Florida’s hot oceans are strengthening Hurricane Idalia
Hurricane Idalia made landfall in the U.S. state of Florida on Wednesday. Unusually high temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico have strengthened the Category 4 hurricane, which has prompted mass evacuations and is expected to flood low-lying areas.
The extreme ocean temperatures recorded around Florida this summer are leading to the rapid intensification of hurricanes. The Gulf of Mexico isn't just recording hot surface temperatures: Deeper water is also hot, which provides fuel for storms. If a hurricane approaching land increases its wind speeds by 35 miles per hour or more in a 24-hour period, it has hit rapid intensification — and that can be a huge risk for people in its path, who may not be expecting such a a strong storm.• 1
Scientific American, Hurricane Idalia Is Turning into a Monster Storm because of Heat in Gulf of Mexico
Idalia may break a record for how rapidly it intensified. Speaking to the Associated Press, MIT professor Kerry Emanuel said that there are few places on Earth so ripe for feeding a storm as the Gulf of Mexico is right now. Both human-caused climate change and El Niño, a weather phenomenon that impacts ocean temperatures and weather patterns, are increasing the temperatures of the oceans this year.• 2
Tropical Storm Franklin is also raging off the southeastern coast of the U.S. That storm has been downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane to a tropical storm, but it continues to threaten Bermuda.• 3 That both Franklin and Idalia have reached Category 4 so early in the hurricane season is significant: Meteorologist Philip Klotzbach posted on social media platform X Wednesday that only six other years — 1933, 1958, 1999, 2004, 2005, and 2010 — have seen two storms hit Category 4 by Aug. 30.• 4