NOAA assesses memorable 2019 hurricane season

It was the fourth consecutive above normal year — only the second such stretch in hurricane history

IMAGE-Satellite-Atlantic hurricanes - September 2019 - From Left to Right - Fernand - Dorian - Gabrielle - Landscape

The satellite image from September 3 showed three storms in the Atlantic. Activity ramped up suddenly in late August and September, and the frantic pace continued into October. (Image credit: NOAA)

NOAA released its 2019 hurricane season wrap on Tuesday, noting that this was the fourth season in a row with above normal Atlantic activity. In hurricane history dating back to 1851, there has only been one other such stretch, from 1998-2001.

“Also this year, five tropical cyclones formed in the Gulf of Mexico, which ties a record with 2003 and 1957 for the most storms to form in that region,” NOAA said. “Of those, three — Barry, Imelda and Nestor — made landfall in the U.S.”

There were three major hurricanes this season — Dorian, Humberto and Lorenzo. Dorian, which tied three other hurricanes — the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, 1988’s Hurricane Gilbert and 2005’s Hurricane Wilma — for the second-strongest winds ever recorded in the Atlantic, made for an especially tense Labor Day Weekend in Florida.

The monster storm, with sustained winds of 185 mph, was forecast to plow into the Florida peninsula around Palm Beach County at one point, but then Dorian’s predicted landfall began edging to the north. It ultimately stalled over Grand Bahama and devastated Marsh Harbor on Great Abaco Island.

025521_5day_cone_no_line_and_wind-1

(Image credit: NHC)

This was the NHC forecast that slapped Florida residents on the evening of Thursday, August 29, as the storm began undergoing rapid intensification. The forecast was for a direct hit on the South-Central Florida coastline. By Saturday morning, forecast models began suggesting a turn to the north.

Residents were glued to forecast models, which are issued every six hours. At one point, the HMON had a wild, heart-thumping hurricane off the coast of Miami with a central pressure of 919 mb — for perspective, Andrew was 922 at landfall.

After pounding the Bahamas, and scaring the wits out of Florida’s East Coast, Dorian finally made landfall in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, on September 6 as a Category 1 hurricane with 90 mph winds.

It was one of four storms that made landfall in the U.S. during the 2019 season, along with Hurricane Barry, Tropical Storm Imelda (another huge rainmaker that brought catastrophic flooding to Texas), and Tropical Storm Nestor.

“This season’s activity ramped up in mid-August during the normal peak of the season, as we predicted,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

“The above-normal activity is consistent with the ongoing high-activity era, driven largely by the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, which entered a warm phase in 1995. Conditions that favored more, stronger, and longer-lasting storms this year included a stronger West African monsoon, warmer Atlantic waters, and weak vertical wind shear across the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.”

An average season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three majors.

How did the preseason forecasters do this year? NOAA predicted nine to 15 named storms in its May outlook, with four-to-eight hurricanes and two-to-four majors. It drastically upped its forecast in August, which raised some eyebrows since only two named storms had formed through the middle of the month.

But when the Climate Prediction Center announced that El Niño conditions in the Pacific had ended, NOAA forecasters concluded that the peak of the season would kick into high gear, and they were right.

Colorado State University remained fairly conservative in its forecasts, calling for 13 named storms in April; 14 named storms in June and 14 in August.

Ultimately, the 2019 season beat every single forecaster with 18 named storms — the closest April forecast was from North Carolina State University, which had predicted up to 16 named storms. NOAA predicted up to 17 named storms, but not until its August forecast.

Looking ahead, Colorado State University will release its first 2020 outlook in two weeks, on December 12. The CSU team discusses probable conditions and offers a range of possibilities in that initial outlook, rather than firm numbers.

The UK’s Tropical Storm Risk will also release its initial 2020 forecast that week.

So long, Sebastien; holiday week warm-up begins on Tuesday

two_atl_5d0

(Image credit: NHC)

CLEAR SAILING: Saturday marks the official end of the 2019 hurricane season, and it looks like it will go out on a quiet note. The National Hurricane Center will issue its final Tropical Weather Outlook on Saturday; outlooks are issued off-season only as necessary.

