CLEARWATER, Fla. — Refreshing or relaxing? Either way, the Gulf of Mexico water temperature at Clearwater Beach hit 90 degrees for the first time this year Monday afternoon.
Data shows the mercury crossed the 90-degree threshold just before 5:30 p.m. and climbed just a tad higher through sunset — the temperature is much higher than what's considered average, the upper 70s to low 80s.
As of this writing, the water temperature is around 87 degrees.
Gulf coast water temperatures usually push into bathwater territory — say 85-90 degrees — in July through September. Last year, the 90-degree mark at Clearwater Beach was hit in mid-June, so this is an even earlier start to the year to take a dip without a chill.
The 10 Tampa Bay weather team says water temperatures can be affected by several different variables, including solar radiation and the temperature difference between the water and its surrounding. The Gulf and ocean also have a higher heat capacity than land, meaning they can retain heat for a longer period of time. That's why you can still splash in the water and feel warm even at night.
But there's a major downside to high Gulf water temperatures: It's just one of the criteria for the development of tropical systems.
For hurricanes to form and sustain themselves, scientists generally agree that sea surface temperatures must be at least 80 degrees. Of course, we're already there.
Luckily, no new tropical development is expected anywhere across the Gulf and Atlantic basin during the next week, according to the National Hurricane Center.