Colorado State calls for busy hurricane season, higher chances of Florida landfall

Panhandle tornado

FRIDAY UPDATE: The National Weather Service in Tallahassee confirmed that three tornadoes tore through Madison County in North Florida on Tuesday, uprooting trees, snapping off a utility poll and causing roof and window damage to a business. The longest duration tornado was on the ground for almost 12 miles and for a duration of 10 minutes. Earlier, an EF-0 tornado touched down in Walton County, east of Pensacola. In all, four tornadoes were reported in Florida.



The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season turned out to be a doozy after a slow start. There were 18 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, including Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas and swiped Florida’s East Coast with its outer bands. (Image credit: NOAA via Wikimedia Commons)

ORIGINAL POST: As if we don’t have enough to worry about as we head into a very uncertain spring and summer: The first 2020 hurricane season forecast was issued today, calling for another busy year.

Colorado State University is calling for 16 named storms, eight hurricanes and four majors, Category 3 or stronger. Probabilities for a U.S. landfall are also above average, according to the team of CSU researchers — Philip Klotzbach, Michael Bell, Jhordanne Jones.

“Current warm neutral ENSO conditions appear likely to transition to cool neutral ENSO or potentially even weak La Niña conditions by this summer/fall,” they said in the analysis.

“Sea surface temperatures averaged across the tropical Atlantic are somewhat above normal. Our Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation index is below its long-term average; however, most of the tropical Atlantic is warmer than normal. We anticipate an above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean.”

Floridians like to practice social distancing with hurricanes, keeping them at least 600 miles away, but we’ve had several close calls over the past several years with Dorian in 2019 and Matthew in 2016, along with a direct hit from Hurricane Irma in 2017.

We could see more nail-biters this year, the report suggests.

The CSU forecast kicks off the pre-season analyses, with more forecasts to come this month from the United Kingdom’s Tropical Storm Risk, AccuWeather and The Weather Channel. NOAA’s forecast is released at the end of the May, right before hurricane season starts on June 1.

The next CSU updated hurricane season forecast will be issued on Thursday, June 4.


Florida drought

DRY EVERYWHERE:  Most of Florida is now under Moderate Drought. (Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor)

DROUGHT TAKES HOLD: Nearly the entire State of Florida is now dealing with Moderate Drought, with a few pockets of Abnormally Dry conditions, a new analysis by the U.S. Drought Monitor revealed this morning.

Moderate Drought stretches from around the Nature Coast on the Gulf of Mexico northeast to around St. Augustine on the Atlantic side. That includes all of South Florida with the exception of southeastern Palm Beach, eastern Broward and northeastern Miami-Dade, areas that have been designated Abnormally Dry.

Moderate Drought and a pocket of Severe Drought affect the central panhandle south of Tallahassee, and Escambia County in the far western panhandle is also under Moderate Drought.

“In Florida, a number of observing stations around the state recorded their driest March on record including Lakeland Linder Regional Airport (0.00”), St. Petersburg Albert Whitted Airport (0.00”), and Vero Beach International Airport (0.02”),” said David Simeral of the Western Regional Climate Center.

“According to the March 30 USDA Crop Progress and Condition Report, pasture conditions in Florida were steadily deteriorating around the state because of the abnormally warm temperatures and decreasing soil moisture levels.”

More dry weather is in the forecast for the next 10 days or so; below normal precipitation is called for over most of the Florida peninsula through at least April 11.

Dry weather Keys

It was the third driest March in Marathon, the National Weather Service reported today. The threat of wildfires around the state has increased due to unusually dry air following Wednesday’s cold front, forecasters said. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

Scientist argues warming climate caused coronavirus outbreak

Florida drought

How far in the hole will Florida be for March rainfall when the month ends tomorrow? Looks like there will be big deficits everywhere, and it’s likely that drought conditions will expand when the new report by the U.S. Drought Monitor comes out Thursday. This map, posted by the National Weather Service in Melbourne, shows that the driest conditions have been in South Florida and South-Central Florida. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)


MORE CLIMATE CHANGE CONSEQUENCES: Did climate change help trigger the coronavirus outbreak? A controversial professor in the United Kingdom says yes, that a warming climate caused bats to alter their movements and put them in closer contact with humans.

Jem Bendell, a social science professor at the University of Cumbria, believes if we don’t change course on climate change, there will be other pandemics and he told Bloomberg News that the idea of returning to normal after the coronavirus outbreak is a

Bailing out polluting industries like the airlines is a mistake, he said. “Keeping the most polluting industries afloat will increase the likelihood of future pandemics.”

Bendell believes that the first wave of climate change consequences have been more directly weather related — the wildfires in Australia, and super hurricanes in the Pacific and Atlantic. The next wave will be pandemics.

His theory, which he calls “deep adaptation,” was outlined in a 2018 paper called “A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy.”

To call Bendell a doom-and-gloomer might be an understatement. He says climate change will lead to war, famine, and disease — even the collapse of civilization — within the next decade.


