Heavy rain swamps parts of South Florida; military on weekend rocket watch

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

Some areas of Florida’s East Coast saw heavy rainfall Thursday afternoon into Friday morning, but coverage was spotty.

An observer in The Acreage, Palm Beach County, reported 2.19 inches to the National Weather Service in Miami. There were widespread reports of an inch or more in South Florida’s metro areas.

A CoCoRaHS observer in Palmetto Bay in South Miami-Dade County reported 1.91 inches through 7 a.m. Friday, while an observer in Kendall checked in with 1.19 inches.

An observer in Plantation, Broward County, also reported 1.19 inches, and an observer in Hillsborough Beach, northeast corner of Broward, found 1.74 inches in the backyard bucket.

Totals of around a half-inch were the rule in Palm Beach County, although — in addition to the heavy rain reported in the Acreage — an observer on Singer Island checked in with 1.80 inches.

East-Central Florida had around a quarter- to a half-inch, but an observer in Satellite Beach reported 1.10 inches, and some locations in northern Brevard County had a little more than an inch.

More spotty coverage was reported in Jacksonville, with amounts ranging from just a few hundredths of an inch to around an inch, especially southwest of the city.

Official numbers were more modest: 0.66 of an inch were reported at Miami International Airport; 0.44 of an inch fell in Fort Lauderdale; and West Palm Beach picked up 0.40 of an inch. Naples was dry.

Central and North Florida (Wednesday-Thursday): Orlando, 0.13; Melbourne, 0.81; Vero Breach, 0,37; Sanford, 0.74; Tampa, 0.16; and Jacksonville, 0.05.

RECORD WATCH: Naples tied a record warm low Thursday with 76, while Orlando tied a record warm low with 73.

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AN UMBRELLA WON’T HELP: Saturday’s forecast is for partly cloudy skies with a chance of falling rocket parts. Military officials will be on the lookout worldwide for re-entry of a Chinese rocket that was launched on April 29 to carry living quarters to the Chinese space station.

It’s expected to re-enter the atmosphere on or around May 8, with “potentially dangerous” debris making it to the Earth’s surface, according to Reuters.

The location of the descent “cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its re-entry,” the U.S. Space Command told the news service.

Since 70 percent of the world is covered by water, chances are high that the debris will fall into the ocean. But land areas, and even buildings, have been hit by space debris in the past.

Tracking duties have been assigned to the 18th Space Control Squadron north of Los Angeles. This weekend’s rocket descent isn’t the only thing that’s been keeping personnel busy — there are about 27,000 objects in low orbit around the Earth that warrant attention.

Melbourne, Lakeland smash high temperature records

Projected rainfall in South Florida and East-Central Florida through Saturday morning. (Image credits: NWS-Miami, above; NWS-Melbourne, below)

Your irrigation system gets a little help today and Friday as a frontal boundary slides down the peninsula, slowing as it goes and triggering showers and thunderstorms — with the potential for heavier rain on the East Coast.

NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center put most of the eastern half of the peninsula, from Jacksonville down to around West Palm Beach, in a Level 1 or “Marginal” risk for severe storms that could produce gusty winds, flooding rains and even hail.

The remainder of the state is at risk for garden variety thunderstorms.

Showers could stick around through Friday, according to forecasters, and the National Weather Service offices in Melbourne and Miami expect up to three-quarters of an inch of rain from around Stuart down to West Palm Beach.

Minus the threat for severe weather, the system is what the weather doctors ordered, since most of South Florida remains either under Moderate Drought (D-1) conditions or Abnormally Dry (D-0). There was some improvement over the past week, however.

The latest analysis from the U.S. Drought Monitor, released today, lifts D-1 conditions from Mainland Monroe County but keeps them over most of Collier County. The rest of South Florida is D-0 except for areas directly south and east of Lake Okeechobee.

This week’s heat — and it was relatively dry heat by Florida standards — continued to give the South Florida landscape a rather thirsty look.

High temperature records were set or tied Wednesday in Melbourne, Lakeland and Sanford. Melbourne’s high was 94, which broke a 73-year-old record of 93 set in 1948. It was 96 in Lakeland, which beat the old record of 95 set in 2002.

