Forecasters see wet June giving way to much drier conditions in July

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The new long-range forecast issued Friday is for drier conditions to kick off July. (Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

With the exception of the Keys, locations around the Florida peninsula have been running fairly hefty precipitation surpluses in June, despite a dry start to the month. Two other exceptions are Vero Beach, which was down about a half-inch on Friday, and West Palm Beach, which had a slight rainfall deficit.

Naples picked up lost ground on Friday after a 1.76-inch shellacking.

Precipitation has been a little more spotty on the West Coast, in fact. Tampa has an impressive rainfall surplus of 2.83 inches, but Fort Myers is down 1.84 inches for the month.

In the North, both Jacksonville and Gainesville are on the plus side. (Tallahassee has a precip deficit of just under an inch, despite a wet week in the panhandle.)

But NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a U-turn, with below normal rainfall in Florida for the final month of June, and the first half of July. In fact, the new week three and four precipitation forecast suggests dry conditions through the entire tier of southern states, from New Mexico east to the Carolinas and up into southern New England.

A drier July is par for the course in Florida, but rainfall normally rises as we move into September.

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JUST ANOTHER DAY (FINALLY): Friday was only the second day this month that Marathon didn’t post a record temperature, either a record high or a record warm low, or both. The average high in June through the 14th was 95.6 degrees, with an average low of 84.1. Marathon had three days in a row — June 8, 9, and 10 — in which the low was only 86, the warmest low ever recorded for the month.

That also tied the all-time record warm low previously recorded in July, August and September.

The official all-time record warm low for the Keys is 87, which occurred on multiple occasions in July and August in Key West.

Friday’s low in Marathon was 76, the coolest of the month and the first low in the 70s for city since May 28. One reason: Marathon received 1.06 inches of rain, the first precipitation of the month. The city still has a shortfall of 1.31 inches.

Key West has measured just 0.13 of an inch in June through Friday, a precipitation shortfall of 1.82 inches. Most of that fell on Friday — 0.12 of an inch, the heftiest total since May 16.

It’s always worth noting that although records in Key West go all the way back to 1872, Marathon records only go back to 1950.

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El Niño chances for summer/ fall edge down in latest NOAA report

Summer in Florida means it could be raining in your front yard but not your backyard. That typical summertime pattern was showing up all over the peninsula on Thursday.

To wit: Fort Myers Southwest International Airport was hammered with 3.38 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service, while the official NWS observation site for Fort Myers reported just 0.23 of an inch — and Naples was dry.

Sarasota/ Bradenton, however, reported 1.05 inches.

In Miami-Dade County, Kendall checked in with 1.80 inches, while up the coast in Melbourne, 1.55 inches was reported.

CoCoRaHS reported 3.52 inches near Palm City in Martin County; 2.58 inches in Cocoa Beach; and 2.60 inches in northern Hillsborough County near I-275.

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RECORD WATCH: Key West tied a record warm minimum temperature Thursday with a low of 83, which matched a mark set back in 1981. Marathon posted record breaking temps as usual, with a low of 84 busting the previous record of 82 set in 2009. The high was 96, also a record.

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ENSO forecasts

(Image credit: Earth Institute/ Columbia University)

ENSO UPDATE: Chances that the current El Niño in the tropical Pacific will continue through summer and fall were cut by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center Thursday . The question is whether this will impact the height of the hurricane season from August through October.

Probabilities edged down from a 70 percent chance (May report) through summer and a 55-60 percent chance in fall to a 66 percent chance (June report) through summer and a 50-55 percent chance in fall.

A healthy El Niño — warmer than average waters in the tropical Pacific — keeps wind shear higher in the Atlantic, making it more difficult for tropical storms and hurricanes to form.

But there are other factors involved in storm development — such as water temperatures, trends in atmospheric pressure over the Atlantic, Saharan dust, and monsoon rains in Africa — and so NOAA and many other forecasters have been predicting a near normal hurricane season.

