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

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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.

Sultry summer-like nights could challenge Florida records this weekend

It’s only the end of April, but warm, sticky summer nights are upon us in South and Central Florida, with low temperatures forecast to approach the warmest ever recorded for the month.

West Palm Beach forecast lows Thursday and Friday nights are 78 degrees, just a degree shy of the all-time warmest for April set in 2011.

Thursday and Friday night National Weather Service forecast lows in Miami are slightly cooler at 77 and 76, but both would set new warm minimum temperature marks for the dates, records more than two decades old.

temp changes South Florida
Thursday morning South Florida temperatures were up to 14 degrees warmer than 24 hours earlier. (Credit: NWS-Miami)

The warmest lows ever posted in Fort Lauderdale for the end of the month — a string of 79-degree lows from April 27-30 — could stand with expected minimum temperatures Friday and Saturday mornings at 77 degrees.

Water temperatures off southeastern Florida’s coast have jumped to around 79 degrees, and with southeasterly winds blowing over the peninsula from the Bahamas temperatures won’t have much of a chance to cool overnight.

Projected week ending lows in East-Central Florida are in the mid-70s, which would also be enough to break records.

Interior high temperatures this weekend are expected to soar well into the low 90s up and down the Florida peninsula.

Last Sunday’s 2-3 inches of rain in South Florida — with locally higher amounts — pulled most of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties out of the U.S. Drought Monitor’s Abnormally Dry category, but Severe Drought continues locked in to locations in Southwest and Central Florida.

In fact, the latest analysis released by the Drought Monitor showed an expansion of Moderate Drought conditions north of Orlando and edging up toward Northeast Florida. Moderate Drought has also returned to Florida’s extreme northern counties while Abnormally Dry conditions expanded in the panhandle.

It’s possible that another round of showers and thunderstorms — this time impacting the entire state rather than just South Florida — could be on the way next week, according to the National Weather Service.

After a warm and dry weekend, a front is expected to move into Florida Monday and Tuesday, forecasters said in Thursday’s weather discussions. “The front will have plenty of moisture ahead of it to promote showers and potentially thunderstorms,” they said. “As of right now, the front will also pack the ability to have some showers and thunderstorms along with it.”

A second front toward the end of next week “could, too, pack a bit of a punch,” they said, and forecast models are at least somewhat encouraging.

However, NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center, tasked with projecting rainfall amounts up to seven days in advance, is suggesting light precipitation amounts over most of the Florida peninsula through next Thursday, May 4. Heavier rainfall looks possible in North Florida and the panhandle, based on the agency’s graphic forecasts.

The Climate Prediction Center is forecasting above-normal precipitation in Florida for the first week in May, and normal precipitation during the second week of the month.

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Largest hail Key West

HISTORIC HAIL STORM: The largest hail ever recorded in Key West fell 14 years ago on April 27, 2003. The thunderstorm that produced it delivered a 53-mph wind gust and hail up to 1.75 inches in diameter. (Credit: NWS-Key West)

Diminishing winds forecast with slight chance of rain, but no drought relief in sight

It’s been good kite flying weather — assuming your string didn’t break and your kite ended up somewhere on Sanibel Island.

Winds were clipping along out of the east at a fairly brisk pace on Saturday, with a gust of 34 mph recorded at Palm Beach International Airport. Miami had a gust of 30 mph, and Fort Lauderdale reported a gust of 33 mph.

Even the West Coast wasn’t left out, with Naples reporting a 30 mph gust.

In Biscayne National Park, Fowey Rocks Lighthouse reported a pair of gusts Saturday of 36 mph.

Top 10 driest periods
Areas in West-Central and Southwest Florida have had one of the driest “dry seasons” on record, with some locations reporting the driest on record. (Credit: NWS-Tampa)

The trigger has been a block of high pressure in the Northeast, which began sliding southeast toward Bermuda on Sunday. That should swing winds around to the southeast, according to the National Weather Service, which means diminishing winds and higher humidity for South Florida.

The moister air results in rain chances rising to 30 percent Monday, and they remain between 20-30 percent most of the week. Unfortunately for the East Coast, most of the potent shower activity may be focused on the peninsula’s interior.

“Some of the heavier showers/storms may produce brief heavy downpours, which will be beneficial to the ongoing drought situation,” forecasters in Miami said Sunday.

Based on analyses from NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center, end-of-week rainfall totals look to be around an inch just east of Fort Myers and around a quarter of an inch in Palm Beach south into Miami-Dade. The lower Keys may also get a decent soaking.

