Checking in on SSTs

Sea Surface Temperatures, and anomaly from climatic averages. Source: NOAA.

Sure looks to these amateur eyes like a pattern is building up of a hot Gulf and hot tropics that would support more Ivan/Katrina/Rita type hurricane paths. If it persists, and if the temperature anomalies run deep enough.

Here's an animation of the last 12 weeks:

Weekly Sea Surface Temperature and Anomalies

12 week animation of Sea Surface Temperatures, and anomaly from climatic averages. Source: NOAA.

Note that most of the East Coast is protected by a coastal cold anomaly. It's that great big bulls-eye poised amongst the US's GoM oil production that's at issue...

Is it just me, or does it rather look like the Gulf Stream is less warm as it heads into the Atlantic than usual?

Also, if you missed it, RealClimate butchered William Gray recently. The small pieces of him that they left scattered across the floor almost turned my stomach.

Update [2006-4-28 11:16:36 by Stuart Staniford]: Here's paired images of Gulf of Mexico SSTs yesterday (bottom), and at the same time last year (above). That doesn't look so good, does it? (Hat tip to Ben for the link). Note that the color scales are not identical, so the effect is not as large as it looks, but it's still pretty significant.

Sea Surface Temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, this year and last. Source: Rutgers University..

Sorry to be dumb here.

I'm not really sure what I'm looking at.

Correct me if wrong.

The top graphic is the actual sea temps right now and the bottom is the difference from normal.  So the temp in the GOM is 2-3 degrees above normal and -2 to -3 degrees below normal off of Peru, which would mean La nina is still running strong.

If this is the correct way to read it, it would also appear that the area off of SoCal is a degree warmer, which might explain why so many "spinning things" (not sure what they are mini-tropical storms?) are forming there, which I have never witnessed before.

Yes - your reading matches mine.
It means "batten down the hatches".

Poor William Gray may have been dismembered, but he has forecast an above average hurricane season.


1) Entire U.S. coastline - 81% (average for last century is 52%)

2) U.S. East Coast Including Peninsula Florida - 64% (average for last century is 31%)

3) Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville - 47% (average for last century is 30%)

4) Above-average major hurricane landfall risk in the Caribbean

From here.
NOAA predicts and 95 to 100% chance of above normal hurricane conditions.

That's an August 2005 statement and not related to the 2006 hurricane season.
Ah PG, Did you notice the date?
Hello Stuart,

Excellent job! I have been periodically checking these charts myself.  I am no meteorologist, but if the Gulf Stream is not flowing as strongly as usual up the East Coast, then the GoM should be heating up more than normal-- which might explain the big red bullseye anomaly.  Any idea on how this affects the spinning off of those monster eddies from the Loop Current?

What worries me is if the GoM can actually get hot enough to spin up the birth of its own hurricanes--this would make it very difficult to shut down the oil ops in time to prevent an environmental castastrophe and/or safely evacuate the oil-workers, fishermen, shippers, and prepare land-based evacuations. A hurricane started near the Yucatan Strait could hit the hotspot of the Loop Current, then quickly grow to major status [Cat3-5] before hitting land a day or two later.  If it comes ashore before starting its eyewall replacement cycle-- it is at full force with a very tight eyewall.

Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Well, then we should just evacuate the gulf oil platforms for the summer as a precaution.
Hello Don in Colorado,

Thxs for responding.  Yes, if it gets really bad in the GoM, we can send the oilworkers to look for oil in the offshore Artic-- see this shocking chart of how ice-free it is becoming:

I often wonder if the effects from Global Warming will accelerate faster and create more problems for us than Peakoil.  Consider this next link where scientists have now discovered huge rivers running underneath Antarctic glacial icecaps.
British scientists have discovered rivers the size of the Thames in London flowing hundreds of miles under the Antarctica ice shelf by examining small changes in elevation, observed by ESA's ERS-2 satellite, in the surface of the oldest, thickest ice in the region, according to an article published in Nature this week.

The finding, which came as a great surprise to the scientists, challenges the widely held assumption that subglacial lakes evolved in isolated conditions for several millions of years and raises the possibility that large floods of water from deep within the ice's interior may have generated huge floods that reached the ocean in the past and may do so again.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Yeah, Bob, I've read about the under-ice rivers and the sub-glacial lakes that might flood into some place -- like the gulf stream in the Atlantic -- turning places like Britain into Lapland.

