El Niño likely to stretch into peak of the hurricane season, forecasters say

The weak El Niño in the tropical Pacific is likely to continue through the fall, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday in a forecast that has implications for the 2019 hurricane season.

Forecasters put summer El Niño chances at 65 percent, up from 60 percent in last month’s assessment, and 50-55 percent for fall, the agency’s first El Niño forecast for autumn. Since El Niño conditions have the effect of increasing wind shear in the Atlantic, it could keep tropical storm formation down into the peak of the season, which is August through October.

The Australia Bureau of Meteorology issues its updated El Niño outlook on Tuesday, but an analysis earlier this month predicted that warmer than average Pacific temperatures will “remain at El Niño levels at least to mid-year.”

Hurricane forecasters have been predicting a slightly below average hurricane season for 2019.

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RECORD WATCH: The high in Marathon Thursday was 88, tying a record for the date, originally set in 2008.

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Sunday panhandle storms

(Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

Strong storms are possible in the Florida panhandle on Sunday, NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center says.

Most of the western and central portions of the panhandle are under a “Slight” risk for severe weather — one step up from Marginal. But an “Enhanced” risk was posted for parts of Alabama and Georgia just north of the panhandle.

Most of the northern and central Florida peninsula are at risk for garden variety thunderstorms. South Florida was left out of the risk area completely on Friday, although forecasters said a thunderstorm or two “can’t be ruled out.”

The front that’s poised to bring the severe weather risk may deliver some slightly cooler air to the peninsula early next week, but it won’t last long, according to the National Weather Service.

“Any cooling and drying will be modest and short-lived as southeasterly flow will return by Wednesday,” NWS forecasters in Miami said Friday.

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DOOMED ON THE MOON: Israel’s SpaceIL mission to the moon — a private company’s effort to land a spacecraft on the surface — ended in disappointment Thursday when the ship crash-landed. The lunar lander, called Beresheet, had been tasked with carrying out scientific measurements.

“As the spacecraft approached the moon, SpaceIL lost contact with Beresheet several times,” The Jerusalem Post reported Friday. “The scientists kept hope as the connection was restored, but just minutes before the spacecraft was supposed to touch down, contact was lost once again and it crashed on the moon.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Israel would keep trying.

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Rains wash away all South Florida drought concerns

The Abnormally Dry conditions that have been plaguing South Florida during the winter and early spring have been officially wiped off the map, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported Thursday.

But dry conditions linger in Brevard and Volusia County in East-Central Florida.

The Drought Monitor said Moderate Drought continues in the western Florida panhandle, while the northern tier of Florida counties remain Abnormally Dry.

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JAX boat show weather

(Image credit: NWS-Jacksonville)

HOT FOR THE YACHTS: The forecast is for partly sunny conditions with a steamy high near 88 for the Jacksonville In-Water Boat Show this weekend at Metropolitan Park. But there’s a chance of thunderstorms after 2 p.m. on Sunday. The National Weather Service office will have a booth staffed with meteorologists from the Jacksonville office to answer weather-related questions.

The Storm Prediction Center, meanwhile, has placed the western and central panhandle under a Slight Risk of severe storms on Sunday as the next cold front enters the state.

Rain chances rise to 30 percent all the way down to the southern peninsula.

“This cold front will bring only slightly less warm conditions and somewhat drier weather for Tuesday, before southeasterly winds, moisture, and more above normal temperatures return for the latter half of the week,” National Weather Service forecasters in Miami said Thursday.

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RECORD WATCH: Wednesday was the first day in April that no weather records were set or tied in Marathon. The city in the Middle Keys tied or set temperature records for the first eight days, and a rainfall record was set for the ninth day of the month on Tuesday.

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statewidetavgrank-201903

(Image credit: NOAA/ NCEI)

HERE’S A SWITCH: Usually climatologists are talking about record warmth. But it turns out that nationwide, March was the 44th coolest on record in the U.S. in 125 years of record keeping, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information said this week. Florida had slightly above average minimum temperatures, but close to average temperatures overall.

Only Arizona and New Mexico had above average temperatures, while Washington, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Kentucky had below average temperatures.

However, Florida has had its ninth-warmest year so far (January through March), according to the NCEI analysis.