But that will hardly be enough to dampen the developing South Florida drought. April rainfall deficits currently stand at about 2 inches in West Palm Beach; an inch-and-a-half in Miami and Fort Lauderdale; and an inch-and-a-quarter in Naples.

Central Florida deficits range widely from just 0.08 of an inch in Fort Pierce to 1.48 inches in Orlando. And Vero Beach is actually enjoying a surplus of 1.19 inches.

Tampa is down a half-inch, and the Middle- and Lower-Keys are running close to average.

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ANXIETY IN THE ARCTIC: A glacier that holds back water from Greenland’s massive ice sheet has developed worrisome cracks, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

The potential worst-case scenario sea level rise if the Greenland ice sheet melted: a foot.

At issue is the Petermann Glacier, which has already lost several Manhattan-sized chunks of ice since 2010.

The glacier floats atop a fjord as deep as the Grand Canyon, and acts as sort of a plug to stop ice melt from the ice sheet from pouring directly into the ocean.

Image credit: The Greenland ice sheet via Wikimedia Commons

Severe Drought spreads through Florida peninsula

Severe Drought spread through the central and southern Florida peninsula this week, encompassing areas from the Treasure Coast in the east to Naples north to Tampa on the Gulf Coast.

Almost all of Collier County was dropped into the Severe Drought category by the U.S. Drought Monitor in a new assessment released Thursday, and even parts of western Miami-Dade County as well as Broward County and northwestern Palm Beach County were dealing with Moderate Drought. The metro areas of South Florida, from Miami to West Palm Beach, remained Abnormally Dry.

Drought Monitor
Severe Drought has taken hold over a large portion of the Florida peninsula. (Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor)

West Palm Beach received the first measurable rainfall of the month on Wednesday — 0.01 of an inch as moisture associated with a low pressure area in the Atlantic sent a few showers streaming into South Florida in the morning. Palm Beach International Airport is 1.6 inches below normal for the month.

 

Miami also had its first measurable rainfall for April with 0.06 of an inch; Fort Lauderdale also had 0.06 of an inch; but Naples reported just a trace.

Some areas of Hendry County picked up as much as 0.77 of an inch of rain on Wednesday, and an unofficial observer in the Everglades east of Naples reported 1.46 inches.

And an observer west of Miami reported 1.92 inches.

Spotty showers may continue over Florida’s East Coast as high pressure building over Bermuda pumps a more humid air mass over the peninsula through the weekend, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

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TROPICAL FORECAST ACCURACY RISES: The National Hurricane Center set records for accuracy in the 12- to 96-hour periods with their 2016 forecasts, the agency said in its forecast verification report.

“The mean NHC official track forecast errors in the Atlantic basin were smaller than the
previous 5-yr means at all forecast times,” the agency reported.

Intensity forecasts errors were lower than the five-year mean for 48 hour forecasts, but slightly higher than the mean for longer lead times, officials said.

State of emergency declared in Florida as wildfires rage

Smoke advisory
A dense smoke advisory was issued for Collier County Tuesday. Smoke was impacting drivers on Alligator Alley, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Tuesday as wildfires continued to blaze across the state.

He said that the “ongoing danger of wildfires threatens the State of Florida with a major disaster” due to major fires affecting more than 20,000 acres in 107 areas.

Twelve homes were destroyed in southern Polk County, ABC News reported. In South Florida, fires were reported in Glades, Broward and Collier counties, and the National Weather Service in Miami issued a dense smoke advisory for most of Collier County east of Naples.

“Much of Central and South Florida are approaching drought-like conditions and the chances for wildfires are continuing to increase with hotter temperatures and low rainfall,” Scott said in a statement on the governor’s website.

“This may only get worse as we enter the hotter summer months and it is crucial that we take every action right now to be prepared. It is incredibly important that wildfire response is swift and deliberate and this state of emergency will make it easier for our state, regional and local agencies to quickly work together to protect our families, visitors and communities.”

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam declared it the worst wildfire season in the state since 2011.

There’s not much optimism among weather forecasters for a quick solution to the wildfire problem. Rain chances top out at around 30 percent Wednesday as “a notable moisture surge is forecast to move across the area early Wednesday into Thursday,” according to the NWS Miami office.

But precipitation chances fall back into the 20 percent range for the rest of the week under mostly sunny skies and continued warm temperatures.

Normal precipitation is in the longer-term outlook for South Florida, through April 24.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for below normal rainfall in North Florida from April 22 to May 5, but forecasters hedged their bets for Central and South Florida, saying there are equal chances for above, below, or normal rainfall amounts.

The U.S. Drought Monitor will have a fresh analysis of conditions across the state on Thursday.