Sanford tied a record high with 94. That last time it was that hot in Sanford on May 5, root beer floats were being delivered by car hops on roller skates. It was 1956.

West Palm Beach tied a record high with 91, matching a mark last set in 1951.

Record warm minimum temperatures were set or tied Wednesday in Miami (78); Fort Lauderdale (78); and Leesburg (74).

Severe weather possible for Florida’s East Coast on Thursday

Chances of severe weather was at a Level 1 or “Marginal” risk for South Florida’s East Coast, and the East-Central Florida Coast, on Thursday. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

MORE ON THE NEW NORMALS: After NOAA released its new data on average temperatures and precipitation Tuesday for the 1991-2020 period, the National Weather Service in Miami did a more in-depth analysis of South Florida data.

It showed a few surprises — such as average annual rainfall decreasing at three of the four major South Florida reporting sites — Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Naples. The only exception was in Miami, where annual precip jumped a whopping 5.51 inches.

NWS analysists attributed the variations to “highly-variable precipitation patterns typically observed across South Florida, especially during the wet season.” The data buck an overall nationwide trend toward greater precipitation over the last 30 years.

Another interesting anomaly: Average temperatures decreased in Fort Lauderdale.

While the “new normal” temps edged up at the three other sites, mainly due to warmer overnight lows, mean temperatures decreased a half-degree Fahrenheit in Fort Lauderdale.

The Weather Service said there is “no one clear reason” for the temperature decrease in Fort Lauderdale, but one factor is likely “relocation of instruments and time of daily data collection which can alter the consistency of daily temperature and precipitation readings over a period of time.”

Data collection at its current site at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport only go back to 1998.

(Image credits: NWS-Miami)

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RECORD WATCH: Miami busted another record warm low Tuesday with 79, beating the old record of 78 set in 2010. The low was also 79 in Fort Lauderdale, beating the record of 78 set in 2002. West Palm Beach tied a record warm low with 78.

In Central Florida, Sanford set a daily rainfall record with 0.72 of an inch. That was good enough to beat the previous record of 0.65 set in 2005.

NOAA’s new ‘normal’ temperature data show a warming climate

NOAA’s definition of normal temperatures, in Florida and elsewhere around the nation, have been kicked up a notch or two with the agency’s new analysis of 30 year averages from 1991-2020.

The updated set of averages, released today, show widespread warming and increased precipitation compared with the previous averages based on 1981-2010. The new averages have been published every 10 years since 1901-1930.

Since then, all but two 30-year periods have shown temperature increases, according to The Washington Post.

In the last two periods, temps rose a half-degree Fahrenheit from 1971-2000 to 1981-2010; and 0.46 of a degree from 1981-2010 to 1991-2020, according to the Post.

Warming temperatures, as is the case with increased precipitation, is not necessarily across the board for all areas of the U.S. The details are complex, but the overall trend is upward.

In Miami, based on NOAA’s new data, the average January high remains at 76, but the average low edges up from 60 degrees to 61. Normal January precipitation jumps from 1.62 inches to 1.83 inches.

The average August high remains at 91, but the low edges up from 77 to 78. August rainfall in the new data for 1991-2020 is 9.58 inches, compared with 8.88 over the 1981-2010 period.

June replaces September as the wettest month in the new Miami data with 10.51 inches (up from 9.67 inches); with average September rainfall at 10.22 inches (up from 9.86).

The increased rainfall reflects a national trend. Nationwide, annual rainfall for the 1991-2020 period was 31.31 inches, up from 30.97 inches over the 1981-2010 period.

RECORD WATCH: In Florida, much of the increase in temperatures appear to be due to warmer overnight lows over the last couple of decades.

Monday’s temperature data stand out as an exampe: Fort Lauderdale posted a record warm low with 79 degrees, beating the old record of 77 set in 1997. The low in West Palm Beach was 78, beating the old record warm low of 77 set in 2011.

The temperature in Key West bottomed out at a balmy 81 on Monday, breaking the pervious record warm low of 80 set just two years ago in 2019. Marathon’s low was also 81, beating the record of 80 set in 2019.

