NOAA boosts Florida rainfall forecast, but drought concerns continue

5 day rainfall

(Credit: NOAA/ WPC)

Palm Beach on Florida’s East Coast — and over to Fort Myers on the West Coast — could be in for almost 2 inches of rain over the next several days before the season’s strongest cold front finally clears the peninsula.

NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center also predicts a swath of heavier rainfall through the center of the state north of Okeechobee. This rain will be beneficial since almost all reporting stations around Florida, from the Keys to the panhandle, are looking at growing precipitation deficits since the end of November.

The rain should start Thursday in the north and continue into Friday and Saturday in South Florida, the National Weather Service said.

Thursday temps
(Image credit: NWS-Tampa)

As is often the case with winter cold fronts, forecast highs and lows have been trending down across the state. Even South Florida may not get out of the mid-60s on Sunday and Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

The adjacent forecast map from the National Weather Service in Tampa shows the progress of the front as of Thursday morning, with cold temperatures already edging into northern counties.

Once the front does clear, rain chances across the peninsula fall to near zero, which brings us to the subject of potential winter drought — not only in Florida but the southern tier of states. The U.S. Drought Monitor published its updated drought status on Thursday, with drought or Abnormally Dry conditions in the Florida panhandle and spreading down to the Nature Coast north of Tampa.

Incredibly — despite Hurricane Harvey pounding East Texas with almost 60 inches of rain at the end of August — many of the affected areas are now Abnormally Dry or already entering drought conditions.

“In Texas, areas of drought expanded across the eastern portion of the state as the warm and dry pattern continued,” the Drought Monitor noted in its Thursday analysis. “According to NOAA’s NCEI [National Centers for Environmental Information], Texas experienced its 12th driest and 6th warmest October-November period on record.”

Texas drought

Much of Eastern Texas is either Abnormally Dry or already in drought conditions. (Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor)

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Will end-of-week storms zap growing rainfall deficit?

7 day rainfall

Projected rainfall through Tuesday, December 12. (Credit: NOAA/ WPC)

Up to an inch of rain is possible on Florida’s East Coast — from around Melbourne down to Miami — with the arrival of the end-of-week cold front.

Some of the coolest temperatures of the season will remain locked into place through at least early next week, forecasters say, with some slow-but-steady rainfall totals that should eat up precipitation deficits that have been developing over the peninsula.

NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center has most of the peninsula shaded in dark blue in the seve-day graphical forecast, indicating around a half-inch may fall through the weekend. Heavier amounts may target the southeastern coast and in the Florida panhandle, where drought conditions have already developed.

Moderate Drought (D1) has moved into the central panhandle north of Apalachicola to the Georgia-Alabama state line, while Abnormally Dry conditions have spread south and east into the Nature Coast, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Both Tallahassee and Apalachicola had precipitation deficits of nearly 3 inches in October, and the unsually dry weather has continued into December. Apalachicola has yet to record a drop of rain this month.

Although locations down the Florida peninsula fared better during the fall (with notable exceptions of Orlando and West Palm Beach), the entire state is at greater risk for drought this winter due to the presence of La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific.

In its last monthly Drought Outlook published November 16, the Climate Prediction Center said drought conditions were likely to develop by the end of February in all of the panhandle and into North Florida.

But with a warm and dry winter forecast for Florida, don’t be surprised to see at least Abnormally Dry conditions slowly spreading down the peninsula as the season progresses.

“Each of the last four weak La Niña winters have led to moderate to severe drought by spring over at least parts of South Florida,” the National Weather Service in Miami said in its Dry Season Outlook issued October 27.

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7 day forecast Tallahassee

Wintry temperatures, by Florida standards, are in the forecast for the end of the week. (Credits: NWS-Tallahassee, above; NWS-Tampa, below)

Friday afternoon highs

Florida rainfall deficits mounting — will tropical wave come to the rescue?

SFL tropical waves

WEDNESDAY UPDATE:  A pair of tropical waves, one of them the remnants of Tropical Depression Four, are expected to bring some much needed rain to South Florida late Wednesday and Thursday, the National Weather Service in Miami said. No development of the waves is forecast, but the TD Four remnants may bring the wettest weather.  “Locally heavy rainfall will be a concern,” forecasters said in their Wednesday morning discussion from Miami, “mainly with training activity, but there doesn’t look to be a significant flooding threat as the wave looks to continue to dampen out as it approaches.” (Credit: NWS-Miami)

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ORIGINAL POST: Despite all the whoopin’ and hollerin’ about potential tropical activity in the Atlantic, the first 10 days of the month have come in ultra-dry for Florida’s East Coast.

