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.

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Colorado State calls for ‘slightly below average’ hurricane season

1969_Atlantic_hurricane_season_summary_map

Will the 2019 hurricane season map look anything like 1969? Hopefully not, since 1969, shown above, was a blockbuster year. But AccuWeather picked it as an analog. (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

April hurricane forecasts are dicey, since it’s a little early to see how weather patters in the tropics are gong to set up by late summer and early fall. But the bets are being placed on the table this week, highlighted by the most watched of all the forecasts, the one issued by Philip Klotzbach, Michael Bell and Jhordanne Jones at Colorado State University.

CSU posted its forecast this morning, calling for a slightly below normal season, although the team is predicting 13 named storms, five hurricanes and two major hurricanes, Category 3 or stronger. An average year has 12 named storms.

But they are betting that a percentage of the storms will be weak or of short duration. They forecast accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) — an assessment of the total strength and duration of all storms — to be 80. An average season has an ACE of 106.

“The current weak El Niño event appears likely to persist and perhaps even strengthen this summer/fall,” CSU forecasters said. “Sea surface temperatures averaged across the tropical Atlantic are slightly below normal, and the far North Atlantic is anomalously cool.”

They also forecast below average chances of a major hurricane striking the U.S. coast or the Caribbean.

Forecasts that come out around the start of hurricane season on June 1 tend to be more accurate, but CSU did pretty well last April with its forecast. It called for 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three majors — the final total was 15, eight and two.

Accuweather released its first forecast on Wednesday, calling for 12-14 named storms, five-to-seven hurricanes and two-to-four majors. That’s slightly above the average number of named storms, which is 12.

AccuWeather pegged 1969 as an analog year, which means experts believe weather conditions in the tropical Atlantic will be similar to that year during the 2019 hurricane season.

However, 1969 was a blowout year, with 18 named storms, 12 hurricanes and five majors, including the historic Category 5 Hurricane Camille, which leveled parts of the northern Gulf Coast.

The UK’s Tropical Storm Risk, which issued a similar 2019 hurricane forecast in December calling for 12 named storms, five hurricanes and three majors, publishes its updated outlook on Friday.

For the 2018 year, TSR nailed the forecast the previous December when it called for 15 named storms, seven hurricanes and three intense hurricanes. The actual numbers were 15 eight and two.

The organization — a consortium of meteorologists, researchers and insurance professionals — joined other forecasters in underselling the 2017 season, predicting 11 named storms in April, the same number as CSU. When the anticipated El Niño failed to take shape, however, TSR’s July 4 forecast was on target again at 17, seven and three. (CSU’s July 5, 2017 forecast was for 15, eight and three.)

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DROUGHT CONDITIONS EXPAND IN PANHANDLE: Abnormally Dry conditions remained unchanged this week in East-Central Florida and on the southeastern coast. But Moderate Drought has taken hold in the Florida panhandle’s three western-most counties — Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa.

Abnormally Dry conditions spread into the central Panhandle as far east as Jefferson County, to the east of Tallahassee.

The assessment was released Thursday by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

East Coast wind gusts top 40 mph; drought conditions spread in panhandle

Full Disk - Upper-Level Water Vapor - IR

The low causing Florida’s windy conditions was centered Thursday just off Great Abaco Island in the northern Bahamas.  It was forecast to strengthen as it drifts east. (Image credit: NOAA)

MAXIMUM GUSTS ALONG FLORIDA’S EAST COAST: East Cape Canaveral, 56 mph (120 miles east of Cape Canaveral via National Data Buoy Center); Cape Canaveral, 43 mph; St. Augustine, 42 mph; Lake Worth Pier, 39 mph; West Palm Beach, 35 mph; Fowey Rocks (Biscayne Bay, 33 mph); Jacksonville, 32 mph; and Fort Lauderdale, 29 mph.

RAINFALL REPORT: Orlando Executive Airport reported 1.26 inches, while 1.05 inches fell in Melbourne, according to the National Weather Service. Unofficially, the heftiest rain totals were in northern Brevard County, where almost 4 inches fell near Titusville, according to CoCoRaHS.