Sebastien was still packing 60 mph winds near the Azores on Sunday night, but the NHC said it had lost its tropical characteristics. The agency issued its final advisory late Sunday night.

The storm brought gusty winds and rain to the Azores, but didn’t cause any major damage, according to Azorestoday.com.

The remnants of the storm were expected to sweep into Ireland and the United Kingdom with rain and gale-force winds on Tuesday and Wednesday.

*

SWEATER WEATHER: It was a chilly Monday morning in Florida with mid- to upper-30s in the panhandle and North Florida; 40s in the Orlando area; low 50s in Central Florida and parts of interior South Florida; and upper 50s to near 60 in coastal South Florida. The Keys were mostly in the upper 60s.

Interestingly, there were no bitter cold air anywhere in the U.S., and the temperature in the panhandle inland from the coast was almost the same as temps in the Mid-Atlantic and in New England, where 30s prevailed.

It’s an indication that this cool-snap will be relatively brief, with temperatures climbing back to near 80 degrees around South and Central Florida by Tuesday and Wednesday. And all of Thanksgiving weekend looks pretty nice, according to the National Weather Service, with highs around 80 and lows in the 60s.

BEFORE THE FRONT ROLLED THROUGH: Marathon once again had the state’s high on Sunday with 85, and Miami International wasn’t far behind with 84. (The record high for the date in Miami was 88, set in 2014.)

RAINFALL REPORT: Sunday’s front dropped up to a third of an inch of rain in parts of South Florida, except that a CoCoRaHS observer in Glades County near Palmdale reported 0.60 of an inch.

Observers in Miami-Dade County reported around a tenth of an inch, but Miami International Airport officially checked in with 0.16 of an inch.

 

Cold front knocks back temps after South Florida highs top out in upper 80s

SFL lows

Above: forecast lows for South Florida for upcoming week will start out below average before rebounding; below: forecast highs and lows for Florida’s West Coast. (Image credits: NWS-Miami/ NWS-TampaBay)

WCFL forecast.png

Warm temperatures returned to the entire state Saturday, with highs in the 80s from tip to top. But the warm-up was short-lived as another cold front began rolling down the peninsula early Sunday morning.

A warming trend begins again on Tuesday, with a toasty Thanksgiving Day in the forecast, followed by what looks to be yet another cold front next weekend as December begins.

Thus, the usual winter pattern in Florida: Cold front, warm-up, rinse and repeat.

The fronts usually end up stalling in the Florida Straits and washing out, but the stronger ones make it through Cuba before running out of gas.

On Saturday, even the panhandle and North Florida made it into the 80s — Tallahassee and Jacksonville posted highs of 80 degrees, while Gainesville fell just short at 79.

Of all the principle reporting stations around Florida, Marathon in the Keys had the highest maximum with 85, but there were several warmer unofficial temperatures over mainland South Florida.

To wit: An observer just west of Zoo Miami reported a high of 88; and in Broward County, Plantation checked in with 87 and Weston was 86. An observer in western Boca Raton, Palm Beach County, reported a high of 86, as did Immokalee in inland Collier.

The state will feel the effects of the latest cold front most on Monday and Monday night into Tuesday morning, according to the National Weather Service, with Tuesday morning forecast lows of 42 in Gainesville; 44 in Tallahassee; 46 in Jacksonville; 51 in Tampa and Orlando; 66 in Miami; and 70 in Key West.

*

TROPICS WATCH: Tropical Storm Sebastien, which has stubbornly maintained its strength and classification this weekend, was forecast to begin battering the western Azores late on Sunday.

Early Sunday morning, Sebastien was racing toward the islands at 33 mph with top winds of 65 mph. It could become post-tropical before nearing the islands, but forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said: “Regardless of its status, Sebastien or its remnants are expected to bring gusty winds and rain to the Azores beginning later today.”

No other areas of interest were identified in the Atlantic by the NHC. The hurricane season officially ends next Saturday.

Sebastien loses steam in Central Atlantic; Dry conditions continue across Florida

May I have the envelope please ….

SURVEY SAYS: A big majority of South Florida residents voting in a poll conducted by the National Weather Service in Miami prefer cold temperatures. There were 267 votes with 68 percent preferring “cold temps” while 32 percent preferred “warm temps.”