El Niño remains one of the biggest factors, and there are a couple of other trends to note. First, the CPC says water temperature departures are greatest in the Central Pacific, with temperatures in the eastern Pacific a little closer to average. At Weather Underground, hurricane expert Jeff Masters has said this is reminiscent of conditions in 2004, which was an infamous year for hurricanes, especially in Florida.

In addition, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology issued its El Niño forecast on Tuesday, saying that “Climate models suggest a gradual shift away from El Niño levels over the coming months.”

The take-away? As always, prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

North Florida drought conditions recede; new GFS gets high marks

Panhandle cold front

WARM, BUT DRY: The cold front that’s expected to make its way down the Florida peninsula, and stall out in Central Florida, was just moving into the Florida panhandle on Thursday morning. Not much cooler weather is expected after the cold front moves through, but drier air will arrive in areas to the north of the front. In Dothan, Alabama northwest of Tallahassee, humidity levels are forecast by Weather Underground to be as low as 30 percent on Thursday. But National Weather Service forecasters in Tallahassee added: “Even though it’s a cold front… highs will actually be warmer tomorrow than the last few days!” (Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

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DWINDLING DROUGHT: Drought conditions in Florida receded slightly this week and are now confined mostly to the northern tier of counties, from Nassau County in the northeast west into the Central Panhandle. Several counties in the Big Bend area swapped Moderate Drought for Abnormally Dry conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

There were actually few areas of drought in the U.S. this week. Outside of North Florida and coastal areas of Georgia up through North Carolina, the only areas on Thursday’s map were in extreme northern North Dakota; western New Mexico; and parts of Washington and the Northwest.

California is clear of drought, although the southwestern corner near San Diego is Abnormally Dry.

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‘MODEL-CANES’ ON THE WAY OUT? NOAA officials have high hopes for the new and improved GFS forecasting model they began using Wednesday, the Finite-Volume Cubed-Sphere, or FV3. Will their confidence be justified?

Truth be told, the European model (ECMWF) always had a little more respect than the GFS in some forecasting circles — although the GFS performed well on occasion — but NOAA officials are hoping the upgrade changes all of that.

“The significant enhancements to the GFS, along with creating NOAA’s new Earth Prediction Innovation Center, are positioning the U.S. to reclaim international leadership in the global earth-system modeling community,” Neil Jacobs, acting NOAA administrator, said in an agency news release posted after a morning press conference.

An important question for people in Florida, Texas and the southeast coast is how the new model will fare during hurricane season. That wasn’t specifically addressed in the NOAA news release, but Matt Gray, a meteorologist for NBC2 based in Fort Myers, posted a blog on the topic Wednesday night.

“How will the new FV3 GFS do when the next hurricane comes? NOAA has tested it using data from storms over the past few seasons, so we have a pretty good idea,” he said.

The new FV3 will be better than the old GFS at forecasting intensity, he said. The old model tended to over-sell intensity, or keep storms stronger longer.

“The new GFS did a lot better with how intense Hurricane Florence was when it made landfall in North Carolina last year,” Gray said. “It’s just one of many examples where the new model did a lot better with storm strength.”

An attendant advantage to the new model is that since it’s better at forecasting strength, the FV3 may be better at avoiding what some weather watchers call “ghost storms,” or what Gray calls “model-canes.” These are tropical storms or hurricanes that pop up on model runs more than 10 days in advance, with no support from other models. The next day they may be dropped.

“Since the new GFS looks like it will be better at not strengthening tropical systems too much, that may also keep these ‘fake storms’ from showing up at all.”

Track accuracy looks about the same as the old GFS, Gray said.