At this point, all I think you can do is watch in horror ... I don't think TPTB are thinking earth marines and everybody up here is still driving Dodge RAM diesels and swearing at the oil companies ...

Howdy Bob,
love your writings.  I've been thinking about this lately.  When you say "what will create more problems for 'us ', PO or GCC?  Well, ask someone from NO, or a pacific islander.  I think the effects will be uneven.  If you live in cyclone/hurricane country and aren't really part of the oil economy, then its climate change.  Or a nomadic ice-hunter - they're experiencing TEOTWA They KI - RIGHT NOW.  If you live in suburban USA and drive an SUV, climate change is minor, for now, but not PO.  And if you're a rich bastard with a big secure compound, you won't feel either in your lifetime.
Hello Got2Surf,

Excellent point!  I fear the Phx leaders are ignorantly synchronizing both dire effects to hit the Valley of the Sun at the same time.  The recent addition of 500,000 new commuters adds to the Asphalt Wonderland of Sprawl and the heat island effects, and the continuing drought will eventually make it a dead-even price race between a gallon of water and a gallon of gasoline.  Kunstler and Jay Hanson have warned for years that the Southwest US is doomed postPeak. Oh, joy!  =(

Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Ice under the pressure of a mile or two of glacier can melt at temps as low as -20F.
Hello Tom Deplume,

Thxs for the addition of more good news! =(

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Hello Stuart,

Just a quick unscientific question on your latest update charts:  Does it now look like the Loop Current has expanded into a giant swirl that encompasses the entire southwest section of the GoM?  The piling up of all that hot water would explain why the east coast Gulf Stream is currently running so cold.  Recall that the Mars Platform had to delay some repairs because some Loop Current eddies made underwater work too dangerous.

Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

If everyone were to look at the Current weather maps.  You will see a stationary heat blob, producting cloud and wind patterns that looks like it is using the heat of the gulf as a fuel source.  It is very windy where I am in Northern Alabama,  And the weather looks like rain for the next several days.  Several systems have cruised over the high plains and they all look like Hurricane remanents,  Its kinda odd looking.  

Then again the weather has been pleasant and not having a working AC this has been great so far.

I move to a cooler Climate soon, so I won't care so much about the Hurricanes, Just more tornados.

Saw "Global Dimming" on PBS TV last night. Really scary.

According to the Global Dimming theory, particulate pollution is actually keeping GW at bay and when the particulates are pulled out of the air, we will really fry under the CO2. Not exactly happy news. I wish there was happy news again.

step back-

Hey, no problemo!

Just disconnect the electrostatic precipitators on all the coal-fired power plants for a couple of months out of the year, or as required.

And if that isn't enough, we can outfit our aging fleet of B-52 bombers to spray thousands of tons of finely divided carbon black into the stratosphere.

Of course, if we overshoot the mark and cause another ice age, we can always burn some extra fossil fuel to get that CO2 back up to where it can do some good.

And who said all pollution is bad!

I've read this book, I think its called "Toxic sludge is good for you!" ;)
Things are not as simple as the global dimming program would have us believe.  While increased atmospheric dust reduces incoming solar radiation and adds to the number of cloud condensation nuclei, there is a flip side to cloudiness.  The earth radiates long wave radiation, the principal way in which it loses heat to space.  Clouds reflect this radiation back, helping to keep heat in and thus raising the earth's temperature above what it would be in the absence of clouds. In a study of the effects of small particles in the atmosphere near Barrow, Alaska,  Garret and Zhou recently wrote

We show that, where thin water clouds and pollution are coincident, there is an increase in cloud longwave emissivity resulting from elevated haze levels. This results in an estimated surface warming under cloudy skies of between 3.3 and 5.2 W m-2 or 1 and 1.6 °C. Arctic climate is closely tied to cloud longwave emission, but feedback mechanisms in the system are complex and the actual climate response to the described sensitivity remains to be evaluated.

Thanks for the additional insight.

For those that did not see the show: Bottom line is that particulate matter from pollution has an amplifying effect when it interacts with clouds. Tiny microdroplets of water collect or nucleate around each particle of pollution, i.e. fly ash from coal fired plants. Cloud reflectivity is a function of the size and number of such drops. Many small microdrops appears to increase reflectivity and thus increase global dimming. As Prosena notes: the mechanisms are complex and not yet well understood.

