Forecasters are warning that unusually warm sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico over the winter could spawn strong thunderstorms over the Gulf South this spring.
Eric Berger of Ars Technica reports that temperatures in the Gulf from Houston to Miami never fell below 73 degrees this winter for the first time on record.
FOX 8's chief meteorologist David Bernard says "when the Gulf is really hot, there's a lot more energy available and that's one of the important ingredients we need to get severe weather."
Bernard notes that increased tornado activity has been reported across the entire country this year, more than we've seen since 2008. "We are off to an active start and that hot Gulf water might be part of it," Bernard says.
The implications for the hurricane season which begins June 1 are less clear because wind shear and moisture levels in the atmosphere play important roles in the formation of hurricanes.
"The winter time temperatures in the Gulf do not correlate to more or less hurricane activity in the Gulf," Bernard says. "The Gulf is always hot in the summer so I don't think we can look at this and draw any conclusions for the hurricane season," he said.