DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — Heavy rainfall along Gulf of Mexico beaches can make the water feel much colder for those swimming on the coast, according to a local scientist in Northwest Florida.
Harley Peters with the Emerald Coast Science Center explained what happens:
“Days like this and days like we had in the past where it’s like constantly raining and constantly cloudy, will keep the surface of the temperature a little bit colder,” said Peters. “It also depends on how heavy the wind is, as well as how heavy the waves are. So if there’s less wind and there’s less waves, there’s gonna be less mixing of the cold rainwater coming down and the temperature of the gulf that it currently is. So if there’s lots of wind and lots of waves, it’ll kind of mix in well and make it kind of all feel the same, but if it’s also in shallow water, it has less mixing to do so the shallow water is going to be just a little bit colder.”
Peters said it would take a lot more than rain to change the actual temperature of the Gulf of Mexico. The lack of sunshine and cloud cover associated with storms affects the beach temperature more than rainfall.
“So rain can affect mainly two things it’s going to affect the temperature, and it will also affect the salinity where salinity is basically the amount of dissolved salt that is in the body of water,” said Peters. “So when fresh rainwater comes down that can change that salinity, but the temperature also always changes as well, because it’s a little bit colder coming from the cloud.”
The National Center for Environmental Information lists the typical gulf temperatures in Pensacola, Fla. at 85 degrees. The actual temperature read 86.2 degrees on July 13. The NCEI is a department under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
National Weather Service staff in Mobile said they do not have a marker for weather temperature near Destin. Pensacola temperature readings are the most similar based on the bay ecosystems.