(Image credit: NHC)
The National Hurricane Center’s Tropical Outlook map is clear for the first time since July 2. Nature is apparently going on summer break after three named storms. And if the Colorado State University forecast pans out, we may only have eight more to go before the season ends on November 30.
Of course that’s a big “if.”
As of Monday there were no active tropical storms in the Western Hemisphere, although the NHC was tracking a couple of likely candidates in the northeastern Pacific, including Invest 99EP. It had an 80 percent chance of development as it heads west into the Central Pacific. Forecast models show it going south of Hawaii.
Another system to the east of 99EP had a 30 percent chance of development.
Based on averages from 1966-2009, the fourth named storms doesn’t form in the Atlantic until August 23, so we’re actually ahead of the game.
RECORD WATCH: Key West tied another record warm minimum temperature Sunday with 84 degrees, matching the mark for the date set in 2009. It was the sixth warm temperature record set or tied this month in Key West.
IRMA AND FLORIDA’S ALGAE CRISIS: The toxic algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee, which has spread to both coasts via the St. Lucie River and the Caloosahatchee River, is as bad as the summer of 2016 — and may end up eclipsing that event.
Although the effects on tourism, business, and health have been front and center in media reports, I haven’t seen much on the science behind the blue-green algae bloom. A prime culprit is agricultural runoff of nutrients high nitrogen and phosphorus from farming and cattle ranching in Central Florida and South Florida.
But that’s been going on for almost 100 years. Why is it so bad this summer? There’s this explanation from Sea Grant Florida, an organization affiliated with the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida. It tapes into the expertise of 800 coastal and ocean scientists.
In a July 6 analysis, Sea Grant Director Karl Havens says last September’s Hurricane Irma is partly to blame for the magnitude of this summer’s algae explosion.
“The storm brought heavy rainfall over the watersheds located north of the lake and around the two estuaries. Each of these three watersheds contain sources of high nitrogen and phosphorus levels from past and present agricultural activities and leaking septic systems. One heavy rainfall can flush these bloom-fueling nutrients into the lake and estuaries.
“And, that’s exactly what happened. This rainfall, combined with extremely hot summer days and plenty of sunshine completed the recipe for today’s massive blooms.”
Havens warns that a warming climate threatens to make algae blooms a worldwide problem, and that they may become “more intense and more toxic.”
“It will be easier to control blooms by curtailing nutrient inputs now than it will be in a warmer future,” he says.