Palm Beach is officially an inch-and-a-half behind on normal rainfall, Fort Lauderdale is three-quarters of an inch short, and Miami has about a half-inch deficit. In the Keys, Marathon is an inch behind although Key West has had precipitation levels near average.

A tropical wave brought rainfall to the extreme southern peninsula and the Keys on Monday, but conditions remained dry north of Fort Lauderdale.

The West Coast has been the big beneficiary of the trend, with Naples chalking up 5.11 inches of rain so far in July — 2.35 above average.

Rainfall has been very localized — typical of summer in Florida. For example, Orlando is enjoying near-average precipitation this month but to the east, Melbourne has had only 0.04 of an inch, closing in on 2 inches below normal with a third of the month already in the books.

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LA record Saturday

Record heat has baked the Southwest this summer. (Credit: NWS-Los Angeles)

Florida temperatures have been hot — but that’s par for the course. So far, temperatures haven’t approached the record levels seen last year, although overnight record warm lows continues to be set in East Coast locations.

But unprecedented heat waves have gripped other parts of the country, particularly the Southwest. On Saturday, Los Angeles hit 98 degrees, smashing a 131-year-old record high of 95 set in 1886.

All-in-all, the first half of 2017 was the second-warmest on record, according to NOAA. The warmest first half of the year was 2012.

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two_atl_5d0

A quiet forecast map returned Tuesday at the National Hurricane Center. (Credit: NHC)

TROPICS TALK: Forecast models made an abrupt U-turn Tuesday and decided they favor a quiet Atlantic over the next seven to 10 days. The disturbance in the eastern Atlantic has been taken off the National Hurricane Center forecast map and the two models that do most of the heavy lifting for forecasters — the GFS and the European (ECMWF) — show clear sailing, at least for now.

Also, the latest attempts by ex-Tropical Depression Four north of Puerto Rico to spin back up into a tropical cyclone have been kicked back by dry air, and the future of this slow-moving system remains uncertain.

Whatever does survive may head for the Florida Straits rather than the peninsula itself, hurricane forecast models suggest.

However, the National Weather Service in Miami continues to call for a wet day on Thursday as ex-TD Four slides over or near the area.

“Numerous showers with embedded thunderstorms are expected throughout the day,” forecasters said Tuesday, with “periods of locally heavy rainfall” possible. “Enhanced cloud cover will also hold down temperatures a few degrees in the mid-upper 80s.”

storm_04

Tuesday’s forecast tracks for ex-TD Four suggest the possibility of a more southerly route. (Credit: SFWMD)

Rain washes away all drought and dry conditions in Florida

FL Drought Monitor
Finally — a drought-free Florida. (Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor)

Florida is completely drought free — not a spec of yellow, beige or red on the U.S. Drought Monitor map — for the first time since last summer.

Soaking rains earlier this month knocked out developing drought in Central Florida and in the Southwest.

This week’s rains washed out the last vestiges of Abnormally Dry conditions that remained in North-Central portions of the peninsula and in the panhandle, the Monitor reported in an analysis released Thursday.

In fact, drought conditions were wiped away from all of the southeastern U.S., leaving a few Abnormally Dry counties in parts of Georgia.

Drought expanded, meanwhile, in the High Plains of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, and remained in place in the Desert Southwest.

TROPICS TALK: The National Hurricane Center map is clear in both the Atlantic and Pacific following the dissipation of Tropical Storm Dora west of Mexico. The GFS continues to show a disturbance moving west through the Atlantic the weekend of July 8 and the European (ECMWF) has a very weak low near Barbados on July 9.

RECORD WATCH: Vero Beach tied a record warm low on Tuesday with 76, last set in 2010.

RADAR ZAPPED: A lightning strike knocked out the Central Florida National Weather Service radar in Melbourne on Tuesday.

“Some key components were damaged by the strike,” the office said on its Facebook page on Wednesday. “We are working to restore service as soon as possible, but it may be a few days before we can accomplish this.”

Treasure Coast radar images can be accessed from NWS-Miami, the Space Coast from NWS-Jacksonville, and Orlando radar can be viewed from NWS-Tampa.

