Finally: All quiet on the tropical front; Another record temp in Key West

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(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.

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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.

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Rescues on the rise in Central Florida as rip currents pound beaches

CFL rip currents

RIP CURRENTS ROCK EAST-CENTRAL COAST: More than 400 people were rescued from rip currents at Volusia County beaches since early last week, the National Weather Service in Melbourne said. A High Rip Current Risk alert was posted through Sunday night. A Michigan man died Wednesday after being pulled out of the water at Ormond-by-the-Sea, the Daytona Beach News Journal reported. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

DRY AND DUSTY: The National Weather Service in Miami declared the weekend “unseasonably quiet” around South Florida. That was also the case, in terms of precipitation, all the way up the East Coast on Saturday.

The heat index in Miami hit 102 and 106 in Naples, 100 in Tampa and 99 in Orlando.

More dry air was due over the southern peninsula for the upcoming work week. And a new batch of Saharan air scheduled to arrive mid-week, “further reinforcing the warm and dry atmosphere,” NWS forecasters in Miami said in their Sunday analysis.

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(Image credit: NOAA/ WPC)

Still, a wet end to July and above normal rainfall through August 10 was forecast for the Florida peninsula by the Climate Prediction Center in its long-range forecast issued Friday. The full August forecast comes out Thursday.

RAINFALL REPORT: The East Coast was mostly dry on Saturday, but on the West Coast, an observer near Port Charlotte reported 2.46 inches of rain. An inch to an inch-and-a-half fell in inland areas of Hillsborough and Pasco counties. And in the panhandle, 2.07 inches fell near Wakulla Springs south of Tallahassee.

Officially, Punta Gorda measured 0.94 of an inch, according to the National Weather Service.

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TROPICS WATCH: Subtropical Storm Beryl was still lumbering along in the Atlantic, moving at 3 mph toward the northeast.  It should become post-tropical by Monday, the National Hurricane Center said.  Nothing else is on the radar over the next five days, forecasters said. The tropical Atlantic is dominated by dry air, Saharan dust, and high wind shear. (Image credit: NHC)

Key West posts fifth temperature record of the month; ex-Beryl bounces back

SIZZLING IN THE KEYS: Ocean water surrounding the Florida Keys tends to keep the chain warmer in the winter and a little milder in the summer. That hasn’t been the case this summer as Key West Checked in with its fifth record high temperature on Friday.

Friday’s high of 94 tied a 62-year-old record set back in 1956. The island has had two other record highs this month along with two record warm minimum temperatures.

By comparison, South Florida locations from Miami to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach have had no record-setting temps this month, while Naples has had one, a record high of 96 on July 10.

Through Friday, Key West temperatures are running 2.3 degrees above normal. Marathon is 1.3 degrees above average for July.

The average high temperature in Key West this time of the year is 89, but it will edge up to 90 on Thursday, July 19. The average low is 80.

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UPDATE: Beryl was reborn on Saturday as a subtropical storm with winds of 40 mph. It was forecast to become a subtropical depression late Sunday and may affect Newfoundland on Tuesday. On Friday, Post-Tropical Storm Chris brought heavy rain to Newfoundland and a wind gust of 57 mph to St. John’s International Airport, according to CBC News. (Image credit: NHC)

TROPICS WATCH: Things can change fast in the tropics. Ex-Beryl was showing a few signs of life Saturday, one day after the National Hurricane Center said the remnants of the storm were being battered by strong upper-level winds that were “expected to become even less conducive” for redevelopment.

But the system was producing near gale force winds east of the center Saturday and forecasters said “some additional development is possible today and tonight, and a subtropical or tropical cyclone could form before the system moves over cold water north of the Gulf Stream on Sunday.”

They bumped redevelopment chances back up to 50 percent.

In any case, development would likely be no more than a footnote to the 2018 hurricane season, since ex-Beryl is far off-shore and looks to be headed north-northeast.

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Tallahassee radar down

OUT OF ORDER: Tallahassee radar will be down for maintenance Monday through Friday of next week. The upgrades, part of the Service Life Extension Project (SLEP), “will keep the radar going strong into the 2030s,” National Weather Service forecasters said. (Credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

NOAA hikes El Niño chances again; major impacts possible for Florida

Weather prepared

WEATHER GRAPHIC OF THE DAY: Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Key West ask: “Why are victims in horror movies not prepared? Don’t be a victim of hazardous weather. Be prepared.” Their Facebook page has a link to a NOAA website on National Weather Safety Tips, from air quality to heat, fog and rip currents. No major weather hazards on the radar today; keep your fingers crossed. By the way, this is the last Friday the 13th until September 2019. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

FLORIDA WINTER WEATHER ALERT: Looks like it’s going to be one of those winters in Florida again — chances of El Niño developing for the 2018-2019 winter jumped to 70 percent in the new NOAA analysis issued Thursday. Chances of it occurring in autumn are at 65 percent, which should have a significant impact on the end of the Atlantic hurricane season.

