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Record high ocean temperatures helped strengthen Hurricane Idalia

Meteorologists say the hot waters in the Gulf of Mexico helped Hurricane Idalia rapidly intensify. It's getting more common as the oceans warm.
Record high ocean temperatures helped strengthen Hurricane Idalia
Posted at 5:28 PM, Aug 30, 2023

Hurricane Idalia churned ashore as a strong Category 3 hurricane, with wind speeds of 125 mph — and meteorologists say hot waters in the Gulf of Mexico contributed to much of the storm's intensity.

Temperatures in the North Atlantic Ocean region, including the Gulf of Mexico, have set record highs for months this year. When Hurricane Idalia moved through, temperatures in the Gulf were among the highest that have ever been measured.

SEE MORE: In the eye of Hurricane Idalia: What doctors do during extreme weather

The heat from seawater is the primary fuel for tropical storms. When everything else is equal, the warmer the water, the stronger a storm can get.

Meteorologists say the storm rapidly intensified on Tuesday and Wednesday, a condition defined as gaining 30 knots or about 35 miles per hour of wind speed within a 24-hour time frame.

The storm peaked at Category 4 intensity early on Wednesday morning, and weakened only slightly to a Category 3 hurricane as it made landfall.

SEE MORE: Will Idalia join the long list of destructive "I" storms?

Continued greenhouse emissions directly contribute to increased sea surface temperatures like those in the Gulf.

As a result, it's likely that such temperatures will continue to affect storm formation, and we will likely continue to see the results in the coming months: Record-high ocean temperatures were a major factor in leading NOAA to revise its annual estimate of hurricane activity upward, predicting an increase in hurricane activity this season.

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