Rainy weekend for North Florida, but South expected to dry out

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UPDATE: Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center began tracking the low pressure system in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico Friday night, giving it a 10 percent chance of tropical development over the next two days and a 20 percent chance over the next five days.  (Image credit: NHC)

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North Florida rainfall

(Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

ORIGINAL POST: There’s good news and bad news as the weekend begins. The bad news is many western counties and areas of southeastern Florida were still under a Flood Watch on Friday. Showers and thunderstorms were moving on to the Nature Coast north of Tampa Friday morning — soaking areas that are already saturated from a week worth of heavy rainfall.

The ground is so saturated on the western Florida peninsula — and the southeast coast, too — it doesn’t take much rain to produce ponding and flooded roadways.

On top of that, North Florida and the panhandle are looking at a very wet weekend, due to a frontal boundary that’s streaming copious amounts of moisture  into the area from the Gulf of Mexico. The National Weather Service in Tallahassee is calling for 5-7 inches of rain around Cross City.

The good news is that many parts of the peninsula to the south will see drier weather on Saturday. Precipitation chances fall to 20 percent on the southeast coast, according to the National Weather Service. They’ll remain around 40 percent in the Tampa and Orlando areas, but that’s down from the 80 percent they had late in the week. 

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July temperature anomalies have been rising fast since the 1950s. (Image credit: NOAA)

GLOBAL MELTDOWN: No, we’re not talking about global financial markets here. July was the warmest month in recorded history worldwide, NOAA said Thursday.

July temperatures on land and sea were 1.71 degrees above the 20th century average, beating the previous warmest July, in 2016, by 0.05 of a degree.

Global temperature records began in 1880.

The U.S., however, had some cool spots and the July temperature for the contiguous 48 states was 1.0 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, making it the 27th warmest on record. Oklahoma and Arkansas had below normal temperatures, most of the U.S. West had close to normal temps, while the East Coast, including Florida, was above normal.

Florida had its seventh-warmest July on record, while Connecticut and Rhode Island had their second-warmest July.

Alaska had its warmest July since record keeping began there in 1925. Africa also had its warmest July. And the sea ice extent in the Arctic was the smallest since satellite records began in 1979.

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Tropics: Will this Atlantic hurricane season echo 1982?

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The 1982 hurricane season was the last year the Atlantic had no tropical storms or hurricanes from July 15 to August 19. (Image credit: NASA/ NHC Atlantic Hurricane Database)

The dead-quiet hurricane season is getting attention from experts who wonder just how unprecedented it is to have had no named storms during both the second half of July and the first half of August.

The last named storm was Barry, which expired on July 14. The National Hurricane Center is predicting no tropical development through at least August 19. The last time there were no storms in the Atlantic from July 15 to August 19 was 1982, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Philip Klotzbach.

That year, there were only six named storms; two of them occurred in June, and there were three in September. There were three unnamed tropical depressions that year; this season so far there has been one.

Forecast models have been suggesting the possibility of this quiet period lasting all the way through the end of the month. How unusual is that?

A quiet tropical period from July 15 to August 31 happened only twice since hurricane records began in 1851, Klotzbach said in a Twitter post. That was in 1914 and 1922.

In 1914, only one tropical storm formed all season, and that was on September 15. One and done, with no hurricanes. It was the slowest tropical storm season on record.

The 1922 season had five tropical storms, three hurricanes and one major hurricane, along with nine depressions that never made it to tropical storm status.

The lack of tropical storm formation is particularly noteworthy this year, since an El Niño in the Pacific ended and NOAA hiked its seasonal outlook on August 4 to as many as 17 named storms. The NOAA range was 10-17, making the average 13.5 — still an above-average season.

El Niño zaps tropical development by producing high wind shear in the Atlantic. That’s been one of the big issues this season, an indication that atmospheric conditions haven’t yet caught up with changes in tropical Pacific.

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RAINFALL REPORT: Another day, another Flood Watch. Florida’s Southeast Coast is under a Flood Watch Thursday until 8 p.m., as is the West Coast from Cedar Key south to Fort Myers. Things may dry out a bit over the weekend as high pressure moves over the state, but forecasters say there’s enough moisture in the air to keep rain chances up to 50 percent, focused on interior areas.

Tampa set a precipitation record Wednesday with 2.59 inches of rain. It broke the old record for August 14 of 2.11 inches set in 2013. Several CoCoRaHS observers in Hillsborough County reported close to 4 inches. And an observer in Hernando County, west of Brooksville, measured 5.43 inches.

RECORD WATCH: In the Keys, Marathon reported a record warm low on Wednesday of 85 degrees. That beat the previous record of 84 set in 2010 and 2017. Orlando tied a record warm low with 77, matching the mark last set in 2016.

Soggy August continues; homes flooding on Nature Coast

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STAY ON GUARD: A very informative graphic from the National Weather Service in Tampa reminding people that we’re entering the peak of the hurricane season. So far, nothing of major concern is showing up on model runs, but that can change quickly. (Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

Florida’s super-saturated — but tropical storm-free — August keeps on keeping on as we head into mid-week, with the National Weather Service in Tampa issuing warnings about home flooding in western counties.