An observer in Orange County outside of Orlando reported 2.58 inches.

Gale Warnings and Small Craft Advisories remained in effect for South Florida waters, with a high risk of rip currents at beaches. The low that developed over the Bahamas was forecast to begin sliding east later on Thursday, slowly winding down winds over the Florida peninsula. But Friday will still be breezy, according to the National Weather Service.

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DROUGHT REPORT: As we approach the end of the dry season in Florida — it ends May 15 in the south — the state appears to be in pretty good shape. This week, though, Abnormally Dry conditions expanded from the western tip of the panhandle east into the Central panhandle.

Abnormally Dry conditions still plague parts of the peninsula’s East Coast, including coastal areas of Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Brevard counties. Brevard County got a soaking on Wednesday with the latest cold front, but that won’t be reflected until next week’s U.S. Drought Monitor report.

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ALMOST BEACH WEATHER (IN ALASKA): While Florida temperatures have been normal to even slightly coolish this month, “ludicrous” warmth has invaded the Northwest, according to Weather Underground’s Bob Henson. On March 19, all-time highs were posted at six sites in Alaska, including 67 degrees at Sitka, which is 400 miles from the Arctic Circle.

It was 71 in Yohin Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territories and 76 in Tofino, British Columbia. On the same day, Seattle set an all-time March temperature record with a high of 79. That was 8 degrees warmer than the March 19 high in Miami of 71.

“The rate at which Alaska’s temperature has been warming is twice as fast as the global average since the middle of the 20th century,” Henson wrote, quoting the 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment.

“Temperatures have been increasing faster in Arctic Alaska than in the temperate southern part of the state, with the Alaska North Slope warming at 2.6 times the rate of the continental U.S. and with many other areas of Alaska, most notably the west coast, central interior, and Bristol Bay, warming at more than twice the continental U.S. rate.”

March chill on horizon for Florida by next week

Tampa temps forecast

TEMPS TO DROP: Chilly weather is in the forecast for next week. “Don’t put those jackets away just yet,” the National Weather Service in Tampa said on its Facebook page Thursday. “Colder air is coming our way next work week.”

Just in time for the start of meteorological spring: Another round of winter weather.

An Arctic blast is headed from the northern Rockies into the eastern U.S. early in the week, and the cold air is forecast to make it all the way down the Florida peninsula by next Wednesday.

“Mild temperatures early in the period should later trend toward below normal,” forecasters at the National Weather Service in Miami said Thursday morning.

Parts of the northwestern panhandle will be at or around freezing.

Here are Tuesday night/ Wednesday morning forecast lows for the rest of the state: Tallahassee, 35; Lake City, 36; Jacksonville, 40; Tampa, 50; Melbourne, 53; and Orlando, 46.

Even interior South Florida will be chilly with a forecast low in Immokalee, inland Collier County, of 54. Coastal areas should be in the low 60s with the Keys in the mid- to upper-60s. But Wednesday’s forecast high in Key West is only 72.

Meteorological spring runs from March 1 to May 31, and normal highs will be approaching the 80-degree mark in Florida starting next week. That happens in Miami on March 5; Naples on March 10; and Fort Lauderdale on March 13. The normal high in West Palm Beach doesn’t hit 80 until March 26; March 27 in Orlando and Tampa, April 8.

But it can also get cold in Florida in March — the record low for the month in Miami is 32 degrees on March 3, 1980. That’s the same day Orlando reached its all-time March low of 25 and also the same day as Tampa’s March low of 29.

Nationally, we could be looking at temperatures next week in the single digits as far south as St. Louis, according to the GFS. The Canadian forecast model (CMC) has some below zero readings popping up in southern Illinois.

Temperatures around the peninsula are expected to be mostly above normal until the cold front rolls through.