Nationally, “the year to date (January-March) is running just below average, as the 61st coldest in 125 years of record keeping,” Bob Henson noted in a Weather Underground Category 6 post. “The last time that the contiguous U.S. got off to this cool of a start was in 2014.”

“The bulk of the heartland cold in 2019 unfolded during February and March, ushered in by the ‘polar vortex’ outbreak at the end of January,” he said.

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ONE SMALL STEP FOR A ROBOT: The first private company is scheduled to land a space craft on the moon today, carrying with it a robot that will measure the magnetic field.

The venture was engineered by an Israeli company called SpaceIL which will live-stream the landing at 3 p.m. Thursday.

The lander is called Beresheet after the first word of the Hebrew Bible, which means “in the beginning.” It went into lunar orbit on April 4.

Coasts get a soaking; more rain possible as front makes a U-turn

The cold front that barreled down the peninsula on Tuesday dumped some heavy rain on both coasts, but overall coverage was sparse.

On the West Coast, a CoCoRaHS observer on Anna Maria Island north of Bradenton Beach reported a hefty 1.29 inches. On the East Coast, meanwhile, an observer on Singer Island reported 1.14 inches.

Northern Palm Beach County was a target of the late afternoon storms, with Jupiter reporting 0.62 of an inch while 0.56 of an inch fell in Juno Beach. The National Weather Service in West Palm Beach officially measured a third of an inch. Fort Lauderdale had only a trace of rain, meanwhile, and Miami reported no rain.

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Wednesday’s forecast map shows the stalled cold front that brought rain to the Florida peninsula on Tuesday stalled out in the Florida Straits. (Image credit: NOAA)

The front stalled in the Florida Straits and is forecast to move back to the north on Thursday, increasing rain chances again. After a drier weekend, forecasters expect another round of rain early next week.

RECORD WATCH: While parts of the central peninsula were getting soaked, it was sizzling in the Keys, with Marathon reaching another record high of 92. That absolutely obliterated the previous record high of 88 last set in 2017.

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THE FINAL RESULTS ARE IN! For the CoCoRaHS “March Madness” campaign, that is. South Carolina won the contest for the most number of new rainfall observers — 166. Florida came in fourth with 82 new observers.

New Mexico was second was 114, Minnesota was third with 89 and Texas rounded out the top five with 66.

At the end of the pack, Hawaii and Montana attracted no new participants.

But you can still sign up to participate in the U.S., Canada or the Bahamas.

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SPACE BULLETS: Up to 6,500 pieces of the Microsat-R Earth satellite are streaming above the Earth at speeds of 17,000 mph, according to Spaceweather.com, “small fragments in high orbits” that are are “circling the planet like tiny bullets ….”

The debris is from India’s March 27 anti-satellite weapons test. The problem is, solar minimum doubles or triples the time for pieces of the destroyed satellite to sink into the atmosphere and disintegrate, scientists say. The small fragments could remain in orbit for years, posing a threat to the International Space Station.

Next Florida low early next week could bring new round of stormy weather

Another low pressure system is forecast to form along a stalled cold front in Central Florida early next week, potentially bringing another round of stormy weather to the peninsula.

Things are expected to get soupy again until Wednesday when the low gets shoved off the northeast, the National Weather Service says.

The GFS shows the low drifting north off the North Florida coast and then cranking up near North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The model suggests that Tuesday could be a wet day for most of the Florida peninsula.

“The cold front Tuesday evening won`t do much to curtail temperatures since the air mass behind it has been largely modified by the time it makes it through our area,” forecasters in Miami said.

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SFL wind gusts

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

WINDS WINDING DOWN: Friday is forecast to be breezy, not windy, along Florida’s East Coast and winds should taper off further on Saturday and Sunday. On Thursday, some coastal areas of South Florida had wind gusts over 40 mph, the National Weather Service said. In East-Central Florida, Melbourne had a peak wind gust of 45 mph on Wednesday and a buoy off Cape Canaveral registered a gust of 56 mph.

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Hurricane preparedness

(Image credit: NWS-Key West)

NEVER TOO YOUNG: The National Hurricane Center is offering a free webinar for students in grades 4-6 on Thursday, May 9 at 10 a.m. It will cover hurricane preparedness. Schools interested in signing up can register online.