In June, NOAA issued an El Niño Watch and put El Niño chances for the fall at 50 percent and 65 percent for the winter.

El Niño, unusually warm waters in the tropical Pacific, keeps wind shear cranking in the Atlantic, which puts a lid on tropical storm development. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that El Niño tends to bring very stormy winter weather to the Florida peninsula, including an uptick in tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. Central Florida is particularly at risk.

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A TREND THAT’S NOT YOUR FRIEND: A record high minimum temperature was observed in Key West Thursday — the third day this month that a record warm low was set or tied.

Record high minimum temperatures are as common as burnt toast around the Florida peninsula, especially on the East Coast. One reason is that water temperatures in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico are so often above normal that any overnight sea breeze tends to keep temperatures mild.

This trend has been picking up steam since 2000. In Miami, for example, 142 record warm lows have been tied or set since 2000 — that’s 39 percent having occurred in this century even though temperature records in Miami go back 123 years to 1895.

Florida residents are accustomed to hot days and balmy nights, but this is a nationwide trend that has more dire implications.

The New York Times reported Wednesday: “Nights Are Warming Faster Than Days. Here’s Why That’s Dangerous.”

It’s risky in places where fewer people have air conditioning because they’ve never needed it in the past. With nighttime heat, the body doesn’t get as much of a chance to cool down. (Burlington, Vermont had a low on July 2 of 80, the warmest low temperature ever recorded for the city.)

In places like Vermont — and even in coastal California — “people are less physiologically acclimated (the body can get used to higher temperatures up to a point) and less behaviorally adapted to hot weather,” The Times’ Kendra Pierre-Louis and Nadja Popovich noted.

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TROPICS WATCH: Stick a fork in ex-Tropical Storm Beryl — it’s likely cooked. The National Hurricane Center knocked chances of redevelopment down from as high as 50 percent to 20 percent on Friday, when the sprawling system was located 300 miles west of Bermuda.

“The associated shower and thunderstorm activity remains disorganized due to strong upper-level winds,” the NHC said in its Tropical Weather Outlook. “These winds are expected to become even less conducive for subtropical or tropical development over the next day or two while the low moves north-northeastward at about 10 mph, and additional development will be limited once the low reaches colder waters by Saturday night or Sunday.”

South Florida sizzler: Weekend heat index could hit 107, forecasters say

The Port Charlotte area picked up 3.33 inches of rain Wednesday, according to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network. An observer outside of Sebring, in Highlands County, reported a hefty 4.48 inches.

Other areas around the peninsula had a trace to around a quarter of an inch. The National Weather Service in Miami said moisture from ex-Tropical Storm Beryl was streaming over South Florida Wednesday and Thursday, but the heaviest convection was off-shore and farther east into the Bahamas.

Still, South Florida rain chances were in the 30-40 percent range Thursday and Friday; 20-30 percent in East-Central and West-Central Florida; and no mention of rain in the forecast for North Florida until the weekend, when chances rise to 40 percent.

Over South Florida, the story this weekend should be summer heat, the National Weather Service in Miami says, with heat index values of up to 107 degrees in interior areas of the West Coast and 105 degrees in western metro areas of the East Coast.

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The remnants of Tropical Storm Beryl brought showers to the Bahamas Wednesday but showed no signs of redeveloping a surface circulation, the National Hurricane Center said. (Image credit: NHC)

TROPICS WATCH: Chris was downgraded to a 60 mph tropical storm Thursday and forecasters said it could become post-tropical by Thursday night as it races toward the northeast at 35 mph. It was expected to bring some stormy weather to Newfoundland during the overnight hours. Ex-Beryl, which brought showers to the Bahamas on Wednesday, was forecast to follow the same path as Chris well off the U.S. Coast. It had a 50 percent chance of regenerating over five days.

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UK COOL TO WARMING: Only about a quarter of the British public are concerned about global warming, a National Centre for Social Research survey reported Wednesday. And although most people in the United Kingdom believe the climate is warming, only a third blame human activity.

As in the U.S., opinions vary by age group. Of those in the 18-34 group, 32 percent are worried, while 23 percent of those in the 35-64 age group are worried. Of those 65 and older, only 20 percent are concerned.