The results were released Friday.

Of course, if you look under the hood of this type of survey, conducted on Facebook, you would no doubt find that people in South Florida have a little bit different definition of “cold temperatures.” Summer-like highs in the 90s and lows in the upper 70s get old, so cooler late autumn temps with highs in the 70s and lows in the 60s are pretty nice.

Snowbirds coming down from the North likely have a different definition of “cold.”

What most people are looking for is a Goldilocks scenario with low humidity, sunny highs in the 70s and lows edging down toward 60. Most Floridians I know aren’t real happy with winter temps that slide down into the 40s after a strong cold front, although that type of weather has its fans.

All depends on your perspective ….

*

DROUGHT UPDATE: For the second straight week, most of South Florida and Central Florida were dealing with Abnormally Dry conditions, while Moderate Drought continued through much of North Florida and the panhandle.

In the south, the only exceptions to the Abnormally Dry designation were in eastern Broward, Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s latest analysis released Thursday.

Dry conditions are expected to persist around South Florida through at least December 5, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. Central and North Florida are expected to see normal rainfall with above normal precipitation in the panhandle.

*

083539_5day_cone_no_line_and_wind

(Image credit: NHC)

TROPICS WATCH: Scratch Sebastien from the 2019 hurricane list. The tropical storm topped out at 60 mph before running into strong wind shear and cooler waters in the Atlantic, the National Hurricane Center said Friday.

Thursday’s forecast was for Sebastien to achieve max winds of 80 mph, which would have made it the season’s seventh hurricane. Instead, barring any further surprises, it looks like the season will end with 18 named storms, six hurricanes and three majors.

No tropical or subtropical development is forecast for the next five days, which puts us within shouting distance of the official end of the season a week from Saturday.

Of course, it’s not impossible to have a rogue storm pop up in December. An unnamed subtropical storm formed on December 5, 2013. But the most recent named storm to form in December was Tropical Storm Olga, which rolled across the Caribbean — and raked Puerto Rico and Hispaniola — from December 11-13, 2007.

And the infamous 2005 season had Hurricane Epsilon from November 29-December 8; and Tropical Storm Zeta from December 30-January 6.

Sebastien forecast to become season’s seventh hurricane; calling all photographers

083311_5day_cone_no_line_and_wind

(Image credit: NHC)

TROPICS WATCH: Here’s an interesting twist: Tropical Storm Sebastien is forecast to become the season’s seventh hurricane on Friday, giving 2019 an impressive score of 18 named storms, seven hurricanes and three majors.

Sebastien had already powered up to a 60 mph storm on Thursday as it turned toward the north-northeast, according to the National Hurricane Center. Conditions for additional strengthening were in place along its projected track for the next day before cooler water and drier air begin to weaken the storm.

Sebastien is expected to become extra-tropical by early Saturday morning.

*

SFL photos

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

PICTURE THIS: The Key West National Weather Service is known for its artsy constituent photos, which the agency posts on its website and Facebook pages. Of course, the material is there every day in the islands, with stunning sunsets and sailboats framed by swaying coconut palms.

South Florida has its own photo opportunities with its more urban landscape, natural beauty of the Everglades and busy canal system.

And now the NWS in Miami is soliciting more photos from the area in a call that went out on its Facebook page Thursday morning. Lots of opportunities — and obviously lots of great photographers in South Florida.

*

ECFL am temps

Tuesday-Wednesday morning minimum temperatures in East-Central Florida. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

WARMING TREND: Highs will begin to creep back up to near 80 before the next cold front rolls down the peninsula late in the weekend, according to forecasters. Warmer weather looks to be on tap for the long Thanksgiving Weekend as well.

From there on out, the forecast is for partly cloudy skies with a 100 percent chance of Christmas music.

How unusual was the cold snap we’ve had over the past week? Very unusual, with Sunday snapping temperature records that had been on the books for more than a century.

Temperatures were as much as 15 degrees below normal, and many areas around the state have had at least five straight days of below normal temps.