Melbourne’s low was 75, which beat the old record of 74 set in 2010. And Tampa’s low was 76, tying a record set in 2016.

Cooler temps on tap after triple digit heat indices broil South Florida

Triple digit heat index values are in the forecast for interior areas of South Florida. Relief may be on the way toward the end of the week. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

After a week of blistering heat, temperatures across Florida are poised to settle down to more spring-like levels, according to the National Weather Service. Not only that, but an accompanying shot of drier air should make things feel downright comfortable.

Although this particular heat wave hasn’t packed the kind of humidity we see in summer, the AC has been cranking pretty much morning, noon and night. In South Florida’s interior, Immokalee hit 95 on Sunday — that’s actual temperature — with a heat index of 97. Anyway you slice it or dice it, that ain’t picnic weather.

On the coasts, overnight lows are running almost 10 degrees above normal. The low in West Palm Beach Sunday was 77 compared to a normal low of 68, which should be good enough to tie a record warm low set in 2016. Miami’s low was 75 and Fort Lauderdale’s low was 76.

But take a look at Saturday’s forecast highs: Miami, 82; West Palm Beach, 81; Orlando, 85 (after a low of 63); and Jacksonville, 82. Tallahassee, which will get the cool air earlier, is looking at a forecast high on Friday of 80 with a chilly (by May standards) overnight low of 56.

This far out, there’s a caveat. The two main forecast models used by the National Weather Service — NOAA’s GFS and the European (ECMWF) — differ on how far south the front gets at the end of the week. The GFS has it stalling over South Florida, which would deliver some wetter weather for the area, while the ECMWF has it pushing all the way down to the Florida Straits.

Although we definitely need the rain, another shot of cooler, drier air would be welcome since we are running out of time for cold fronts that actually make a difference in our weather.

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RAINFALL REPORT: North-Central and Northeastern Florida posted some decent rainfall totals on Sunday. One CoCoRaHS observer in the Gainesville area reported 0.72 of an inch in the backyard bucket while to the northeast, in Clay County west of the St. Johns River, an observer checked in with 0.85 of an inch.

On the coast, the St. Augustine area picked up around a quarter of an inch, but to the north in Ponte Vedra an observer reported 0.92 of an inch.

Serious rains were reported in the far western panhandle, where observers in the Pensacola area reported almost an inch-and-a-half of precip.

Sunday was bone dry south of a line from the Nature Coast over to the Space Coast.

In fact, wildfires are a concern for South Florida, with an active fire currently spreading smoke into metro areas from southeastern Miami-Dade.

Keep that AC cranking: widespread 90s by mid-week

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

SUNDAY UPDATE: May arrived on Saturday accompanied by no-foolin’-around heat. It was 91 in Miami; and 90 in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach;

The hottest temps reported in South Florida were in Hollywood and Plantation, where it was 96; and at the North Palm Beach County General Aviation Airport, where it was 95. A couple of stations out in the Everglades reported 97.

At the same time, humidity levels were in the 40-plus percent range, so we still aren’t experiencing the same type of heat we have in summer.

In fact, while the National Weather Service is calling for more hot weather through mid-week, a frontal boundary is scheduled to roll down the peninsula on Thursday, bringing a chance of rain and behind it, another shot of drier air.

Forecast highs on Wednesday: Miami, 85; Key West, 86; Orlando, 93; Tampa, 91; and Jacksonville, Daytona Beach and Gainesville, 90.

Tallahassee will start feeling the effects of the front Wednesday with a 60 percent chance of showers and a high of 84.

NOAA predicts wet May for South Florida

NOAA released its May outlook on Friday. (Image credit: NOAA/ CPCP

APRIL WRAP: It’s all the Sunshine State whether you’re in Tallahassee, Orlando or Key West. But April felt like three very different climates depending on whether you were in North Florida, Central or South Florida or the Keys.

It was unusually warm and dry in the south and in the Keys, warm and wet in Central Florida, and cool and wet in the North.