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Astronaut Eugene Cernan drives the Lunar Roving Vehicle during the last moon mission, Apollo 17, in 1972. (Image credit: NASA via Wikimedia Commons)

FINAL FRONTIER REDUX: The U.S. is headed back to the moon, Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday. The government also envisions an orbiting “base” from which missions can be launched and eventually a base on the surface. All of this will happen over the next decade, says Pence, with the first mission taking place by 2024.

“Urgency must be our watchword,” Pence said at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “The United States must remain first in space in this century as in the last, not just to propel our economy and secure our nation but, above all, because the rules and values of space, like every great frontier, will be written by those who have the courage to get there first and the commitment to stay.”

Officials are worried that the Chinese and Russians may beat the U.S. to the punch, and contend that establishing a moon base is essential to national security.

But the plan — it’s really more of a goal at this point, because the equipment hasn’t even been developed — has been greeted with some skepticism, the New York Times reports.

NASA has not begun work on a lunar lander and there have been no government contracts for private companies to build one either. Also, there’s no evidence of an accelerated space program in the Trump administration budget, the newspaper noted.

The last moon landing took place in December 1972 during the Apollo 17 mission.

Cool & dry to start the weekend; ‘Supermoon’ causes coastal flooding

Red Flag Warning

FIRE ALERT: Low humidity caused a Red Flag Warning to be issued for most of North Florida, including the panhandle. North Florida did not get the soaking rains that South Florida — and Central Florida to a lesser extent — received earlier this week. (Image credit: NOAA/ NWS-Tallahassee)

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All in all, this is not the kind of weather that says late-March/ spring break in Florida.

Friday morning’s apparent low in West Palm Beach was a chilly 53, and it was in the upper 40s in Central Florida.

It was in the mid- to upper-50s in the Fort Lauderdale and Miami areas; the 60s in the Keys and mid- to upper 40s in inland Collier County. It was also in the mid-40s in Central Florida, the low 40s on the Nature Coast but mid-50s on the Treasure Coast.

It was around 40 in the Gainesville area and a Weather Underground observer in Tallahassee posted a temperature of 37.

Parts of South Florida will only reach the low 70s Friday, the National Weather Service said, although the sun is blazing this time of the year so forecasters have warned that UV danger is “Extreme.” (Don’t be fooled by cool breezes at the beach.)

Temps pop back up over the weekend across the peninsula, but then another cold front by the middle of next week should knock them back about 5 degrees, according to forecasters. That should keep temperatures around normal to a little below normal as we close in on the last weekend of the month.

April 1 is a week from Monday, and that’s no foolin’.

While the Climate Prediction Center is calling for above normal temperatures in Florida in April, forecasters predict March will go out below normal around the Florida peninsula and up the coast into Virginia, while the Midwest is expected to finally get a break and see some warmer-than-normal temperatures.

Coastal flooding

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

If you’ve been out near the water in the last couple of days, you’ve probably noticed that the tides are alarmingly high, and in fact the National Weather Service in Miami issued a Coastal Flood Statement for Friday that includes coastal areas of southeast Florida and Collier County.

“This is largely due to the combination the super moon and spring equinox,” forecasters said in their Friday discussion. “Impacts should be fairly minimal but could include minor ponding of water on streets, parking lots, piers, and docks in the most vulnerable locations along the coast and Intracoastal waterways.”

Earthsky.org says: “This is the closest coincidence of a full moon with the March equinox since March 2000 – 19 years ago. The full moon and March equinox won’t happen less than one day apart again for another 11 years, until March 2030.”

More than 4 inches of rain soak parts of South Florida; Key West sets record

The Sunshine State became the Soggy State Tuesday, at least over the Florida peninsula south of Orlando.

Key West set a record with 1.60 inches of rain on Tuesday, easily beating the previous March 19 record of 1.28 inches set in 2013. Up the road in Marathon, 0.81 of an inch fell.

SFL rainfall.png
(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

But the heftiest totals Tuesday through Wednesday morning were in Palm Beach County and Broward County along the southeast coast. The rain in many places was steady but not particularly heavy, so the high-end totals didn’t materialize.

The National Weather Service in Miami said more than 4 inches fell in parts of coastal Palm Beach County over 48 hours.

Still more rain could fall Wednesday, forecasters said, making for a fairly significant rain event for parts of Florida’s East Coast.