The focus of the program and the Indian Ocean study it described was cloud albedo.  Scattering incoming solar radiation back into space is a much more important factor in the energy budget.  Also, it is the high altitude clouds such as cirrus that are effective as heat traps while mid level and low altitude clouds are net sources of infrared radiation away from the surface.  The study you cite doesn't contradict anything in the current understanding of cloud radiative properties.  On the other hand the recognition of the role of pollution in cloud dynamics has been a paradigm shift.  
Can we extrapolate to the Hurricane Season from such an early analysis?

The same happend last year?

Unfortunately, I couldn't find equivalent data from last year.

You can find same-period-last-year data at two places; first (and easiest) is:

Once there, click on the SST Anomalies button, which gives you a choice of various 5-day intervals for each of several years.  I suggest the night-time data, which is less likely to exhibit transient daytime heating effects.

Second place, if you want longer term averages less prone to transient noise, is at:

This is a sort of roll-your-own data shop for satellite data.

I suggest using monthly aggregations of SST Anomaly data from Reynolds/NCEP.  You can run off a couple years' worth "while you wait", unless TOD crowd bogs it down too much.

As for the area to look at, the default box shown there is not bad, but I like to look a bit further east as well.

If you do that, you'll see that:

(1) GoM SST anomalies have been greater, (2006>2005) year-over-year, consistently since at least Jan 2006.

(2) Temps to the east of the Antilles are a bit cooler YOY now than 2005.

I think this may be because the trade winds are either driving less warm surface water toward eastern Atlantic, or maybe even beginning to drive warm surface waters into GoM.

Les Lambert

Just found this story on USA Today web site. Strapped insurers flee coastal areas.

Basically, it seems the state of play is that left off from the end of last year. Insurers refusing to insure coastal homes, even including New York City and Long Island. Could this be the beginning of the end of coastal communities along the Gulf and Eastern Seaboards? How will Florida cope if it gets hit by a couple of big hurricanes this year (more than likely I would think)? I don't know how rich Florida is but it could become a very poor state in a decade's time if Cat 4 and 5 hurricanes keep on pummelling it each season and the state has to pay out on house insurance policies.

Hello Rover Man,

It is no wonder the Ins. Cos. are bailing on their customers:
Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said that officials must plan for the worst.

"We could say, the 2006 hurricane season can't be worse than last year, but I'm here to convince you it can," Mayfield said. "All it takes is for one major storm to hit one community."

He stressed that the most vulnerable people during the next hurricane season will be the 100,000 victims of previous hurricanes still living in temporary housing.
Mayfield was speaking to federal, state and emergency officials in Orlando, Fla. attending the National Hurricane Conference.

Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Yes, your point is excellent about those being hit by the last hurricane are often even more vulnerble the next time. Here's an example from my community:

I live in a flood prone area along the Ohio river.  A couple people I know had their home ruined by floods in 2004.  The US Army corps of Engineers predicted a 35' flood which got broadcast over the news the night that the remnants of Ivan tore through here but 12 hours later the water crested at 44.97 feet.  The undercalled it by 10'.  People went to bed thinking they were ok and went downstairs in the morning to discover the first floor was 3' under water.  OOPS! but the US Corp's underfuning by Washington is a different story.  ANyway, FEMa put a lot of people into nice trailers at a value of $40k each.  4 months later we had another flood.  People in these trailers called FEMA and said will you please send a tow truck to move our trailers up the hill to avoid this flood (the US corps learned a lesson and predicted this one very well in advance).  FEMA would not spend $100 for a tow truck to move these trailers 100' and out of the flood, so they got ruined too and a bunch of people went homeless.

Is it just me, or does it rather look like the Gulf Stream is less warm as it heads into the Atlantic than usual?

My feeling from the UK is that this winter has been colder than the recent average and almost returning to the norms to the 1980's.I have had a suspicion that the Gulf Stream is beginning to fail noticeably since February when it was going to get colder than normal. The Gulf Stream is something like 40% down on water flows since the 1960's. Nobody knows at what flow rate it will stop (41%, 60%, 90%??) and Western Europe will cool down. Perhaps we have reached the critical point last year, and any further decreases in Gulf Stream flows will now show up in cooler winters, such as the one we have just had.

