Saturday, July 14, 2012

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Why Oceans Matter: 
Heat Capacity & Climate

10:00 AM EDT 7/14/12 (Meteorologist/Oceanographer Alex Davies and Forecaster Mike) Did you know the heat capacity of the ocean is four times great than that of the atmosphere?

That means it will take four times longer to heat and cool a volume of water compared to volume of air under similar environment conditions. This is why it takes a while to boil a large pot of water when your make pasta, even though the heat coming-off the stove top burning is extremely hot.

So why does that matter in terms of local or global climate? 
The ocean acts as the great regulator of our land surface temperatures, especially near the coast, and help to re-distribute heat from the equator to the poles through large-scalar surface current like the Gulf Stream, and through deep-ocean currents known as Thermohaline Circulation (meaning "heat" and "salt") or the "Ocean Conveyor Belt." 

"Ocean Conveyor Belt" from

Have you ever noticed that on hot summer days like we experienced a week ago, it was more pleasant in places along the coast like Bethany Beach, Delaware and Fenwick Island, DE compared with inland locations like Salisbury, Maryland, Dover, Delaware, and Richmond, Virginia? This was because the ocean temperature during that time was only in the upper 70s, while the inland air temperatures were topping-out near 100 degrees, or more. The same thing happens in the early winter as places near the ocean or along The Chesapeake Bay or Delaware Bay often have a tougher time getting "all snow" events as the air temperature is being impacted by the relatively warmer water temperature.

THE OCEANFRONT TODAY - For some regions, the beach this Saturday could be much better. This includes the Delmarva beaches which are covered by the Bayshore zone. This zone always is an excellent illustrator of the temperature differences mentioned earlier. With mostly cloudy skies overhead the beachfront will try to hit temperatures around 83-85º, while the inland Delmarva will likely be closer to 86-88º. Since the water is still cooler than the air, those close to the shore are a little cooler. However, because of the clouds overhead today, that effect is lessened since the land cannot warm up as much.

Today's rainfall estimates by the HPC

WHERE IT'S NICE - WIth widespread showers and thunderstorms across the east, it's tough to find a place where there is nice beachgoing weather! However, the lucky people will be on the South Atlantic coastline, including those in the often-overlooked Southern Georgia zone. The area is sometimes bypassed by vacationers heading to Florida, but that area has a share of beautiful beaches of its own! There is a slight chance for thunderstorms, but with skies being mostly sunny, it can't ruin the whole day!

Have a fantastic Saturday and enjoy the water!