The largest temperature anomaly across the state was in West Palm Beach, where April temps were 2.6 degrees above normal. Naples came in at plus 1.9 degrees and Miami was plus-1.6.

Key West wasn’t too far behind West Palm Beach at plus-2.4 degrees, while Marathon was plus-1.7.

In Central Florida, Tampa was 1.9 degrees above the April average while Orlando was plus-0.6.

But in North Florida, April temperatures in Jacksonville were 1.3 degrees below average; minus 0.6 of a degree in Tallahassee.

All major cities in South Florida and the Keys were drier than normal, despite some hefty rains in the middle of the month. The largest precipitation deficit was in Marathon, which came up 1.83 inches short of normal April rainfall.

Other cities: Miami, minus-0.33 of an inch; West Palm Beach, minus-0.78; and Naples, minus-0.69.

Orlando had the biggest precipitation surplus with an impressive plus-3.66 inches, while Tampa had a surplus of 1.32 inches.

Jacksonville posted a rainfall surplus of 2.85 inches while Tallahassee was 0.45 of an inch in the plus column.

MAY OUTLOOK: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center issued its May forecast Friday, calling for above average temperatures throughout Florida and above normal precip in South Florida and the panhandle.

The rainy season begins May 15, but Nature often ignores the calendar and it’s not uncommon for May to be either dry or wet. The old saying in South Florida is “dry in May, get ready to pay,” but analyses have shown that to be a myth — May precip doesn’t seem to affect the hurricane season going forward.

Speaking of hurricane season, the National Hurricane Center will begin publishing Tropical Weather Outlooks two weeks from today on May 15, although the season doesn’t officially start until June 1.

As spring progresses, average temperatures have begun to even out out across Florida. Both Orlando and Miami have normal highs on May 1 of 85; by May 31 Miami’s average high is 89 and Orlando’s, 90.

Drought conditions expand in Southwest Florida

Rain was in the afternoon forecast for South Florida’s East Coast. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

All signs of drought were washed away in Central Florida in the latest analysis by the U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday. However, Moderate Drought (D-1) expanded in South Florida, moving from Mainland Monroe into most of Collier County.

The rest of South Florida remains Abnormally Dry, with the exception of the northeastern corner of Miami-Dade.

“Abnormal dryness contracted in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, but expanded in eastern North Carolina,” NOAA’s Richard Heim and Ahira Sanchez-Lugo said in the report. “Moderate drought expanded in far southwest Florida where 1- to 3-month precipitation deficits were significant.”

But it looks like metro areas of South Florida will end April with only slight or moderate rainfall deficits. Fort Lauderdale is down an inch; West Palm is down three-quarters of an inch; and Naples is coming up a little more than a half-inch short.

In the Keys, Key West is at minus 0.86 of an inch for the month, but Marathon is looking at a 1.76-inch deficit.

Central Florida is where the big precipitation turnaround really took place. Orlando is reporting 6.34 inches as the we close out the month, a hefty surplus of 3.73 inches. Tampa had 3.35 inches, 1.37 above average for the month.

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MAY COMES IN HOT: Heat index values are forecast to climb into the triple digits next week in inland portions of South Florida, the National Weather Service says. Actual temperatures are expected to hit the mid-90s in places like Glades and Hendry counties and inland Collier.

East and West Coast heat indices will be in the 90s, forecasters said.

A ridge of high pressure that builds over the Florida Straits and pushes into the northern and central Bahamas will be responsible for the early May heat wave.

Consider it a preview of summer, hopefully cut short by another approaching front that is likely to make it into at least Central Florida next weekend, upping rain chances.

New global warming theory is out of this world

NOT-SO-WET-WEEKEND: Rain chances will be on the rise this weekend as a front stalls over or near Central Florida, but don’t shut off your irrigation system. The weak system may stall on Saturday but wash out on Sunday, the National Weather Service says.

It’s possible that some storms could form around Lake Okeechobee, but rain chances on South Florida’s East Coast will only top out at around 20 percent, forecasters said.

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MOON SHOTS: Spaceweather.com posted its collection of photos today of Monday’s supermoon, or what is known as the April “pink moon.” Click here to check out the gallery of pictures from around the world.

