Originally published by The News-Press on March 9, 2023 by Chad Gillis

Gulf of Mexico water temperatures are running on the high side this year, which could trigger anything from afternoon thunderstorms to early animal migrations.

Various weather outlets say water temperatures are hovering around 80 degrees near Fort Myers Beach. That’s high for March, enough to lay the ground for a tropical storm with hurricane season still three months away.

“It is one of the factors in tropical development,” said Jennifer Hubbard, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Ruskin, which covers the Fort Myers-Cape Coral area. “You need water temperatures over 80 degrees. It’s one of the ingredients you need.”

That’s not to say that a tropical storm will be forming soon, although they have formed during every month of the year.

Calusa Waterkeeper Emeritus John Cassani said he worries the warmer waters may fuel storms later this year, and that the warmer temperatures will release nutrients along the coast.

“More intense storms, more frequent and longer lasting algae blooms,” Cassani said when asked what warmer weather during the winter and spring can mean to Southwest Florida. “One of the other things that can be important is as water temperatures increases, the amount of oxygen water holds goes down. So that can be an issue in some of the tidal creeks.”

Water temperatures likely won’t go down until next winter, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

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