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)
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.
‘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.