One of the heretofore secret pleasures I find in late fall mornings in the south is having coffee on the back patio of the house. In particular, I always find on a cool morning the steam rising out of the coffee cup between sips provides some kind of indefinable deep comfort to me. Just staring at it rising and curling into the cool morning helps clear my early morning head as much as the caffeine itself it seems.

When the temperature really starts to dip, I'll walk outside first thing in the morning with my steaming cup and find the swimming pool is also letting water vapor escape from the warmer water into the cooler air. It's quite a sight and I'm sure brother pool owners in the south know exactly what I'm talking about.

Whenever cold dry air meets the surface of the warmer water, water evaporates into the air, it condenses in the cooler air thus forming steam.

It's physics, and it works on a coffee cup, a swimming pool and on large bodies of warm water like the Gulf of Mexico. It was so cold last Wednesday morning that thousands of square miles of the Gulf were steaming.

If you live near the Great Lakes, 'sea-smoke' happens all the time in the fall as the temps cool. But rarely is it so cold in the southland that the entire Gulf will steam up.

See the complete story and steaming Gulf of Mexico video here.

Joe Raedle, Getty Images