How long it will take to show up in colder winters, I don't know (a decade, 3 decades?), but I feel we are witnessing the start of a cooling period in Europe. I think it will take a decade to show temperature patterns changing, and one colder winter than the recent high averages is certainly no cause for alarm. Of course, next winter will be warmer than this one.

I really did not read your post before I typed mine!
Don't think so. This winter, cold air just got trapped over NW Eurasia, hot air over N America. Canada and the US midwest were exceptionally warm. Pattern fluctuation, not trend change. Overall, the N Hemisphere land areas showed close to record breaking heat in every month but January.
A source:
Furthermore, the unprecedented area of open sea around Spitsbergen, Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya (unprecedented for this time of year I mean) hradly suggests a weakening Gulf stream.
Hello Smekhovo,

According to this link, we can expect much more open sea around Antarctica as the GW temperature anomalies ramp up:

Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

I agree it is too early to conlude it is a trend. It's just that the prediction of the weakening of the Gulfstream has more and more scientific base to it, see and the related articles at the bottom, and observations might just indicate that.

it seems to me that you have described a phenomenon, rather than explained it. Hotter air temperatures over N America and colder over W Europe is the result, what's the cause? A weakening of the thermohaline transfer seems a likely candidate, this is supported by the ocean temperatures.

Those lucky people in the Gulf of Mexico get hurricanes, and in exchange we W Europeans get high heating bills.

Hey, to capture all that storm energy, they need to put wave generators and high-spec windmills in the G of M, instead of oil rigs...

No, there have been years like this (the same variations in pattern) for as long as we know about. So it's not logical to blame winter 05-06 on a putative new weakening in the circulation.
Here is a Falls Church News Press article (I was searching on energybulletin anyway) which may EXPLAIN why
I totally agree nothing can be proven yet.

In southern Sweden we had unusal long and cold winter, I have never seen its like - and so has nobody else. I think statistics were close sometime around WWII.
Being a surgeon I meet quite a few elderly people so I made it a habit of asking the 90+ if they remembered anything like it. They were all positive this was an unusual winter, they could remember colder spikes but never a manifest snowpack for months like this winter.

Please do not pick on the obvious non scientific of the above, its just an observation.

North Atlantic Oscillation was predicted to cause UK and surrounding areas a cold long winter BEFORE the cold arrived - back in October. Search the BBC site. The UK Met office was dead certain [and correct]. I don't think we can blame this cold winter on the gulfstream weakening.
Here you go:

Title: Met office warns of a bitter winter

You can't blame the N Europe winter on Global Warming this time..

From the link you posted:
"Mr McCallum said the Met office prediction of a cold winter was 66% likely to be proved correct.

He said the calculations were based on the "North Atlantic oscillation" - a measure of *sea temperatures* which normally correlate with weather patterns. "

It's interesting that he calls it a measure of sea temperatures because it's actually a measure of the pressure differences in the north atlantic, generally between somewhere around the Azores and Iceland.  But the point I was going to make is that the Earth is roughly 70% water and that water contains a lot of energy.  Atmospheric circulations are driven more by the ocean than the ocean is driven by atmospheric circulations.

Some observations from the other side of the Atlantic.

As a sea-angler I'm always waiting for the summer which brings to our Dutch waters tasty garfish, seabass and mackrel. The season traditionally starts on April 30 (which is also Queensday)when seawater temperatures should be 11 to 12 degrees Celcius.

Sometimes the mackrel is a little ahead, with catches on record on April 20 in 2001.

Two years ago, however, I caught my first summerfish on May 9.
Last year it all started in June only, but it all went on to the end of October, which is exceptionally long. It seems a little like the seasons are shifting a bit; this years' winter streched out long and we still have to turn on the heating with daytime temperatures expected to be 9 degrees this weekend.

At present water temperature is 9 degrees only. Even when temp. kicks up it will take at least 3 weeks before sufficient water temp. It all points to the slowing off the Gulfstream. The Big Freeze underway?

It worries me quite a bit I must say. Not just because I'm all ready and geared up for the ultimate kick of drilling a 8+ pound seabass on a light rod, after which it will be served with home grown potatoes and salad ;-) (Aaargh! Can't wait for it!)

The fishing and shrimping in the GoM have been excellent since Katrina and Rita.  Consider some fishing tied up to an oil platform or in our wetlands.  Your euros will be most welcome.