Sebastien picks up steam in Atlantic; early Thanksgiving Day forecasts

083819_5day_cone_no_line_and_wind

(Image credit: NHC)

TROPICAL STORM SEBASTIEN was stronger Wednesday morning with top winds of 50 mph, and forecasters at the National Hurricane Center predicted it would top out as a 65 mph storm on Thursday before it’s absorbed by a cold front in the Central Atlantic and becomes extra-tropical.

With 18 named storms, 2019 is only the ninth season on record with 18 or more named storms, according to Colorado State University’s Philip Klotzbach. The others were 1887, 1933, 1969, 1995, 2005, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Sebestien was also the latest storm to form since Hurricane Otto in 2016, he said.

*

SETTLING INTO THE DRY SEASON: No measurable rain fell in any of the official observation sites around the state on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. There were a few sprinkles here and there, though — in western Martin County and coastal Lee County, observers for CoCoRaHS reported.

Humidity remains low as a series of cold fronts sweep down the peninsula.

It was in the mid- and upper-50s in South Florida early Wednesday morning, the mid- and upper-60s in the Keys and 70 in Key West.

But 40s were common in the Lake Okeechobee area and points north and west, and it was 42 degrees in western St. Lucie County. The Tampa area was mostly in the upper 40s to around 50; and there were a few spots in the upper 30s sprinkled around North-Central Florida.

Jasper, Florida, northwest of Live Oak, was 37.

But a warming trend was due to begin, especially for the East Coast, as winds swing around to the east. Water temperatures are still in the upper 70s to near 80 along much of the East Coast.

*

THANKSGIVING DAY FORECASTS (Weather Underground): Orlando, partly cloudy with a high of 79, low of 60; Tampa, partly cloudy with a high of 78, low of 60; Jacksonville, partly cloudy with a high of 70, low of 57; Tallahassee, partly cloudy with a high of 69, low of 54; Miami, partly cloudy with a high of 81, low of 71; and Key West, partly cloudy with a high of 80, low of 75.

Late season TS Sebastien forms; second-warmest October worldwide

150157_5day_cone_no_line_and_wind

UPDATE: Tropical Storm Sebastien formed Tuesday morning northeast of the Lesser Antilles, the National Hurricane Center said. It was forecast to top out as a 50 mph storm. It was not expected to affect any land areas. (Image credit: NHC)

*

ORIGINAL POST: With 12 days left in the official 2019 hurricane season, it looks like one more storm could be added to the books. That would be Tropical or Subtropical Storm Sebastien, although it’s possible that the system, northeast of the Lesser Antilles, won’t make past the depression stage.

But National Hurricane Center forecasters said Tuesday morning that the system was “gradually becoming better organized” with more convection forming around the storm’s center.

“If this trend continues, then a tropical or subtropical depression or storm could form in the next day or so while the system moves northwestward and then northward over the open Atlantic,” forecasters said. Once the system interacts with a frontal system later in the week, further development is unlikely, they said.

If it does get upgraded to Sebastian, the 18th named storm, that would make the 2019 hurricane season the busiest since 2012, when 19 named storms developed. That was the year of Hurricane Sandy; the season concluded with Tropical Storm Tony.

There were 16 named storms in 2018 and 17 in 2017.

This year’s total — even if it remains at 17 — is particularly impressive since the Atlantic Basin only had two named storms through August 20. That was right after NOAA came out with its final season forecast, predicting that 2019 would end up being above average.

Kudos to NOAA forecasters for nailing it.

If you’re wondering about what may be in store for the 2020 season, Colorado State University will be publishing a “qualitative discussion” of next season in early December.

*

October 2019 temps

While the western U.S. was unusually cool, that was not enough to offset unusual heat in other areas of the globe. (Image credits: NOAA)

THE HEAT WAS ON: October temperatures worldwide, on land and sea, were the second warmest in the 140-year record, NOAA said Monday.

Although the U.S. overall was anomalously cool (except for Florida and most of the southeastern part of the country), many areas of the world had an October that ranked in the top 10. The Caribbean had its warmest October (as did Florida).

The five warmest Octobers on the record books have occurred since 2015, and the 10 warmest have occurred since 2003, NOAA said.

October 2019 events