RECORD WATCH: Jacksonville set another high temperature record Sunday with 91, beating the previous record for the date of 89 set in 1991.

Naples tied a record high with 90, matching the mark set in 1975; and Sanford busted a record high with 92. That beat the old record of 91 set in 1994. Leesburg set a record high with 91, beating the previous record of 90 set in 1991.

West Palm Beach and Key West tied record warm lows on Sunday with 75 and 78, respectively.

Drought conditions edge into Everglades

Florida drought conditions

(Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor)

Moderate Drought conditions have moved into the Everglades, and almost the entire Florida peninsula is in the Abnormally Dry category, a precursor to full drought. The new report by the U.S. Drought Monitor was issued Thursday.

The newly designated Moderate Drought encompasses eastern Collier County and southeastern Lee County.

In their analysis for the Drought Monitor, Brad Rippey of the, U.S. Department of Agriculture and NOAA’s Richard Heim said: “Dry weather dominated the lower Southeast, including Florida, boosting irrigation demands and further reducing topsoil moisture. Weekly temperatures averaged more than 10 degrees above normal in many areas from the central Gulf Coast into the Southeast, contributing to further introduction or intensification of abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate to severe drought (D1 to D2).

“The dryness extends back several months in parts of Florida, where moderate to severe drought (D1 to D2) was introduced or expanded. The new D1 area, highlighted by dry soils, low streamflow, and increasing fire danger, encompasses part of interior southern Florida, south of Lake Okeechobee.

“During the first 24 days of March, no measurable rain fell in many Florida locations, including Tampa, Lakeland, and Sarasota-Bradenton. Those values are 2 to 3 inches below normal — and have been accompanied by temperatures averaging 4 to 6 degrees above normal. March 1-24 rainfall totaled just 0.02 inch in Orlando, Fort Myers, and Daytona Beach, Florida.”

The long-range Climate Prediction Center forecast calls for above normal precipitation the first 10 days of April.


RECORD WATCH: Jacksonville set a record high Wednesday with  91, beating the old record of 90 set in 1954. It also tied the record for the warmest March temperature ever recorded in Jacksonville, which occurred on March 10, 1974.

Tallahassee tied a record high with 89. That record was last set in 1991.

Down the coast, Fort Pierce broke a record high with 91, beating the old record of 90 set in 1980. West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale tied record highs with 91 and 90, respectively.

Weekend heat wave expected to break with start of new month

Wildfire danger

(Image credit: NWS-Tampa)

Only one week left in March, which has turned out to be bone dry in Florida. Luckily it was a wet winter for many locations, or we’d be in worse shape heading into April.

National Weather Service forecasters in Tampa said on Facebook Tuesday: “With almost no rain for the month of March and warm temperatures, wildfire danger is increasing. Please be careful and do not accidentally start a fire.”

As of Monday there were 48 wildfires across the state.

Tampa has had just a trace of precipitation all month — barely enough to wet your windshield. That has resulted in a 2.26-inch rainfall deficit for the city, and there is no mention of rain in the National Weather Service forecast over the next week.

Orlando has measured 0.02 of an inch (at Orlando International Airport), a deficit of 2.58 inches, and Miami recorded a tenth of an inch through Monday, a 2.03-inch shortfall.

Jacksonville is in a little better shape with 1.23 inches of rain so far in March, still a shortfall of 1.76 inches. Tallahassee has 1.44 inches, but that’s a deficit of 3.17 iunches.

Increasing temperatures, with highs well into the 90s forecast for the end of the week and into the weekend, combined with low humidity is a recipe for the development of wildfires, so state officials are on high alert. The new U.S. Drought Monitor report comes out Thursday, and it will be interesting to see if drought conditions have started to pop up on the peninsula. Many areas are already Abnormally Dry.

Parts of the panhandle are already in Moderate or Severe Drought.

About the heat: It looks like a cold front could sweep away the near-record busting heat slated for late this week and the weekend. Weather Underground is forecasting a high of 95 in Orlando on Saturday, but the forecast high for Wednesday, April 1 is only 76, and that’s no foolin’. Morning lows could slip below 60.

South Florida is forecast to start the month cooler, with highs in the low 80s, which is close to normal for this time of the year.

Sunday highs NFL

Inland areas of North Florida will edge into the 90s this weekend, but cooler temps are likely for the start of the new month. Jacksonville’s forecast high for April 1 is only 73 degrees. (Image credit: NWS-Jacksonville)

Increasing wildfire concern as we head toward April, forecasters say

Drought report ECFL

(Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor/ NWS-Melbourne)

Florida meteorologists were talking about increasing rainfall deficits last week and here’s another look: The map from the U.S. Drought Monitor and National Weather Service shows huge areas of the state that are abnormally dry.

Through Friday, Orlando has had only 0.02 of an inch of rain all month, a shortfall of 2.31 inches.

“The lack of March rain, and deficit since January 1 is an increasing concern,” NWS forecasters in Melbourne said Saturday on Facebook. “Most of East Central Florida is now ‘Abnormally Dry’ according to the latest Drought Monitor graphic. With no rain forecast for at least the next seven days, conditions will only get drier.