“Very saturated soil caused by heavy widespread rain over west central Florida has caused many areas to be over-saturated,” TampaBay forecasters said Wednesday. “This has caused local street flooding daily with areas of heavy rain. Also we are seeing a few reports of homes beginning to flood along the Nature Coast.”

A Flood Watch was in effect for Florida’s West Coast from Crystal River south to Fort Myers and east to Sebring, Lakeland and Wildwood, the National Weather Service said.

Sarasota was socked with 1.15 inches of rain; Punta Gorda, 1.29;

North of that, a Heat Advisory was in effect for most of North Florida and the panhandle, with some areas expecting “feels like” temperatures up to 110 degrees.

Torrential rain hit the East Coast on Tuesday as well. An observer in Miramar reported 5.38 inches to the National Weather Service in Miami, while Miami International Airport officially reported 2.39 inches. Hollywood checked in with 2.36 inches.

To the north in Stuart, a CoCoRaHS observer said 3.73 inches fell in his backyard bucket.

Maximum heat index readings: Jacksonville, 109; Gainesville, 103; Orlando, 102; West Palm Beach, 102; Miami, 101; and Tampa, 100.

Gulf low could trigger another weekend soaking, forecasters say

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The seven-day rainfall outlook by NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center shows a precipitation bulls-eye near Florida’s northwest coast. (Image credit: NOAA/ WPC)

The tropical Atlantic remains amazingly quiet for mid-August — see the post by Weather Underground’s Jeff Masters (All Quiet in the Atlantic: Dry, Stable Air Rules) for a detailed explanation — but Northwest Florida could be in for a soaking this weekend from a low expected to form in the Gulf of Mexico.

Forecasters aren’t talking about tropical development, and the low could form close to the Florida coast or farther west, depending on which forecast model you look at, the GFS or the ECMWF. How the event unfolds will impact precipitation amounts over the entire Florida peninsula.

For now, NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center is forecasting as much as 10 inches of rain in Florida’s Big Bend area through the weekend and into early next week.

RAINFALL REPORT: Official rainfall totals from Monday’s National Weather Service reports were mostly ho-hum, although Sarasota picked up 1.25 inches.

Totals reported by the observer network CoCoRaHS were more robust: An observer in southern Seminole County, northeast of the University of Central Florida campus, reported that 4.28 inches of rain fell Monday. And an observer in Hudson, in Pasco County north of New Port Richey, reported 3.85 inches.

Port Salerno, Martin County, reported 3.33 inches; and Fort Pierce, 2.84.

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SEPTEMBER SNEAK PEEK: In Florida, it’s counter-intuitive to expect weather conditions to dry out in September, which is normally the wettest month of the year in most locations, along with June.  The first half of August has been wet. But the long-range outlook from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is for unusually dry conditions throughout the state. (Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

A day for the record books in Jacksonville; remembering Charley

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Forecast heat index values for Monday in South Florida. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

Sunday was one for the books in Jacksonville as multiple records were smashed. The high of 98 set a daily high temperature record; while the city’s 3.18 inches of rain set a daily rainfall record. The dew point reached 80 degrees, which tied the record for the highest dew point for the date — set 69 years ago in 1950.

It was 97 at the Orlando Executive Airport.

Top heat index readings around the state Sunday: Naples, 113; Daytona Beach, 113; Brooksville, 112; Jacksonville, 112; Melbourne, 109; Ocala, 108; Tallahassee, 108; West Palm Beach, 105; Vero Beach, 104; and Orlando, 103.

North Florida is under another Heat Advisory Monday, from around Ocala to Daytona Beach and northward, but the National Weather Service in Miami said even South Florida may flirt with Heat Advisory criteria, which is 108 degrees for two hours or more.

On the opposite side of the state, Key West logged its wettest day so far in August with 1.02 inches. Unlike cities on the East Coast of the peninsula, Key West is slightly behind on normal rainfall this month. Ditto for Marathon, which picked up 0.88 of an inch on Sunday.

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Satellite image of Hurricane Charley on August 13, 2004. (Credit: NOAA)

HISTORIC HURRICANE: Tuesday is the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Charley plowing into Florida’s Southwest Coast as a powerful Category 4 storm. Charley crossed Cuba and moved over the Dry Tortugas with winds of 110 mph, then surprised forecasters by rapidly intensifying as it approached the Florida coast.

The hurricane made landfall on Captiva Island with winds of 150 mph and a pressure of 947 mb. It turned more toward the northeast and punched into Punta Gorda with winds of 145 mph.

Charley then charted a course north-northeast up the peninsula while weakening, but it was still packing winds of 85 mph when it slammed Orlando. It emerged into the Atlantic near New Smyrna Beach — still as a Category 1.

It was the start of a brutal year for Florida hurricanes, as Charley was followed up by major hurricanes Frances, Ivan and Jeanne.

Heat Advisories posted for most of Florida

Out of the soup pot and into the frying pan. That’s the story around the Florida peninsula this weekend as forecasters post Heat Advisories for both east and west coasts.

A Heat Advisory is posted when heat index readings — a function of both temperature and humidity — reach at least 108 degrees for at least two hours.