And our world class restaurants will cook any fish that you catch to order.  (Best food in world, Paris #2, Rome #3).

Redfish, Red Snapper, Lemonfish, Speckled seatrout, drum, ...

But given what just washed into the GOM, I'd be really leery of eating any of it.
It has been 8 months since Katrina, and the volume of water in the GoM is VERY large.  Besides we have the Mississippi River as always here.

I have been enjoying raw oysters here for quite some time.  As always, from the West Bank.

On CNN, they interviewed a New Orleans fisherman who said he gets hassles when he tries to get a permit to take oysters at his favorite spot.  They keep telling him he can't oyster there, it's dry land.  It's been underwater for years, and the "official" maps are out of date.
The seasons seem to be shifting in New Zealand also.  This December was dreadful, cool and rainy almost every day.  Last year there was a cold hailstorm (IIRC) on Xmas eve.  Yet now in the mid autumn, we are having days of delightful summery weather.
New Zealand is a surely a beautiful place!  And, with lots of hydropower and geothermal - ya gotta love it!  Its positives are too many to list here, and in fact my wife and I are considering retiring there from here in Atlanta, Georgia USA, but the distance back to family and friends is discouraging.

A question: Should the Gulf Stream take a well publicized weakening, what would that do to the immigration levels to New Zealand and Australia from such places as, well, Scotland?  Do you think there is the possibility of mass evacuations from the Isles, and maybe the whole EU?

I'm guessing that America would see quite a few of the rich, well-rested and top-shelf folks (to paraphrase a saying).

Hey MicroHydro, I think we better shut down this line of questioning pretty quick eh?

No Room! No Room!

Though if it were only TOD readers that would be OK...

I'm still hoping for Bronson Beta to show up ...
It is my understanding that NZ will not accept immigrants older than 40.  (Too costly in the long run.)
Another less touted, though widely appreciated decision was the compulsory exportation of any arsonists caught in the act.

A plane ticket to the destination of your choice or serious jailtime...Aussie is a popular stopover due to its highly combustible gum trees and our firebugs can hone their skills in preparation for Europe.

On a less serious note, what the hell is all that smoke doing to the atmosphere?


If you go back a few years it looks like it.

Thanks for the charts!

Would it be true that the temperatures in the gulf help strengthen a storm, while the temperatures in the Atlantic are what is important for the formation of the storm?

So based on that, the anomolies in the Atlantic don't look as bad, (so maybe not as many storms?), but if they do form, watch out, because they will be much stronger.

Here's a link to
NOAA's composite sea temps - gulf of Mexico

You can dial up a different year if you want for comparison.

Thanks for the link.  Great.


Simply astounding. First, around .5 degrees rise/day over the most recent nine days - could be pretty warm pretty soon. Second, the warming trend is starting a couple of weeks earlier. Could be rough weather ahead ...
My God, did you compare last year with this year at this site?!? Wow, what a difference. April of 05 looks downright cold compared to now.

April 28, 05

April 27, 06

Christ on a cracker!  o_O

Poor old Dr. Gray is looking more and more out of it.  That CNN special on global warming gave him short shrift, practically painting him as the batty old uncle, respected for his previous work but considered whacky now.

I had just finished putting the same comparison into the story above as an update.  It seems to be a good 4-5 C (7-9 F) warmer.
Here's June 1st (start of the hurricane season) last year.  It's warmer than that already.

Intuitively--and not scientifically--, I would hazard that if the GS slows or curls southward, then less heat is transferred north, increasing heat in the tropics and the Gulf.  

Violent storms will appear not only in the tropics but along the boundardy of hot and cold air masses.

Here's an interesting link to the heat potential of the Gulf of Mexico.  Although the SST is high, it appears that the water below the surface is not very warm right now, except in the region of the Loop Current.

Unfortunately, I could not find a link for data from last year to make any comparisons.

Taking a closer look, they seem to have shifted their color scheme, so it isn't quite as bad as it first looks. Last year, yellow corresponded to about 83.5F, this year it's about 80.5F. Still, last year the GOM seems to have been largely 75F and below, this year 81F and below. Looks like a hot time in the old town tonight.
You are quite correct. I had not noticed that they have shifted the colour scheme by 2C. Start of blue 2005 is 23C; start of blue 2006 is 21C. I was comparing colours and it seemed there was a +4C difference in the two years. After your acute observation, I have noticed that the difference is +2C instead. Still, quite a bit warmer than last year, but hurricanes shouldn't be appearing in early May, which is what the colour scheme could have indicated when comparing colours between April, May, June, July 2005 and April 2006. On colour scheme, end of April 2006 seems to be the same temperature pattern as end of July 2005! Wonder what people will say if a hurricane appears in mid May in the Gulf of Mexico.

present temperatures and monthly averages recent years. Looks like May is already over for some data points.