Americans take the issue more seriously, according to a Gallup Poll released in May. Among those 18-34, 51 believe climate change will pose a serious threat in their lifetime, compared with 47 percent of those 35-54 and 29 percent over age 55. A majority of all age groups believe climate change is being caused by human activity, but it’s higher in the younger age bracket — 75 percent.

Key West ties 136-year-old high temperature record; Chris makes Category 2

June state temps

HOT TOPIC: It was the third warmest June on record nationwide, behind only 1933 and 2016, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information reported this week. The average temperature over the contiguous 48 states was 71.5 degrees, 3 degrees above the 20th century average. Florida and most of the U.S. South was much above normal. Only Maine and Vermont had below normal temperatures in June. (Image credit: NOAA/ NCEI)

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HISTORIC HIGH: Key West topped out at 94 degrees on Tuesday, tying a 136-year-old high temperature record high for the date. The last time it was that warm in Key West on July 10, Chester A. Arthur was president and Thomas Edison was busy building the country’s first electrical power plant in Manhattan. It was 1882.

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(Image credit: NHC)

Tropics Watch: Hurricane Chris became the Atlantic’s first Category 2 storm of the 2018 season late Tuesday night, and the National Hurricane Center predicted it would come within a whisker of being the first major hurricane of the year. Chris had top winds of 105 mph at 5 a.m. Wednesday and forecasters said it would top out at 110 mph late in the day Wednesday. If it reached 111 mph, it would be a major Category 3 storm.

The only land mass in its path, however, is Newfoundland, which could begin feeling the effects of Chris on Thursday afternoon.

The GFS shows nothing of note in the Atlantic through July 27, the European and Canadian models through July 21, and the NAVGEM through July 16.

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RAINFALL REPORT: The Altamonte Springs area in Seminole County was smacked with more than 3 inches of rain on Tuesday, according to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network. An observer west of Orlando reported 2.09 inches.

In Broward County, an observer west of Fort Lauderdale reported 2.31 inches. An observer in Miramar reported 1.72 inches to the National Weather Service in Miami.

 

Chris becomes season’s second hurricane; Naples hits record high at 96

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UPDATE: Chris became the second hurricane of the season Tuesday with winds of 85 mph. The National Hurricane Center predicted it would become a Category 2 storm with winds of 100 mph by early Wednesday before post-tropical by Thursday. It poses no threat to U.S. land areas. (Image Credit: NHC)

With Chris headed out to sea — it may clip the eastern tip of Newfoundland on Friday — and ex-Beryl aiming for the Central Bahamas and points north, Florida weather is following its typical summertime plot line. And that means heat.

It was 96 in Naples Monday, which tied a record high originally set in 2004. The heat index in Naples was 109 degrees at 4 p.m.

Even in Key West, which often enjoys the moderating effects of ocean breezes, the heat index was 103 at 3 p.m.

Other heat index values around the peninsula: Miami, 100; Fort Lauderdale, 101; Fort Myers, 100; Punta Gorda, Gainesville and Melbourne, 99; West Palm Beach, 98 and Orlando, 95.

It doesn’t look particularly promising in terms of widespread rainfall through the rest of the week, with precipitation chances in the 20 percent range in Tampa through Friday, 30 percent in South Florida, and 20-30 percent in East-Central Florida. In the Jacksonville forecast, there’s no mention of rain at all until Friday.

Double-check those irrigation systems!

RAINFALL REPORT: Monday’s winner was in Alachua County northeast of Gainesville, where an observer for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network measured 2.29 inches. An observer in Central Citrus County southeast of Crystal River measured 1.76 inches. Most areas of South Florida were dry and rainfall elsewhere was light.

TROPICS WATCH: The National Hurricane Center expects Tropical Storm Chris to become the season’s second hurricane Tuesday afternoon with winds of 80 mph. Forecasters expect it to top out as a 90-mph storm late Wednesday before transitioning into a post-tropical system late in the week over colder water.

No coastal watches or warnings were issued by the NHC. Eastern Nova Scotia had a 5-10 percent chance of getting tropical storm force winds from Chris, while the eastern tip of Newfoundland had a 60 percent chance.

As for ex-Beryl, the National Weather Service in Miami issued a statement on the system late Monday. “At this time none of the guidance and overall conditions favor the potential development of tropical wave Beryl to be a concern for South Florida despite the 50 percent chance of development as it approaches the central Bahamas, ” Pablo Santos, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Miami said.

“The potential development region remains well to our east and upper level flow pattern favors it turning north well east of us. We will continue to monitor this closely and should this perspective change we will let you know.”