Hurricane Development Region Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies as We Start the 2014 Season


Even if the sea surface temperature anomalies were to remain depressed throughout the 2014 hurricane season (highly unlikely), the actual sea surface temperatures (absolute) from June to November will rise to values capable of spawning hurricanes…a result of the normal seasonal change in surface temperatures.  And while El Niño conditions in the Pacific tend to suppress hurricane development by effectively chopping the tops off the developing hurricanes (the result of wind shear in the tropical North Atlantic caused by the El Niño), hurricanes can still form and will likely do so this season.


There are many factors that contribute to hurricane development; one is seasonally elevated sea surface temperature in the tropical North Atlantic.

The hurricane season is approaching fast. With an El Niño developing, it’s likely the predictions for 2014 will be below normal for the season.  Of course, the hurricane season will bring alarmist claims of strengthening storms brought on by higher-than-normal sea surface temperatures—the result of manmade global warming—even though, as Roger Pielke, Jr. reminds us, we’re in the longest drought of Category 3, 4 and 5 storms on record.

So let’s take a look at current sea surface temperature anomalies for the Main Development Region (10N-20N, 80W-20W) and the Gulf of Mexico (21N-31N, 98W-81W) as we head into the early part of the season. And we’ll look at data over three time periods: (1) since January 1854, using NOAA’s Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature data (ERSST.v3b), (2) since November 1981, with NOAA’s monthly satellite-enhanced Optimum Interpolation Sea Surface Temperature data (Reynolds OI.v2) and (3) since January 1990, using the weekly Reynolds OI.v2 data.  To highlight the current values, they are shown as horizontal red lines in each graph. Anomalies are referenced to the period of 1971-2000, which NOAA uses for their Reynolds OI.v2 data.


The NOAA ERSST.v3b data start in January 1854.  Keep in mind, though, that there is less source data for the early periods.  For the Main Development Region, April 2014 sea surface temperature anomalies are only 0.11 deg C above the 1971-2000 reference temperatures, while the sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are just below “normal”, according to the reconstruction.  See Figures 1 and 2.

Figure 1 ERSST MDR

Figure 1

# # # # # #

Figure 2 ERSST Gulf

Figure 2


The satellite-enhanced Reynolds OI.v2 sea surface temperature data has a much higher resolution than the ERSST.v3b reconstruction, the latter of which only uses data from buoys and ship inlets.  As shown in Figures 3 and 4, the sea surface temperature anomalies for the Main Development Region are effectively “zero”, while in the Gulf of Mexico they’re about -0.1 deg C…that is they’re below the 1971-2000 average.

Figure 3 Reynolds Monthly MDR

Figure 3

# # # # # #

Figure 4 Reynolds Monthly Gulf

Figure 4


The weekly satellite-enhanced Reynolds OI.v2 data had showed a slight rebound in recent weeks for the Main Development Region but dropped again last week, while in the Gulf, sea surface temperatures continue to cool. See Figure 5 and 6.

Figure 5 Reynolds Weekly MDR

Figure 5

# # # # # #

Figure 6 Reynolds Weekly Gulf

Figure 6


If and when we have a hurricane or two develop in the months to come, I’ll update the graphs. You’ll likely want some up-to-date graphs to counter the alarmist nonsense.  And I’ll include the data for the extratropical coastal waters of the east coast, Sandy’s storm track, since people find it of interest.  (See the posts here and here.)


The NOAA ERSST.v3b data are available through the KNMI Climate Explorer and the NOAA Reynolds OI.v2 data are available through the NOAA NOMADS website.

About Bob Tisdale

Research interest: the long-term aftereffects of El Niño and La Nina events on global sea surface temperature and ocean heat content. Author of the ebook Who Turned on the Heat? and regular contributor at WattsUpWithThat.
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4 Responses to Hurricane Development Region Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies as We Start the 2014 Season

  1. Thanks, Bob. As June gets closer the interest in the Atlantic Hurricane season rises, it is good to have a look at the staging area.

    The Tropical Meteorology Project
    (Dr. Philip J. Klotzbach, Dr. William M. Gray. Colorado State University – CSU)
    Extended Range Forecast of Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Activity and Landfall Strike Probability for 2014 (.pdf, April 10 ’14):

    We anticipate that the 2014 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have below-average activity compared with the 1981-2010 climatology. It appears quite likely that an El Niño of at least moderate strength will develop this summer and fall. In addition, the tropical Atlantic has anomalously cooled over the past few months. We anticipate a below-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and in the Caribbean.


  2. Bill Hudson says:

    Bob, your post on El Nino conditions and hurricane development was very instructive, in the same way that most of your pieces are — displaying all the relevant relationships by charts and enabling our minds to grapple with the correlations and possible causalities “bare-handed,” without the academic insistence on statistical “T-tests, etc.” to (supposedly) guide us safely into counterfactual forecasting. I read all of your posts, and I know that recently you are making great progress in uncovering/explaining natural causes of climate change vs. anthropogenic, but I want to urge you once again to look at crop teleconnections. “Teleconnections” is one of those words that, linguistically, promises more than the human mind can actually deliver. Nonetheless, as I have mentioned previously, your mounting experience with the graphical approach to El Nino/La Nina is qualifying you to make important contributions to a critical area of teleconnections, namely to world and especially US crop yield forecasting. If you focus on this a bit, I think you’ll develop a following that could amount to serious money. In the case of the “grand-daddy” of all crops, US corn, the first desideratum in grain risk management is to be able to rule out this year as a potential disaster. In the satellite era, the disasters have been 1983, 1988, 1993, and 2012. The crop of 1983 (hot-dry corn belt) was at the tail-end of the 82-83 El Nino/La Nina event. The crop of 1988 (hot-dry corn belt) was associated with a La Nina. The crop of 1993 (flood) was ENSO-neutral, I think. And the crop of 2012 (hot-dry corn belt) was also ENSO neutral, I think. I’m not sure of these characterizations like “ENSO neutral,” and that’s my problem — that’s where you would be able to assemble all the known factors that matter. I would be pleased to send you my files of crop data and my own charting if you wish. Keep this in mind: The US has 5% of the world’s population but over 25% of the world’s feed grain/oilseed production capacity. At some point, if natural processes lead to worse crop weather worldwide, then our country’s politicians may finally realize what the USA’s true contribution is to “world food security,” and wise up to our role in exporting our absolute resource advantage to others. So, in my view, if you succeed in your work on natural causation, you will ultimately come around to needing to focus on the teleconnections already of vital interest to the grain world. Bill

  3. Pingback: Hurricane Development Region Sea Surface Temperature Update – August 2014 | Bob Tisdale – Climate Observations

  4. Pingback: Hurricane Development Region Sea Surface Temperature Update – August 2014 | Watts Up With That?

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