Hot times in Sarasota; rainfall reports needed in the Keys

CoCoRaHS Keys

KEYS COURTS COCORAHS OBSERVERS: The National Weather Service in Key West noted Wednesday that the citizen observation network turns 21 years old this month. It started in June, 1998 in Fort Collins, Colorado. You can find rainfall observations pretty much anywhere in the country, but they are scarce in the Florida Keys and Monroe County. The NWS Key West is soliciting people to sign up. “We could use your observations!” the office said Wednesday in a Facebook post. You can do so at http://www.cocorahs.org. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

Tuesday Florida rainfall reports from CoCoRaHS: Orange County, south of Winter Garden, 2.5 inches; western Jefferson County near Waukeena, 2.28 inches; Suwanee County near Live Oak, 2 inches; northeastern Nassau County, 1.70 inches; and western Putnam County, 1.67 inches.

Parts of Hillsborough County picked up around a half-inch, while totals were light in South Florida, except an observer west of Boynton Beach in Palm Beach County reported 0.78 of an inch.

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WHAT KIND OF FRONT WAS THAT? The National Weather Service in Miami said upper level troughing over the southeastern U.S., “along with its corresponding surface low, will depart toward the northeast through the latter portion of the week. In the wake of this departure, an attendant cold front will begin sliding down the Florida peninsula before stalling across Central Florida.”

This time of the year, a front is a cold front pretty much in name only. Thursday night’s forecast low in Gainesville, for example, is 69 … but Friday’s forecast high is 90. Thursday night’s low in Lake City, meanwhile, is expected to tumble all the way down to 66 degrees. Come to think of it, that sounds pretty nice.

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TROPICS WATCH: Wednesday morning’s run of the GFS shows a storm developing in the Caribbean June 28 and moving toward Belize or the Yucatan Peninsula. The GFS FV3, which becomes operational for NOAA this week, does not concur. The European model (ECMWF) is clear for the next 10 days and even the Canadian forecasting model (CMC) shows clear sailing through June 22.

The National Hurricane Center says no storm formation is expected through at least Monday.

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RECORD REPORT: Marathon had the state’s high temperature in Tuesday’s National Weather Service roundup with 96 — and yes, that was another record high for the date. Marathon’s low of 84 was also a record warm low.

The low in Sarasota was 80, which busted the old record warm low for June 11 of 79 set in 2007.

With fanfare, NOAA officially unveils new forecast model Wednesday

It’s here! It’s here! NOAA is launching its new-and-improved forecasting system on Wednesday, the GFS FV3, which replaces the old GFS model that has been around, in one form or another for almost 40 years.

Neil Jacobs, acting NOAA Administrator, will host a press conference at 11 a.m. EDT to talk about the transition to the new model. The old GFS will continue running until September 30, according to The Washington Post.

Actually, the FV3 has been running since last year but the GFS has continued to be the main source of everything from precipitation forecasts to temperature forecasts by the National Weather Service.

NOAA boasts that the FV3 — abbreviated for Finite Volume Cubed-Sphere dynamical core — will bring “unprecedented accuracy” to NWS forecasts. And it works faster with today’s high speed “supercomputers.”

It’s able to “zoom down to local scales and provide images of up-down air fluctuations, allowing us to resolve thunderstorms and their updraft winds,” NOAA says. “Older models assume the atmosphere experiences equal forces from above and below. This assumption can provide accurate prediction over large areas, but is unable to see the small-scale fluctuating winds that can lead to severe weather.”

The big question in Florida is how the FV3 will do with tropical storms and hurricanes. The GFS, along with the European forecast model (ECMWF), have always been the two go-to global forecast models used by meteorologists, not only at the National Weather Service but at the National Hurricane Center, particularly for developing storms.

Tropical Tidbits is a good resource if you want to see runs of the major forecasting models, including hurricane models once a system is identified as an invest. Click on “Global” models to check out the new FV3, as well as the GFS and European.

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CFL forecast

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

RAINFALL REPORT: Florida’s rainy season looks locked in, and it’s easy to see why June has the reputation as the wettest month in South Florida. After a dry start to the month, totals are building up from Miami to Tallahassee.

Monday’s notable rainfall totals via CoCoRaHS: Tarpon Springs, 3.66 inches; Brandon, 3.08; Hialeah, 2.34, northwest Tallahassee, 1.94; Atlantic Ridge State Preserve Park, Martin County, 1.03.