Yikes, we're renting a beach house in north carolina the second week of May with some friends.  We declined the $80 hurricane cancellation insurance thinking the odds of a bad storm that early are pretty slim.  I'm hoping I don't end up regretting this decision.
Good catch that they've shifted the colors.  Wonder why?  Wonder if somewhere they have a standard set?

Two weeks from now I doubt there will be any tropical activity.  Might get some rain, but there's always a good chance of that.  But I doubt you'd have to cancel.  Wish I were going...

Nice pool of abnormaly cool water off of North Carolina, see Stuart's graph at the top.  The lack of a strong Gulf Stream at least protects your vacation.


I am keeping my old 240D at least half full of diesel (9 gallons min) and at least $150 in cash hidden in a book at home.

Last time I took out 3 people without cars, but fewer car-less people today.


The number of tornadoes recorded in the US by the National Weather Service has also been on a steady increase, year after year.

2004 and 2005 both record numbers of tornadoes (1819 in 2004, for instance), and this year seems set to beat them both (591 so far, only 4 months in).
Good grief!

What's the link for that data?

I can't address where the "Annual Total Number of Tornadoes" chart came from, but "for those of you keeping score at home," as the baseball announcers say, the NOAA Storm Prediction Center keeps data showing month-month comparisions of tornado occurences for the last three years (and against 10 and 30 year averages) here:

Also, archived data of U.S. tornadoes, hail, and severe winds going back to the 1950s is available here:
There is a plotting application available here:

As we've been discussing here since March, 2006 is off to a very fast start.

Not sure if this was the exact source, but this page has tons of maps, graphs, etc on tornadoes and other severe weather.

Notice the fatalities have decreased dramatically at the same time the number of storms appears to increase.

Given the amount of study given to tornadoes, thunderstorms, etc. I'm not so sure the graph is skewed simply by having better radar.  This has been the subject of intense study for decades.

Footnote from the frequency graph (1916-2004):

Tornadoes prior to 1953 were UNDER-REPORTED.  A national tornado data collection process was put into place in 1953.  Some of the recent increased number of reported tornadoes is due to increased public and media awareness and reporting of tornadoes.  That is, not all of the recent increase in tornado reports is real.

Just for grins, lets stick with the last twenty years, the rest, as they say, is history...

I'll ask the obvious question - how much of the trend increase is due to all the weather spotters (who weren't around in 1910) and more importantly, radar indicated tornadoes, which are easier to call as radar technology has improved?
I have no idea what the real answer to that is, but if you just look at 1970 on up, you still see a pretty fari trend.  It would be hard to imagine that being due to more spotters and better radar.
I've got to agree with the questioner here...the chart starts to spike in the same period that the first civilian weather radars were going online. Also, the countryside in the U.S. was A LOT less populated during the years when the activity seems to have been so much less. (however, I'm not arguing that the chart doesn't show a trend) Surely, many storms -even if someone actually witnessed the funnel- never made it into the weather service files.
That would be my guess too ... and checking a "tornado myths" page:

11.  Reported tornadoes are increasing in frequency.

(TRUE, but, is it real?  It is assumed that since the number of days with tornadoes is NOT increasing nor are the larger tornadoes increasing in number, just the smaller ones, that the increase might be the result of better reporting of the smaller tornadoes).

If the number of large tornadoes is indeed not increasing ... well, I'd take that as the bottom line.

(This reminds me of the old global warming / tornado book "heavy weather" ... hmmm, I think of it as beeing old, but apparently it was first published in '94 link)

Radar was first developed during WWII so the jump in the 50's probably corresponds to the first widespread applications of weather radar.  The increases from there through the 80's may be due to actual increases or to the increased skills of the weather observers in predicting and spotting them (specifically hook echos).  The drop through the 80's is rather interesting however, because during that time global temperatures decreased (sparking controversy of Global Cooling, of course).  In 1988 WSR88D (Weather Service Radar 1988 Doppler) was introduced, commonly just called Doppler radar, which greatly increased the ability to spot the cyclonic action associated with supercells and tornado activity.  So the introduction of doppler corresponds well with the increase in the 90's.
See my other note, they set standards for the reporting of tornadoes (in the US, at least) in 1953.  The official sites say to disregard frequency data from before that time.
Seems like there's no shortage of energy at all!  I just need to invent an engine that runs on warm salt water.

