Florida Faces Rising Heat as Ocean Temperatures and Humidity Soar

by Michael Nguyen
Florida Heatwave

Florida is experiencing the severe impact of unprecedented global ocean heating.

Mid-90s water temperatures (in Fahrenheit, mid-30s in Celsius), significantly above average, are threatening Florida’s fragile coral ecosystems and exacerbating the state’s already stifling summer weather by negating the refreshing effect of a cooling swim. Meteorologists warn that the combined effect of heat and humidity could make temperatures feel like 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) by the end of the week.

As if this wasn’t enough, the air quality in Florida may also suffer due to an incoming dust storm from Africa’s Saharan desert.

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The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed on Monday that the globe experienced an unprecedented heatwave last week, with data supplied by Japan’s weather agency and daily unofficial records from the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer. Japan announced that last Friday’s global average temperature was half a degree Fahrenheit (0.3 degrees Celsius) above its previously hottest day on record in August 2016.

Meteorologists note that record high global sea surface temperatures have been consistent since April, with the North Atlantic experiencing extreme heat since mid-March. These trends have been linked to climate change and the increase in extreme, deadly events.

WMO’s director of climate services, Christopher Hewitt, warns, “We are in uncharted territory and we can expect more records to break. This is alarming news for our planet.”

Florida is now at the forefront of this issue.

On Monday evening, water temperature near Johnson Key was recorded at nearly 97 degrees Fahrenheit (36.1 degrees Celsius) according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) buoy. Another reading close to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius) was recorded near Vaca Key a day prior. These readings are approximately 5 degrees warmer than typical temperatures for this time of the year.

National Weather Service meteorologist Andrew Orrison described this as “incredible,” adding that the water’s warmth does not provide any relief from the heat. In much of Florida, the water temperature sits between 90 and 93 degrees Fahrenheit, which is considerably warmer than usual. Orrison explained that such high water temperatures increase humidity, adding to the discomfort for those outside.

Florida’s weather conditions are aggravated by the heat dome that has gripped Texas and Mexico for most of the early summer, brought on by sunny weather, lack of cooling clouds or rain, and humid conditions exacerbated by warm oceans.

Scientists caution that the persisting heat may not only last longer but may get even worse, with NOAA forecasting a heat index around 110 by the weekend.

The impact on the marine ecosystem is of particular concern to scientists. Retired NOAA coral reef scientist and member of the International Coral Reef Society, Mark Eakin, warns of the possibility of harmful coral bleaching due to heat stress. Liv Williamson, a scientist at the University of Miami’s Coral Reef Futures Lab, also reported early signs of bleaching from Belize and predicted a 90% chance of significant bleaching on many reefs globally.

In addition to the heat, Florida is also set to experience an influx of Sahara dust due to strong upper-level winds. This phenomenon typically leads to fewer afternoon rains, a staple of Florida summers, and enhances the beauty of sunrises and sunsets due to sunlight reflecting off dust particles.

Reporting was contributed by Terry Spencer from Hollywood Beach and Seth Borenstein from Washington. You can follow Seth Borenstein at @borenbears and Mike Schneider at @MikeSchneiderAP on Twitter.

For more coverage on climate and environment, visit https://bigbignews.net/climate-and-environment

Big Big News’ climate and environmental coverage is supported by several private foundations. More details on AP’s climate initiative can be found here. The AP holds full responsibility for all content.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Florida Heatwave

What is causing the oppressive heat in Florida?

The unprecedented rise in global ocean temperatures is causing the oppressive heat in Florida. This is being further exacerbated by a lack of cooling clouds or rain and the increase in humidity due to the warmer oceans.

How does the rise in ocean temperature affect the coral reefs?

The rise in ocean temperature threatens the fragile coral ecosystems, causing harmful coral bleaching due to heat stress. Extended exposure to these high temperatures can be fatal to the coral.

What is the Sahara dust phenomenon mentioned in the text?

Sahara dust refers to the plumes of dust particles from Africa’s Sahara Desert that can be blown across the Atlantic by strong upper-level winds. These dust plumes are expected to affect air quality in Florida and could lead to fewer afternoon rains, typical for Florida summers. On a positive note, they can enhance the beauty of sunrises and sunsets due to sunlight reflecting off dust particles.

What are the health concerns due to the current conditions in Florida?

The combined effect of extreme heat and humidity can make temperatures feel like 110 degrees Fahrenheit, which can lead to heat-related illnesses. Furthermore, incoming dust from the Sahara Desert may also hurt air quality, potentially affecting respiratory health.

More about Florida Heatwave

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SamTheMan July 11, 2023 - 9:17 am

Unbelievable, isn’t it time we take climate change seriously? our children will pay for our mistakes…

HeatHater July 11, 2023 - 5:43 pm

Can’t stand the heat here in Florida anymore, feels like living in a sauna. seriously considering moving north!

LindaW99 July 11, 2023 - 6:01 pm

What’s with the sahara dust?? i didnt know about this… air quality will be even worse now

Jerry_D July 11, 2023 - 9:26 pm

wow this is scary… the heat’s not just uncomfortable its a real threat to our planet 🙁

coral_lover July 12, 2023 - 4:49 am

Oh no, the coral reefs 🙁 They’re such beautiful and crucial ecosystems. We need to protect them!


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