RAINFALL REPORT: Parts of northern Brevard County reported more than an inch of rain on Wednesday, as did parts of northeastern Broward County. An observer in Boca Raton reported 1.83 inches, according to CoCoRaHS. Some areas in northern Hillsborough County checked in with as much as a half-inch.

DROUGHT REPORT: Last week’s analysis showing Abnormally Dry conditions on Florida’s East Coast from Brevard County south to Miami-Dade remained unchanged this week. But the report, released Thursday by the U.S. Drought Monitor, was based on rainfall through Tuesday morning and does not take Tuesday and Wednesday’s rainfall into account.

New NOAA forecast calls for warm, wet March in Florida

March forecast

(Image credits: NOAA/ CPC)

NOAA’s spring forecast was issued Thursday, calling for above normal temperatures in Florida and the eastern third of the U.S., and above normal rainfall in March, April and May.

Forecasters said chances of warmer-than-normal temperatures in East were “rather modest,” and added that the El Niño in place in the tropical Pacific contributed to the forecast of wetter than usual conditions in Florida and other southern states “to a small extent.” The current El Niño is forecast to be weak.

In Florida, chances of a warm and relatively wet March were pegged at greater than 50 percent, according to the Climate Prediction Center.

Interestingly, Thursday’s run of the GFS model is predicting some cooler temperatures to start off the new month in Florida, with some lows in the 40s popping up around parts of the central peninsula the week of March 3.

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RECORD REDUX: NOAA scientists continually point out that weather is different than climate. Weather incorporates day-to-day changes in temperature and precipitation, whereas climate is the slow evolution of average rain and temperature measurements over years or decades.

“Here’s one way to visualize it,” the agency says on its website on the topic. “Weather tells you what to wear each day. Climate tells you what types of clothes to have in your closet.”

“As global climate changes, weather patterns are changing as well. While it’s impossible to say whether a particular day’s weather was affected by climate change, it is possible to predict how patterns might change.”

So, is this month’s Florida heat wave an indication of climate change? Or is it just a part of routine fluctuations in the weather?

We can leave it to the experts to hash out, but here’s an interesting note: Most of Wednesday’s record warm temperatures beat or matched records that were set exactly one year ago — on the same date in 2018.

To wit:

Fort Lauderdale’s low temperature Wednesday was 76, which beat the previous record of 75 set on February 20, 2018.

West Palm Beach’s low of 76 beat the record of 75 set on the same date in 2018.

Key West tied a record warm low of 76, set on the same date in 2018.

Marathon’s low of 77 beat the record of 74 last set in 2018. It was also set in 1961, 1984, 1989, 1990, 1997 and 2014. The high of 86 in Marathon beat the old record of 85 set in 1992. This was the ninth warm temperature record set this month in Marathon.

Sanford scored a record high with 86 — a degree warmer than the record set on the same date in 2018.

In North Florida, Gainesville’s high of 86 beat the old record of 85 set in 2018.

Jacksonville set a record high dew point for the date — a very tropical 70 degrees. That broke the old dew point temperature of 69 set a year ago in 2018.

Orlando also tied a record warm minimum Wednesday with 69, but that tied a record set 58 years ago in 1961.

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RAINFALL TO THE RESCUE: Moderate Drought conditions on Florida’s East Coast have been wiped away by moderate to heavy rainfall over the last couple of weeks. The U.S. Drought Monitor left Abnormally Dry conditions in place from Brevard County south to coastal South Florida, including Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade.

But the Moderate Drought from Brevard south into Martin County was changed to Abnormally Dry in the latest analysis released Thursday.

“Coastal southern Florida’s small area of abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1) received additional rain, resulting in some further trimming of coverage,” said Brad Rippey, who wrote Thursday’s analysis for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “In fact, the elimination of Florida’s D1 leaves no drought east of the Mississippi River.

“Year-to-date rainfall through February 19 was above normal in Florida locations such as Vero Beach (5.06 inches, or 119% of normal) and Fort Pierce (4.89 inches, or 112%). Miami’s year-to-date rainfall, at 3.34 inches (106%), was also slightly above normal.”