Chances of tropical system in Gulf are increasing, Hurricane Center says

two_atl_5d0

National Hurricane Center forecasters got out their orange marker for the Yucatan Peninsula on Thursday, showing increased odds for tropical development. (Credit: NHC)

A tropical storm or depression is looking more likely in the Gulf of Mexico next week after the National Hurricane Center bumped up chances for development.

Forecasters said there’s a 50 percent chance that a low expected to spin up near the Yucatan Peninsula will become a tropical depression, or Tropical Storm Bret, by Tuesday.

NOAA’s GFS and the European model (ECMWF) are in agreement with development, and eventually take the system into Mexico, while the Canadian (CMC) and the Navy model (NAVGEM) push a deeper low up through the Central Gulf of Mexico toward the western Florida panhandle.

But since the GFS and ECMWF are the gold standards in weather forecasting, local National Weather Service are basing their longer-term forecasts on the western scenario, which will likely mean less rain for Florida’s East Coast next week.

The eastern Atlantic tropical wave, meanwhile, still has a 20 percent chance of developing by Tuesday, the NHC said. But it’s interesting to note that several other potent waves are emerging off the coast of Africa behind the one posted on the NHC forecast map — very early, indeed, for such a parade to begin.

However, wind shear analyses by the University of Wisconsin continue to show hostile conditions in the Central Atlantic, with shear ranging from 25-50 knots. Ditto for the western Caribbean, although conditions become a bit more marginal in the Gulf of Mexico, and shear is forecast to drop in the southwestern Gulf on Friday.

It’s also interesting to note that neither area of projected development has been designated an invest yet by the NHC, which means the full range of model maps is not yet available. For the western Caribbean, that could change later on Thursday or Friday, since storms seem to be boiling up with more frequency off the coast of Central America.

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OUT WITH DROUGHT: Florida’s wet June has really done a number on drought conditions that had built up over the dry spring. Thursday’s report by the U.S. Drought Monitor showed drought-free conditions in all of South Florida with Moderate Drought still in place in Central Florida from Tampa to Brevard County on the East Coast.

That could be wiped away next week if any of the tropical moisture from the Gulf makes its way into the Tampa area.

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SNEAK PEEK AT EARLY FALL: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released its 90-day forecasts Thursday, indicating above-normal temperatures across almost all of the U.S. through September. Forecasters hedged their bets on precipitation forecasts, indicating equal chances for above- or below-normal rainfall across most of the country with the exception of the northwestern Gulf coast, where abnormally high precipitation is forecast.

Normal rainfall is expected in South Florida through the end of June.

Extreme Drought expands in Central Florida

Extreme Drought conditions have expanded in Central Florida north of Lake Okeechobee, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported Thursday. They now stretch from the northern shores of the lake to just south of Orlando.

The only drought-free areas of the state included the southeastern counties of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade, and counties along the Gulf Coast in the panhandle. Most of the rest of the state is suffering from Moderate or Severe Drought, including the Tampa area and all of the rest of the western peninsula.

Despite last weekend’s cold front and rain, two of the four major reporting sites in South Florida have fallen behind in monthly precipitation. West Palm Beach and Naples remain slightly ahead of the game, but Miami and Fort Lauderdale have fallen behind by between a third and a half-inch.

The Extreme Drought in Florida is one of only two spots in the entire U.S. dealing with that level of drought, the other being just north of the Florida state line in southeastern Georgia.

California is now almost drought-free, with the exception of a few areas of far Southern California where Moderate Drought remains in place.

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Adrian

Adrian was disorganized Thursday as it moved northwest at 7 mph off the coast of Central America. (Credit: NHC)

MEANDERING IN THE PACIFIC: Adrian, the earliest forming tropical storm in the eastern North Pacific, continued to deteriorate Thursday morning and was expected to become a remnant low by Thursday afternoon. It was downgraded from a tropical storm to a depression Wednesday afternoon.

Adrian was moving toward the northwest — away from the coast of Mexico, and a turn toward the west was expected.

The National Hurricane Center had originally forecast Adrian to become a 100-mph hurricane, but increasing wind shear disrupted the system.

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GLOBAL TEMPERATURE BREAKTHROUGH SEEN: Global temperatures could exceed pre-industrial levels by 1.5 degrees C by 2026, a new study by the University of Melbourne in Australia contends.