RECORD WATCH: Marathon’s record reports are like, a broken record. The low once again was only 86 on Monday, tying the record warm minimum for the month and beating the record for the date, which was 83 set in 2013. The high was 96, which also set a record.

Panhandle slammed with almost 5 inches of rain; all quiet on the tropical front

Here’s a Florida state summary from the National Weather Service you don’t see too often: only two locations in the state reported 0.00 rainfall on Sunday. Both were in the Keys — Marathon and Key West.

Fort Myers and Crestview had only a trace of rain during the 18-hour period covered by the NWS summary ending at 7 p.m. EDT, but Cross City checked in with 4.90 inches; Panama City received 2.71; Brooksville measured 2.38; St. Petersburg reported 1.72; and on the other side of the state, Fort Pierce had 1.72 inches.

More rain is expected through mid-week, and Monday may be the wettest day yet for some locations:

Monday rainfall

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

RECORD WATCH: Rainfall has kept a lid on temperatures around the peninsula, but that’s not the case in the Keys, where drier air has been the story. Marathon had another record high of 97 on Sunday, along with a record warm low of 86. That also tied the record warm low for the month of June — set just a couple of days ago on June 8.

Interesting to note that Marathon has posted records every day so far this month except for June 1.

TROPICS WATCH: Not only were there no areas of interest in the Atlantic Basin on Monday, and no potential storms in the eastern Pacific, there were no tropical storms anywhere in the world. There was only one system under scrutiny by forecasters: Invest 93A, in the Indian Ocean.

Last year there were no Atlantic storms in June either, but the season picked up in early July with Hurricane Beryl and Hurricane Chris.

Torrential rain, gusts up to 80 mph hammer Florida peninsula

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More rain is expected across Florida through mid-week. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

Heavy rain and high winds sent Floridians running for cover across the state on Saturday.

West Palm Beach reported a wind gust of 82 mph as severe thunderstorms ripped through Central Palm Beach County, knocking over trees and construction fences downtown and cutting power to hundreds along the coast.

Pedestrians sought refuge in the West Palm Brightline train station, where fierce winds drove water under the lobby doors during the storm. Recently planted trees bent to the ground and construction debris flew through the air.

Storms rocked other parts of South Florida, too, with wind gusts of 50 mph in Kendall, 49 mph on the west end of Lake Okeechobee, 47 mph in Opa-locka, 44 mph in Boynton Beach, 41 mph in Fort Lauderdale, and 39 mph in Hollwood.

Rainfall was generally in the 2-inch range, although West Palm Beach officially reported just 0.30 of an inch at the airport.

In Central Florida, Orlando recorded a 34 mph gust along with a quarter of an inch of rain.

On the West Coast, Brooksville clocked a wind gust at 38 mph while the city was getting slapped with 1.73 inches of rain. Winter Haven measured 1.88 inches while Tampa reported 1.04 inches.

A CocoRaHS observer in northern Pinellas County near Tarpon Springs reported a 3.75-inch deluge.

A Flash Flood Watch for the Florida panhandle was canceled, though.

“Rainfall amounts over the past few days have not been as quite as high and widespread as once thought,” National Weather Service forecasters in Tallahassee said Sunday. “Not to say that there wouldn’t be localized areas of flooding, especially across the western FL panhandle where recent heavy rainfall has fallen, but the threat of prolonged and widespread heavy rainfall that leads to flash flooding has lowered quite a bit.”

No rain at all fell in the Keys — Key West and Marathon both report zero precipitation so far in June — but temperatures have been climbing. Saturday’s high was 98 in Marathon, a record, and the low was an incredible 86 degrees, a record warm low for the date. The low in Key West was 83, also a record for the date.

Temperatures were steamy up and down the peninsula, in fact. Just before the severe thunderstorm socked West Palm Beach, the heat index at the airport was 103.

An interesting note from Friday: Fort Pierce tied a record warm low that had been on the books for 96 years. The low was 77, matching the record originally set back in 1923.