Gulf Stream/Mid-Atlantic Climate Question

babywatson(7)July 26, 2006

Would someone intelligent in climate explain something to me I've wondered about? Does the Gulf Stream have any warming effect on North America at all or do most of its advantages go to Europe? After all, Ireland, England, and even places like Denmark, which are significantly further north than, say, where I am, in Virginia, have zone 8 or 9 winters--milder than my own climate. I don't understand it. We don't seem to get any warming effect at all. Even the Pacific coast is warmer further up north than the North American Atlantic coast.

Just curious.

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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

I'm definitely not intelligent about climate matters, but I've spent lots of vacations on the Outer Banks of NC listening to my husband talk about the Gulf Stream (he's semi-intelligent about these things!)

The Gulf Stream definitely has a warming effect on the water in the area there.

My limited travel on the West Coast suggests that the water there is actually colder than the East Coast in the summer.

Interesting question - I'm looking forward to intelligent responses. I wonder if we can find a way to create zone 8 or 9 winters here, short of global warming?

    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 10:56PM
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Brent_In_NoVA(z7/6 VA)

Below is a link to the Wikipedia article on the Gulf Stream. I did not read the entire page, but it does say that it does keep portions of Europe warmer and that during the Summer the Gulf Stream keeps portions of our east coast cooler during the summer.

- Brent

Here is a link that might be useful: Wikipedia - Gulf Stream

    Bookmark   August 1, 2006 at 12:06PM
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kimka(Zone 6B)

Most of the Gulfstream's eastcoast winter warming is futher north. Yarmounth, Nova Scotia is much warmer than you would expect in the winter because of how close to shore the gulf stream is there.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2006 at 9:15AM
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Yeah, shoulda figured, we get no benefit here in NoVa at all.

No wonder we're only zone 7.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 11:05PM
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creatrix(z7 VA)

Give it a few years and you'll be a zone 8. I've really noticed many former annuals making it through our winters lately- Purple Heart, Victoria salvia, Miss Huff verbena and some creeping verbenas that escaped from a container last year (they stayed evergreen). Cannas and gladiolus are reliable now.

Spring is earlier by at least a week (Cornell study, if I remember correctly), fall is later, and the lows in winter are not as low as they have been.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 1:15AM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

The PNW is warmer because of the way the jetstream tends to configure itself (ridging) in winter, so the coldest air tends to be shunted further north of that area. Here on the east coast, we tend to experience the troughing of that same jet (which then balances that persistent western winter ridge). However whenever we experience a warm spell in winter (ridging in the east), that's because the trough forms over in the west and they end up with temps like we get in winter (with freezes and snow,etc.). Depending on the position of seasonal High or Low pressure systems, coastal areas in the west end up under a persistent marine influence that keeps their temperatures cool in summer and skies perpetually overcast in spring.

I don't complain too much because the further inland you go at our latitude, the colder it gets in winter as there are often arctic troughs that come through the central U.S. which results in portions of places as far south as northern Texas & Oklahoma, etc., that are rated Zone 5/6.

The Atlantic Ocean in general does moderate the coastal plain in winter because it takes time to cool off during fall and anyone east of the Appalachians get additonal moderation as the mountains often block the coldest air and the downsloping winds coming off the mountains on the eastern side, tends to warm the air. Thing is the ocean also drags out the spring as it takes time for it to warm up.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2006 at 10:07AM
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