Researchers say the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation, or IPO has been in a negative phase, which has somewhat modified the advance of global warming. But they believe the IPO is now transitioning to a positive phase, which could actually enhance, rather than off-set, warming.

“Even if the IPO remains in a negative phase, our research shows we will still likely see global temperatures break through the 1.5 C guard rail by 2031,” lead author Ben Henley says.

Cool, dry weekend in store for Florida after Friday cold front

Saturday Gulf satellite

Saturday’s Gulf of Mexico satellite image showed the cold front that brought the morning’s cool temperatures to Florida parked over the Central Bahamas. High pressure moves off the coast into the Atlantic on Sunday, bringing easterly winds and setting the stage for a slow rise toward summer-like temperatures across peninsula by the end of the week. (Credit: NOAA)

SATURDAY UPDATE: The temperature bottomed out at 63 in West Palm Beach Saturday, 6 degrees below normal but 14 degrees off the record low for the date of 49 set in 1921. Winds were gusting out of the northwest at up to 26 mph.

It was 66 in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Naples, but the low- to mid-70s in the Keys.

Temperatures were in the upper 50s in Glades County — although it was 53 in Palmdale — and in the upper 50s in inland Collier County.

Mid- to upper-50s ruled over most of the rest of the state, from Central Florida to North Florida and into the panhandle. There were also a few scattered 40s in the panhandle.

Another cool night in the low 60s and upper 50s inland is in the forecast Saturday night to early Sunday morning, according to the National Weather Service. The winds swing around to the east late on Sunday and the Big Warm-up begins.

By the end of the week, lows will only be in the mid-70s in coastal South Florida with highs edging up near 90.

FINAL FRIDAY RAINFALL TOTALS: Miami, 0.47 of an inch; Fort Lauderdale, 0.18; West Palm Beach, 0.46; Naples, 0.62; Fort Myers, 0.14; Tampa, 0.37; Fort Pierce, 0.34; Vero Beach, 0.18; Orlando, 0.06; and Daytona Beach, 0.03.

Key West reported 0.07 of an inch and Marathon had 0.08 of an inch.

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ORIGINAL POST: Around a quarter to an inch of rain fell in interior areas of South Florida Thursday night as the first round of showers and thunderstorms drove through ahead of a cold front that is forecast to give the state a shot of crisp, March-like weather.

Humidity levels were forecast to plunged Friday afternoon on northwest winds and highs Saturday and Sunday are expected to top out at around 80 degrees on the East Coast — that’s the normal high for Miami on March 5.

North Florida locations had already fallen into the 50s early Friday and relative humidity levels were forecast to be in the 25-30 percent range with gusty 30 mph winds, leading to a weekend of high fire danger there and to the south through Central Florida and into interior parts of South Florida.

At 8 a.m., it was in the upper 40s in the Florida panhandle.

Showers and thunderstorms were just moving through South Florida Friday morning, but the front left some heavy rain totals in North Florida and the panhandle on Thursday night. Central Leon County near Tallahassee reported 3.65 inches of rain and several observers in nearby counties reported in excess of 2 inches, according to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS).

East-Central Florida reported around a half-inch and West-Central locations received up to an inch.

The heftiest rain from Thursday’s storms in South Florida were in interior South Broward County, where up to an inch fell.

Despite the drier conditions and pleasant afternoon temperatures around the state over the weekend, lows should be well short of record territory. Forecast lows in Southeastern Florida are in the upper 60s Saturday and Sunday, low 60s in the interior and upper 50s in the interior areas of Central Florida.

Gainesville’s forecast low Saturday night is 53.

The record low in West Palm Beach for May 6 is 49 — the last record low in the 40s for the city until Oct. 20.

A return to higher heat and humidity, more typical of May and early summer, is set to return to most of the peninsula by mid-week, according to the National Weather Service.

Meanwhile, Florida’s drought conditions deteriorated on Thursday with the U.S. Drought Monitor putting an area northwest of Lake Okeechobee into D3 Extreme Drought category. At the same time, Thursday’s analysis extended Severe Drought into almost all of North Florida while Mainland Monroe County remained in Moderate Drought.

Only Southeastern Florida — most of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties — remained free of drought and/ or Abnormally Dry designations. Most of the panhandle is also Abnormally Dry.