“This combination of increasingly dry and hot conditions, ongoing lack of rainfall, and low relative humidity will continue to dry out local wildland vegetation, which will lead to an increasing fire weather concern into April.”

There were 46 active wildfires around the state on Saturday morning, with a higher concentration in North Florida. But there were also fires in Central and South Florida, all of them contained. We’re just getting into the heart of the wildfire season now, however.


Jax forecast

(Image credit: NWS-Jacksonville)

LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO DO THIS WEEKEND? Hmm, let’s see. All festivals and concerts have been canceled; bars and restaurants are closed … even the beaches are closed. So, is this near-perfect spring weather going to waste?

With sunny highs in the 80s across most of the peninsula and panhandle, the NWS in Jacksonville suggests that it’s “a good time for some family grillin’ & chillin’!”

The warm and dry conditions are forecast to continue well into next week.

Scientists warming to coronavirus theory; Fort Myers hits record high of 91

My March 7 post explored the possibility that warmer temperatures and higher humidity — both of which are on the increase in Florida this time of the year — help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

The speculation is based on the fact that spread of the influenza virus drops off drastically in warmer and more humid weather. But now a new study shows the virus that causes COVID-19 is also susceptible to these environmental factors.

The paper, published by researchers in China, High Temperature and High Humidity Reduce the Transmission of COVID-19, compared cases in 100 cities in China using a “R” factor representing the intensity of the transmission rate.

They concluded: “One degree Celsius increase in temperature and one percent increase in relative humidity lower R by 0.0383 and 0.0224, respectively. This result is consistent with the fact that the high temperature and high humidity significantly reduce the transmission of influenza. It indicates that the arrival of summer and rainy season in the northern hemisphere can effectively reduce the transmission of the COVID-19.”

The paper was reviewed by AccuWeather Meteorologist and Social Media Manager Jesse Ferrell, who reported:

“… the Northern Hemisphere will be in much better shape by July, just based on the weather. They even go so far as to say that Tokyo will experience a 48% drop in transmission of the virus by the time the Olympics start in July!

“I’ve reviewed the paper and it seems fairly comprehensive. Its existence on the SSRN website; however, does not mean that it was peer reviewed — any scientist can submit a paper there and the review process only requires a check for ‘completeness and relevance.’

“I’m sure its methodology isn’t perfect, but I don’t see any red flags that make me think that they didn’t do their due diligence.”


Tampa forecast

(Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

RECORD WATCH: Wednesday’s high in Fort Myers, 91, broke a 59-year-old temperature record. The previous record high of 90 was set in 1961.

Tampa and St. Petersburg tied record highs with 89 and 87, respectively. Naples also tied a record high with 90.

Record warm minimum temperatures were set or tied in West Palm Beach (73) and Leesburg (68).


DROUGHT UPDATE: Abnormally Dry conditions, the precursor to drought, has spread into most areas of the Florida peninsula, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported in an analysis released this morning. Areas south of Tallahassee remained in Moderate or Severe Drought.

As of this week, the only areas not designated in drought, or Abnormally Dry, were coastal areas of southeastern Florida, several counties northwest of Lake Okeechobee, and the western panhandle.



Jacksonville hits record high of 90; rainfall deficits building around the state

Key West sunrise

BUSINESS AS USUAL IN THE KEYS: After a spectacular weekend — high of 83 both days in Key West; 85 in Marathon — residents in Key West woke up to another stunning sunrise this morning, captured in this photo by National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Ross. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

WCFL am temps

It was a cool-ish start to the work week in West-Central Florida, but more highs in the 80s were expected by the afternoon. (Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

Jacksonville tied a record high Sunday with 90, matching the mark set on March 15, 1967. It was the first 90-degree day in Jacksonville and the first since October 31.

A record temp was also posted at Leesburg, where the high of 88 beat the old record of 87 set in 2015.

And West Palm Beach tied a record warm low with 75, a record last set in 1973.

There were other 90-degree temps around the state Sunday — at Cross City, Brooksville, the Orlando Executive Airport, and Winter Haven.

With the first half of March in the books, some impressive rainfall deficits are building up around Florida. In fact, last week’s U.S. Drought Monitor report had Abnormally Dry conditions, the precursor to full-fledged drought, moving into interior parts of South and Central Florida. The north is already dry, or in Moderate to Severe Drought.

Through Sunday, Miami’s precipitation deficit was 1.23 inches; Key West was short 1.07 inches; Orlando is down 1.65 inches; and some East-Central cities, including Daytona Beach, are down almost 2 inches. Tampa is down 1.44 inches.

Jacksonville is looking at a shortfall of 0.81 of an inch, while Gainesville is more deeply in the hole with a shortfall of 2.17 inches. Just 0.05 of an inch has fallen at Gainesville all month.

Tallahassee, which had a very dry fall, is looking at a 1.84-inch shortfall this month.