A CoCoRaHS observer in the Delray Beach/ Boca Raton area reported 2.33 inches through 7 a.m. Wednesday, while in Broward an observer in northeast Fort Lauderdale reported 2.39 inches.

Official Tuesday totals from the National Weather Service: Pompano Beach, 2.10 inches; Fort Lauderdale, 1.82; West Palm Beach, 1.70; Miami, 1.02;

The East-Central Coast, including coastal Indian River County, reported up to an inch. West-Central Florida picked up around a half-inch, and observers in the North-Central part of the state measured a few hundredths of an inch. Conditions were dry from around Hernando County northeast into Flagler County.

With all of the clouds and rain, Fort Myers set a record cool high temperature Tuesday with 65 degrees. That beat the previous record cool high of 67 set way back in 1959.

Keys winds

BLUSTERY: The low pressure system that slipped across the Keys generated wind gusts of up to 46 mph  — 50 mph off-shore, according to the National Weather Service in Key West. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

OUTLOOK: Another cold front will keep temperatures down over the weekend, and another batch of rain may approach next week, according to forecasters. The GFS forecast models hints at another rain event for the state during the first few days of April.

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SPRING SLOSHES INTO FLORIDA: The new season starts at 5:58 p.m. That’s when the sun will be directly over the equator; its trip north toward the Tropic of Cancer begins Thursday.

It reaches that latitude, which in this neck of the woods is somewhere south of Key West and North of Havana, on Friday, June 21 at 11:54 a.m. during the summer solstice.

Astronomical spring is distinct from meteorological spring, which began March 1. Weather forecasters break the seasons off neatly into three-month blocks.

SPRING TEMPS: Normals start at 81 and 65 in Miami, warming to 90 and 76 on June 21.

Orlando: 79 and 56 to 91 and 73. Tampa: 77 and 59 and 90 and 75.

Melbourne posts record high with 88, warmest in nation; temps to rebound after cold front

CFL rainfall

RAINFALL REPORT: More than 3 inches of rain was reported in Central Florida Wednesday as a cold front rolled across the Florida peninsula. The 3-plus inch total was reported in Brevard County while the National Weather Service in Melbourne reported an official 2.22 inches. Across the state, Sanibel Island reported 1.84 inches, according to CoCoRaHS. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

Florida temperatures are on a roller coaster ride this week, dipping down into the upper 40s in Central Florida by Thursday morning only to rebound back into the 80s by the weekend.

The quick cold snap was preceded by record heat on Tuesday as Melbourne posted a high of 88, smashing the old record for the date of 85 set just one year ago. That was also the high for the nation — the fifth day in a row that a Florida city had the nation’s high.

Jacksonville set a record high with 84, beating the old record of 83 set in 1965; and Gainesville had a high of 86, beating the old record of 84 set in 1950. It was the second time in the past five days that Gainesville reached 86, a temperature the city doesn’t see on average until March 26.

Down the coast, Fort Pierce tied a record high with 87, matching the mark set in 1994.

In the Keys, Marathon tied a record high with 86. The record was previously set in 1986.

Two record warm minimum temperatures were posted around the state as well:

  • Fort Lauderdale’s low on Tuesday was 74, which beat the old record warm minimum of 73 set on February 12 a year ago.
  • Tuesday’s low in Key West was a balmy 77 degrees, tying the record warm low set a year ago.
  • Orlando and Daytona Beach each missed tying record lows by 1 degree.

After the Wednesday-Thursday cool-down, temperatures should be back near 80 by Friday, and another cold front that approaches the state later in the weekend is expected to be deflected by high pressure over the peninsula.

Of course it’s still winter — meteorological spring starts March 1 and astronomical spring begins on Wednesday, March 20 — but the second half of February can bring some summer-type temperatures around Florida.

Thursday is the earliest 90-degree temperature recorded in Fort Lauderdale (February 14, 1948); in Miami it’s March 2, 2003 and in West Palm Beach it’s February 10 (1949). The first 90-degree day occurred in Naples on March 8, 1974.

In Orlando the first 90 degree high occurred on February 15, 1935; February 24 in Melbourne (92 degrees, set in 1962). Tampa’s first 90-degree day didn’t occur until March 16, 1945.