TAMPA, Fla — In the heat of the summer, the beach is usually a fantastic place to get some relief.
Those "quick dips," however, become a little less refreshing when Gulf of Mexico temperatures surpass 90 degrees.
Tampa Bay waters usually venture into bathwater territory in July through September. That's when Gulf temperatures normally remain in the 85-90 degree range.
In some cases, temperatures can surpass the 90-degree mark before the official start of summer. This week, the NOAA buoy at Clearwater Beach observed a 91-degree water temperature for the first time this year.
Phew. That's hot.
Several factors can affect water temperatures, including solar radiation and the temperature difference between water and its surroundings. The ocean has a higher heat capacity than land, which means it retains heat for a longer period of time.
There is not a huge swing in temperatures throughout the day in the water, which makes swimming relatively comfortable at any hour during the summertime.
While it may feel nice wading in those warm Gulf waters, there is a caveat to these high temperatures.
The Gulf of Mexico is a prime spot for tropical development due to its incredibly warm temperatures. For hurricanes to form and sustain themselves, scientists generally agree that sea surface temperatures must be at least 80 degrees — and we are well past that this June.
Tropical development requires an energy source, and that source is heat from the ocean. As long as the central low-pressure core remains over those warm waters and the top of the storm is not shredded apart by upper-level winds, a storm has the potential to intensify (sometimes rapidly) and grow.
If you're ever curious about water temperatures before heading out for a beach day, the NOAA has a state-by-state guide with real-time temperatures to help you prepare.