degrees include:
- Air temperatures in the mid 90s and above.
- Light winds across the region less than 10 mph.
- Intense sunlight hits shallow water, which warms faster than deep water.
- Silty water leads to a darker color, which causes more absorption of sunlight and additional heating. Think of clear water vs. cloudy water as similar to concrete vs. asphalt. The darker the color, the more absorption and the higher the temperatures.
Water temperatures recorded on Sunday and Monday would challenge the record for the world’s highest sea surface temperature. Although there are no official records of the world’s water temperature, a The temperature of 99.7 degrees recorded in Kuwait Bay is considered the world record at this time. Due to factors such as proximity to land and the silty nature of the water, recorded temperatures off Florida would have to go through an extensive verification process.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)Ocean warming since 1991 doubles the size of the marine heat wave predicted for September 2023.
According to the experimental forecast issued in June, 50 percent of the world’s oceans could experience heat wave conditions by September 2023.
The forecast system also estimates how large and intense heat waves are without the influence of global warming in the ocean over the past three decades. Without the warming effect, models predict that only 25 percent of the global ocean will be affected by heat waves in September.