Weather Education
March 24, 2012

Weather Education Episode #2: How Do Large Bodies Of Water Impact The Weather?

Red Orbit Meteorologist Joshua Kelly

The importance of water and how it affects the weather and forecasting, as well as climate impacts

Region 1–West Coast/Pacific Ocean:  The Pacific Ocean brings cool waters along Washington, Oregon and California, which helps to keep summers mostly cool and winters relatively warm.

A big area of high pressure is found in the Pacific which forces weather patterns to move toward Washington and Oregon, bringing above average rainfall and snow to the region most of the year. This weather pattern usually stays north of California, which keeps the Golden State mainly arid.

The cooler waters of the coast of California often create a Marine Fog Layer that can prolong well into the afternoon before diminishing.

Region 2–Southern US/Gulf of Mexico: The Gulf waters stay warm throughout much of the year and play a huge role in the weather of the US Gulf states. These warmer waters have the right conditions for severe weather to pick up in the early spring and late fall.

During the summer months, the waters of the Gulf create what is known as the Land/Sea Breeze Effect over the Gulf States. During the summer, these waters can warm into the 80s and 90s keeping it warm and humid through much of the Gulf summer. The Gulf waters are also breeding grounds for some of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the US.

Region 3–Eastern Seaboard/Atlantic Ocean: In this region we find a warm ocean current known as the Gulf Stream. This current plays an important role in forming strong low pressures for the East Coast that can translate into major snowstorms during the winter months.

This warmer ocean current also keeps the waters warmer later into the winter, prolonging the time it takes for the ocean temps to fall. Hurricanes in this region tend to follow the Gulf Stream northward, often making landfall on or near Cape Hatteras, NC, as has been seen many times in the past.

Region 4–The Great Lakes: The Great Lakes play a huge role in weather patterns across the northern US, especially in winter before the lakes freeze over. The warmer lakes fuel can lead to major snowstorms often referred to as Lake Effect Snow. Cities like Buffalo, NY can sometimes pick up snow measuring in feet due to this snow-belt.

During the summer, these lakes can also form a Land/Sea Breeze Effect similar to the one that forms in the Gulf.