The warmer-than-normal winter the area has been experiencing has kept ocean waters from cooling down as much as usual.
This could mean a more active tropical season for the Southeastern United States unless ocean temperatures drop even more in the next few months.
Dave Loewenthal, a forecaster with the National Weather Service Office in Wilmington, said the waters off the coast of South Carolina should be in the low or mid 40s this time of year. On Friday, they were in the mid 50s.
However, Loewenthal said getting worried about more hurricanes this year may be an unneeded worry. He said forecasters believe trends will change during the second half of the winter.
“I think things will even themselves out before tropical season. This warmer-than-normal weather probably will not continue for the remainder of the winter,” he said.
Loewenthal said temperatures should return to near normal — and maybe even below normal — by the middle and end of this week which will give the ocean a chance to cool a little more.
He said he expects ocean temperatures to be close to normal by March.
The majority of the state is listed in a moderate state of drought due to dry, warm weather.
Counties such as Edgefield, Abbeville, Anderson, Oconee, Pickens and McCormick are listed in the severe stages of drought.
The state’s Drought Response Committee met in November and elevated the counties to severe status.
“According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Drought Contingency Plan, the Savannah River Lakes are in drought trigger level two,” according to climatology officials “The Corps reservoir levels in the Savannah Basin are continuing to decline due to inflows near 10 percent of normal. Releases are being held to the minimum levels in our drought contingency plan to conserve water.”
“Looking at the rainfall numbers along the coast, we’ve very concerned,” said Mark Nelson, meteorologist with the S.C Department of Natural Resources. “The last 60 to 90 days, all the counties along the coast have seen about 50 percent of the normal amount of rainfall.”
The next meeting of the Drought Response Committee has not been scheduled, Nelson said.
When the committee meets again, they will likely focus on the lack of rainfall along the coast and other areas.
“Hope Mizell, state climatologist, is in daily contact with the major players statewide and along the coast,” Nelson said. “They are talking about the lack of rainfall, the wildfire count, lake levels on the Savannah River and along the Pee Dee and Waccamaw. I’m not seeing a change in the pattern for the next two or three weeks. We’ll see some rain, but it will be a nuisance drizzle more than anything else.”
He said an approaching La Nina weather pattern also gives higher number of hurricanes this year.
“The pattern that I see is above average temperatures and below average rainfall for the rest of the winter,” Nelson said.
By Scott Harper and
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