Florida drought continues to diminish, more rain on the way for East Coast

Designated drought areas continued to shrink in Florida this week after another round of weekend rain on the East Coast.

The U.S. Drought Monitor eliminated areas of Moderate Drought for Palm Beach County, and interior areas of South Florida, from Palm Beach south to Miami-Dade and Mainland Monroe were removed from the Abnormally Dry category.

Northeastern Martin County up to Brevard County remained in Moderate Drought.

Areas west of Lake Okeechobee are no longer designated as Abnormally Dry, and all drought designations were removed from Collier and Lee counties.

“Only a small strip along the coast received significant precipitation, but in the wake of last week’s rain, additional improvements were introduce,” said NOAA’s Richard Tinker. “Subnormal groundwater and stream flows continued in the remaining areas depicted on the Drought Monitor.”

It’s interesting to note that these are the only drought designation in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River.

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WET WEEKEND? Parts of Florida’s East Coast could see a blustery Saturday due to a cold front forecast to stall over Central Florida, according to NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center.

The WPC graphical shows the heaviest rain — up to a half-inch — falling in the Vero Beach-Melbourne areas, with lighter amounts falling in southeastern Florida. Winds could gust up to 30 mph on Saturday, forecasters said.

The National Weather Service in Miami, in a “high-end” analysis of rainfall chances, said there is a 10 percent probability that South Florida’s East Coast could see rainfall totals near half an inch.

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Worldwide rising temps

(Image credit: NASA)

TREND IS NOT OUR FRIEND: The past five years collectively were the warmest on record worldwide, NASA and NOAA said in a post on a NASA website Wednesday. The agency announced that independent analyses by both agencies concluded that 2018 was the fourth warmest on since at least 1880, when these types of records began.

“2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

Average global temps have risen 2 degrees (F) in the last 138 years, and Schmidt and NASA says the warming trend is “driven in large part by increased emissions into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases caused by human activities.”

The speed of the warming varies from region to region, with the Arctic showing the most evidence of warming resulting in a steady loss of sea ice.

“In addition, mass loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets continued to contribute to sea level rise. Increasing temperatures can also contribute to longer fire seasons and some extreme weather events,” NASA said in the Wednesday release.

“The impacts of long-term global warming are already being felt — in coastal flooding, heat waves, intense precipitation and ecosystem change,” Schmidt said.

The warmest year on record was 2016, partly as a result of a strong El Niño.

Florida drought conditions improve after weekend rains

Drought conditions in Florida eased dramatically after last weekend’s heavy rains, The U.S. Drought Monitor reported Thursday.

A slice of the state’s East Coast from Brevard County south to Palm Beach County, was cut from Severe Drought to Moderate Drought, and areas that had been struggling with Moderate Drought are now designated as Abnormally Dry.

“Almost the entire region received ample precipitation for the week, with areas of Florida recording close to 4 inches above normal,” said Brian Fuchs, of the National Drought Mitigation Center. “The ample rain in south Florida allowed for a full category improvement to the drought status this week where severe drought was eliminated and moderate drought was confined to the coastal regions of east Florida.”

While the weekend storms gave many areas of South Florida a precipitation surplus for January, the area is still feeling the effects of an unusually dry fall. Normal to below normal precipitation is in the long-range forecast for the Florida peninsula.

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febforecast

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

All signs point to a nice February turnaround for Florida after a wet and cooler-than-normal second half of January.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for warm temperatures throughout the Keys, the peninsula and even the panhandle through at least February 13. In fact, the new February forecast released by the CPC on Thursday is calling for above-normal temperatures for the month.

Through a 10-day period from Saturday — which is February 2, through Sunday, February 10, AccuWeather is predicting that nine of those days will have highs ranging from 78-82, with Naples reaching temperatures as high as 86.

Inland from Naples in Immokalee, AccuWeather is calling for a streak of nine days in the 80s, capped by a high of 88 on February 10.