An advisory is in effect for western Florida counties in the Tampa Bay area, where indices are expected to reach 108; and for parts of East-Central Florida where readings could hit as high as 110. The advisories are in effect until 5 p.m.

National Weather Service forecasters in Miami were holding off early Saturday on issuing an advisory, but said conditions could come close to advisory status in Southwest Florida and parts of inland Palm Beach County.

Coastal areas and residents of the South Florida metro areas will basking in “feels like” temps of up to 103.

North Florida and the panhandle are under Heat Advisories, too, for apparent temperatures of up to 110.

Well, it’s August 10; no one was expecting apple picking weather.

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NOTHING STIRRING: Saturday morning’s satellite shot of the Atlantic. (Image credit: NOAA)

TROPICS WATCH: No tropical development is expected by the National Hurricane Center in the Atlantic through at least Thursday. And the Saturday morning Atlantic wide angle image showed conditions that look more like winter than where we are on the calendar: exactly one month away from the statistical peak of the hurricane season.

There was nary a cloud in the Caribbean on Saturday morning.

There has been a lot of buzz about NOAA’s updated hurricane forecast, issued Thursday, increasing chances for an active hurricane season with as many as 17 named storms.

It’s worth pointing out that other agencies that issue seasonal forecasts aren’t on board with that. Colorado State University, which released its final seasonal outlook this week, stuck with a call for 14 named storms — 12 more this year since Andrea and Barry are already in the book.

“Sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic remain near average,” researcher Philip Klotzbach wrote along with Michael Bell and Jhordanne Jones. “While the odds of a weak El Niño persisting through August-October have decreased [EDITING NOTE: El Niño officially ended on Thursday], vertical wind shear in the Caribbean remains relatively high. The probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and in the Caribbean remains near its long-term average.”

Of course 12 named storms in September and October would be nothing to sniff at.

In the UK, Tropical Storm Risk called this week for a near-normal season with 13 named storms — 11 more.

“The forecast is slightly raised compared to TSR’s early July outlook due to the August-September trade wind speed over the Caribbean Sea and tropical North Atlantic now expected to be slightly more favourable for hurricane development,” TSR said.

One historical note: The 1961 hurricane season kicked off with Hurricane Anna in late July, then shut down for the entire month of August. The next named storm was Hurricane Betsy on September 2.

The year managed to squeeze out 11 storms despite the dead-quiet August, but 1961 set a record at the time for the most major hurricanes (Category 3 and stronger). There were eight hurricanes that year, seven of them majors.

The record still stands, but it was tied during the infamous 2005 Atlantic season.

End of El Niño means busier hurricane season ahead, NOAA says

Atlantic update pie chart 2019

(Image credits, above and below: NOAA)

Atlantic conditions NOAA

El Niño conditions in the tropical Pacific are officially over, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday. At the same time, the agency issued an updated hurricane season forecast warning that the likelihood of an above-average 2019 hurricane season had substantially increased.

NOAA upped chances of an above-average season to 45 percent, up from 30 percent in the outlook issued in May. Forecasters said there’s a 35 percent for a near-normal season and just 20 percent for a below-normal season. Twelve named storms is considered an average year.

There could be as many as 17 named storms this year, NOAA said. That would take us all the way to the “R” storm — Rebekah.

Since the season has only had two named storms so far, and the Atlantic looks quiet for at least the next week or so, an above-average season would mean a major spike in activity in September and October.

Forecasters predicted five to nine hurricanes — there has been one so far.

“El Niño typically suppresses Atlantic hurricane activity but now that it’s gone, we could see a busier season ahead,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “This evolution, combined with the more conducive conditions associated with the ongoing high-activity era for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995, increases the likelihood of above-normal activity this year.”

Lingering effects of El Niño are expected to keep wind shear high in the Caribbean, but shear over Florida and northern areas of the tropical Atlantic will likely drop, forecasters said. Ocean temperatures are above average.

The CPC said neutral conditions in the Pacific are likely to continue through the northern hemisphere winter (50-55 percent).

Chances of a La Niña — cooler Pacific water that usually brings a warm, dry winter to Florida — remain low through next spring, according to the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University.

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ECFL rain forecast

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

Rainfall amounts were a bit more subdued around Florida on Wednesday, and a drier end of the week is in the expected, according to the National Weather Service. But afternoon storms are still possible around the peninsula — minus the torrential downpours of that kicked off the week.

The problem is that many areas, particularly on the East Coast, are so saturated that any isolated heavy rain could cause another round of flooding.

Forecasters are concerned about the West Palm Beach area and parts of eastern Broward County.

“Saturated ground continues to be a concern across South Florida, but particularly along the east coast metro which has seen a
barrage of rainfall over the past several days due to the unsettled pattern,” they said Thursday.

South Florida rain chances remain in the 30-40 percent range through the weekend; ditto for Florida’s West Coast, but up to 60 percent in the Orlando area and only 20 percent in the Keys.

Panhandle heat

Heat indices are forecast to reach 107 degrees Thursday in the panhandle; closer to 100 in parts of Central and South Florida. (Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)