Although the pink moon is named after the blooming of flowers this time of the year — not the color of the moon in the sky — a couple of shots actually show a large pinkish moon.

An astrologer from California explained in his post: “The setting Sun caused the Moon to be pink as it rose. I chuckled to myself how appropriate is that.”

A photographer in Fairbanks, Alaska put together two full moons and a waxing crescent from the April lunar cycle to create a smiley face.

One of the most creative shots — which appears on the home page of Spaceweather.com today — shows a walker on the top of a hill with his arms extended around the moon, as if he’s somehow captured it.

It was snapped by Wioleta Zarzycka of Reykjavik, Iceland, who told Spaceweather: “I was on a walk when I saw a man on a hill stealing the Moon. I quickly took a picture of the thief to have proof.”

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NASA’s Perseverance goes to work in Mars’ Jezero Crater. (Photo illustration by NASA/ JPL-Caltech)

GLOBAL WARMING MARTIAN-STYLE: The University of Chicago published a new theory Monday on how Mars was able to maintain lakes and flowing rivers over its ancient landscape.

Scientists now know for a certainty that surface water was once abundant on the planet — NASA’s Perseverance recently landed on what was a river delta. But how did liquid water exist in a world that gets a third of the sunlight we do on Earth?

The study by UC planetary scientist Edwin Kite, based on a computer model, shows that Mars may have had a thin layer of high-altitude clouds that caused a greenhouse effect.

“There’s been an embarrassing disconnect between our evidence, and our ability to explain it in terms of physics and chemistry,” said Kite, who is billed by the university as “an expert on climates of other worlds.”

“This hypothesis goes a long way toward closing that gap.”

There are other theories, including one involving a collision with a huge asteroid that released enough energy to temporarily warm the planet. But the effects would only have lasted a few years, when in fact the lakes and rivers existed for at least hundreds of years.

In the UC theory, “Even a small amount of clouds in the atmosphere can significantly raise a planet’s temperature, a greenhouse effect similar to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

A computer analysis found that patches of ice on the ground at the poles and on mountain tops raised surface humidity, which in turn favored the development of high altitude clouds.

“In the model, these clouds behave in a very un-Earth-like way,” Kite said. “Building models on Earth-based intuition just won’t work, because this is not at all similar to Earth’s water cycle, which moves water quickly between the atmosphere and the surface.”

High and (sort of) dry: Humidity bottoms out as low as 24 percent

RAIN IN REVIEW: The cold front that finally made its way through South Florida late Sunday had its moisture wrung out by the time it moved south of Fort Pierce. But you can see from the graphic above what a powerhouse it was earlier in the weekend when it moved into the Florida panhandle, North Florida and southern areas of Georgia and Alabama. Note the 6-8 inches just north of Marianna, Florida. Observers reported around 5 inches in that part of the panhandle. (Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

RAINFALL REPORT: Florida was unusually dry Monday — enjoy it while you can — but there was one quirky anomaly: parts of the Upper Keys were hit with between a quarter of an inch to more than three-quarters of an inch of rain.

A CoCoRaHS observer in Lower Matecumbe Key reported 0.86 of an inch while another observer in Tavernier checked in with 0.26 of an inch. Key West and the Lower Keys remained dry.

Relative humidity levels over the peninsula, meanwhile, were as low as 24 percent in Naples and 26 percent in Immokalee; 54 percent in Miami and Fort Lauderdale; and 49 percent in West Palm Beach.

In Central Florida, Tampa reported a minimum relative humidity of 35 percent with dew points in the upper 50s. (Even so, a CoCoRaHS observer on the east side of town reported a brief shower packing 0.05 of an inch.)

Orlando reported a minimum relative humidity of 47 percent with dew points as low as 60 degrees.

Gainesville reported a relative humidity of 38 percent with a dew point temperature of 55.

Another frontal system is due to roll into the peninsula this weekend and stall over South Florida, the National Weather Service said. That should jack up atmospheric moisture and bring a threat of showers — but nothing major and no severe weather is on the horizon at this point.