Ken Clark

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The Atlantic and Pacific Tropical Waters in Great Contrast

June 18, 2014; 1:24 PM ET

One of the driving forces behind the formation of tropical storms and hurricanes is the ocean water temperature. You need warm water to feed a storm allowing it to grow. Cut off the warm-water source and the storm will die.

What we look for is how temperatures are in relation to what is normal. Warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures greatly increase the chance of development. Cooler-than-normal waters make it very hard to get a storm to develop.

So far in the Pacific Basin there has been three named storms, already two major hurricanes. In the Atlantic Basin, it has been very quiet. A look at the sea surface temperature anomalies across both basins show a tale of two totally different environments. Blue colors are cooler-than-normal waters and reds are warmer than normal.

Much of the Atlantic Basin has cooler-than-normal water temperatures right now. In contrast, temperatures are running much warmer than normal off of Mexico and parts of Central America. Notice in addition the well-above-normal water temperatures in the equatorial eastern Pacific from South America on west. This is associated with our ongoing El Nino.

Water is slow to absorb warmth as it takes a lot of heat to even slightly increase the temperature. So it would seem the Atlantic Basin would only have a relatively small area that could see development in the near future. But the Pacific is ripe for development. One reason we have had two major hurricanes already is directly related to how warm the waters are.

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The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or


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Ken Clark
Ken Clark's Western U.S. weather blog tackles daily weather events with commentary from one of the most experienced and trusted Western U.S. weather experts.