It sure looks like the GOM will be warm enough, now we just have to see if the hurricane factory can pitch a few more over the plate.

Are we talking Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) here?  I wonder how much an array of OTEC plants would cool the ocean surface, maybe enough to affect ocean-born storms?
Many hurricanes begin as storms in the atlantic, but they get their growth spurt in the caribbean, in the region between cuba and SA. This region is already hot now, so I see this as a bigger danger than the north gom, although the latter would certainly help keep them going right up to landfall if it persists. As an aside, not a good time for a second honeymoon at grand cayman...
The April 27, 2006 map of sea surface temperature shows something very interesting. There is a notable region of anomalously high sea surface temperatures that are apparently located above the Cayman Trench.  Is this merely a coincidence?  Or might heat flow occasionally be higher near rifting zones?
ONe interesting item would be the current speed as the gulf stream rounds the bottom of florida. It might be that this flow is weakening, lowering temp off the east coast/europe and raising them within the gulf.
Global warming already visible

Connecticut's fall foliage -- a kaleidoscope of crimson, orange and gold-tinted leaves -- would vanish. Forget tapping the maples for syrup. That industry would die here.

Portions of Interstate 95 might be underwater unless the state commits to raising them. And the same holds true for some of Metro-North's most low-lying tracks hugging the coastline and an untold number of buildings with historic preservation status.

Those are among the scenarios that scientists and the Environmental Protection Agency paint about the possible effects of global warming in Connecticut in coming decades.

Meanwhile, the NY Times warns:

...By 2100 or so, sea levels could be several feet higher than they are now, and the new norm on the planet for centuries thereafter could be retreating shorelines as Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets relentlessly erode.

Rivers fed by mountain glaciers, including those nourishing much of south Asia, could shrivel. Grand plans to restore New Orleans and the Everglades in Florida would be rendered meaningless as seawater advances.

Manhattan would become New Orleans - a semi-submerged city surrounded by levees.

I suspect global warming is going to complicate peak oil considerably.

Just want to point out that warm gulf temperatures in April don't necessarily portend an extremely active hurricane season. April 2005 was cooler than April 2004 but had a more active hurricane season. April 2006 is warm again and looks to me more like 2004 than 2005.
While I take your point, I don't see that as being particularly reassuring.  2004 was pretty damned bad.  The hurricanes just hit Florida instead of further west to oil country (with the exception of Ivan).  No telling where they'll hit this year.  Some are predicting a move further west (batten down the hatches, Houston), others east, to the Outer Banks/New England.
Right, some years are bad for the U.S. because a lot of hurricanes hit even though there aren't that many hurricanes, while other years are bad because there are just a lot of hurricanes.

To get a better idea of storm activity, counting the named tropical storms/hurricanes provides an objective measure. Here are the number of named tropical storms/hurricanes from the NOAA archives for recent years:

2000   14
2001   15
2002   12
2003   16
2004   15
2005   27

It is clear that 2005 is the outlier here. All the other years were in the range 12-16. 2004 was not particularly bad.

It will be interesting to see what happens in 2006, but I don't think it is possible to say with much certainty whether it will be more like 2000-2004 or like 2005. For reference, the Foresight Exchange online prediction game is currently guessing 19 named storms in 2006.

The high number of named storms last year (we ran out of letters of the alphabet, first time!) certainly was odd.  But how many years will it take before it becomes the norm?  Five? Ten?

There will always be a number of people that say "it's just an anomoly."  Like the Red Sox winning the Series...

There will always be a number of people that say "it's just an anomoly."  Like the Red Sox winning the Series...

Hey, that is an anomaly!  ;-)

Let's go, Yan-kees....

Dr. Gray predicts 17 named storms this year.  His estimates have been on the low side the last couple of years (he doesn't believe global warming is increasing Atlantic hurricanes), so I'd bet more than that.  

He guessed 13 last year...