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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(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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Coasts get a soaking; more rain possible as front makes a U-turn

The cold front that barreled down the peninsula on Tuesday dumped some heavy rain on both coasts, but overall coverage was sparse.

On the West Coast, a CoCoRaHS observer on Anna Maria Island north of Bradenton Beach reported a hefty 1.29 inches. On the East Coast, meanwhile, an observer on Singer Island reported 1.14 inches.

Northern Palm Beach County was a target of the late afternoon storms, with Jupiter reporting 0.62 of an inch while 0.56 of an inch fell in Juno Beach. The National Weather Service in West Palm Beach officially measured a third of an inch. Fort Lauderdale had only a trace of rain, meanwhile, and Miami reported no rain.

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Wednesday’s forecast map shows the stalled cold front that brought rain to the Florida peninsula on Tuesday stalled out in the Florida Straits. (Image credit: NOAA)

The front stalled in the Florida Straits and is forecast to move back to the north on Thursday, increasing rain chances again. After a drier weekend, forecasters expect another round of rain early next week.

RECORD WATCH: While parts of the central peninsula were getting soaked, it was sizzling in the Keys, with Marathon reaching another record high of 92. That absolutely obliterated the previous record high of 88 last set in 2017.

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THE FINAL RESULTS ARE IN! For the CoCoRaHS “March Madness” campaign, that is. South Carolina won the contest for the most number of new rainfall observers — 166. Florida came in fourth with 82 new observers.

New Mexico was second was 114, Minnesota was third with 89 and Texas rounded out the top five with 66.

At the end of the pack, Hawaii and Montana attracted no new participants.

But you can still sign up to participate in the U.S., Canada or the Bahamas.

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SPACE BULLETS: Up to 6,500 pieces of the Microsat-R Earth satellite are streaming above the Earth at speeds of 17,000 mph, according to Spaceweather.com, “small fragments in high orbits” that are are “circling the planet like tiny bullets ….”

The debris is from India’s March 27 anti-satellite weapons test. The problem is, solar minimum doubles or triples the time for pieces of the destroyed satellite to sink into the atmosphere and disintegrate, scientists say. The small fragments could remain in orbit for years, posing a threat to the International Space Station.

UPDATE: Southeast Florida coast faces ‘Excessive rainfall’ threat

94ewbgAFTERNOON UPDATE: NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center put the southeast Florida coast under a “Marginal” risk for excessive rainfall and flooding late Monday into Tuesday. Forecasters said there’s a possibility of raising the risk threat to “Slight”, which is one level above marginal. The National Weather Service in Miami warned that “coastal convergence may set up overnight in the vicinity of the Atlantic coast, ” triggering “quite heavy rainfall” of up to 6 inches. Forecasters said it was also possible that the heaviest rain could stay off the coast over the Atlantic. (Image credit: NOAA/ WPC)

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ORIGINAL POST: This week’s expected rain event could be just what the weather doctor ordered, since many areas of the peninsula and the Keys have built up hefty precipitation deficits so far this month.

Parts of the East Coast could get up to 6 inches, the National Weather Service says, which would wipe out some of the shortfalls. But areas of the West Coast look poised to go into the second half of March remaining high and dry.

Fort Myers, for example, has measured just 0.02 of an inch of rain this month — barely enough to wet your windshield — a 1.58-inch deficit. In the Keys, Marathon is right behind Fort Myers with 0.03 of an inch so far in March.

Miami’s deficit stands at 1.30 inches; in Fort Lauderdale just 0.04 of an inch has fallen this month for a deficit of 1.71 inches. West Palm Beach is down 1.87 inches. And Naples has a shortfall of 0.59 of an inch.

Orlando, with 0.09 of an inch, is down 1.84 inches; Vero Beach reports a shortfall of more than 2 inches.

Tampa, on the other hand, has a slight precipitation surplus with 1.73 inches; and in North Florida, Jacksonville has done a little better with 1.55 inches. But that’s still down 0.73 of an inch for the month. Gainesville is down about an inch.

In the panhandle, Tallahassee has had almost 3 inches of rain this month, but that’s still shy of the March average for that part of the state.

It will be interesting to see where things stand on Thursday after the next cold front pushes all of the rain out of the Florida peninsula. Stay tuned.

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AN ILL WIND BLOWING: Will hurricane forecast accuracy be set back 50 years as a result of action by the FCC? Some experts are concerned that the agency’s auction of radio frequencies adjacent to those used by weather satellites, weather balloons, ocean buoys and other technology will be a disaster for forecasters. These frequencies and adjacent frequencies are being snapped up by wireless providers in order to create the new 5G networks.

If NOAA, NASA and even some commercial forecasting companies no longer have access to this data, weather forecasts “would be reduced to the accuracy of forecasts produced in the 1970s,” a letter to the FCC from the House Appropriations Committee argues.

The committee asked the FCC to delay its auction of the wireless frequencies, according to the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang. It said the delay was necessary in order to allow “further review of potential interference to adjacent band uses that are critical for national security as well as the protection of American lives and property.”

But the FCC refused.

On his economics blog, Mish Talk, Mike Shedlock said an American Meteorological Society conference concluded that without the data that is in jeopardy, “forecasters would not have been able to predict the path of Hurricane Sandy, which struck the Eastern seaboard in 2012.”

The auction took place as scheduled last Thursday with 38 bidders, including AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, participating.

NASA and the Department of Defense are also concerned that the networks will interfere with data streams the agencies count on for daily operations.

New El Niño forecast could put brakes on hurricane season

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There were 15 named storms during the 2018 hurricane season, above average for the third year in a row. We haven’t had a below average hurricane season since 2015. Will El Niño make a difference this year? (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

There was some potentially good news Thursday from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center — El Niño is expected to continue through the summer months, and there’s a 50 percent chance it may roll right into fall.

That could knock down tropical storm development in the Atlantic, although there are obviously other factors at work during the hurricane season, one of them being sea surface temperatures.

Hurricane researcher Philip Klotzbach immediately posted on Twitter: “NOAA has increased its chances of #ElNino for peak of the Atlantic #hurricane season (August-October). Now at 51%, up from 39% with the February outlook. El Niño typically reduces Atlantic hurricane activity due to increases in vertical wind shear, especially in the Caribbean.”

Klotzbach’s first pre-season forecast for Colorado State University — one of the most watched in the weather biz — will be released two weeks from next Thursday, and you can bet that El Niño will be prominently discussed.

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BLUSTERY WEEK? Forecasters have backed off — a bit — on the amount of rain over the peninsula late this weekend into early next week. But we’re hardly talking about Chamber of Commerce weather, with cloudy skies and highs of only around 70 in Orlando from Sunday through Thursday, and chilly lows in the 50s.

Even in Miami, forecast highs for Monday through Thursday are only in the mid-70s, under mostly cloudy skies and showery conditions, according to the National Weather Service. Ditto for the Keys.

Tampa is looking at highs in the low 70s, cloudy skies, and lows in the 50s next week. Rain chances are a little lower on the West Coast at 20-40 percent through Tuesday.

AccuWeather is predicting temperatures will be closer to normal starting next Friday, March 22. But no major warm-ups are on the horizon so far in Florida, which is good — when the hot weather finally does hit, it’ll be around until folks start putting up their Halloween decorations.

CoCoRaHS

AND SPEAKING OF RAIN: National Weather Service offices are looking for more precipitation observers. So they’re trying to expand CoCoRaHS, the national rainfall monitoring system that has a membership drive every March. “We need as many as we can get!” forecasters in Tampa said on their Facebook page Friday. Florida has had 43 signups so far this month. Click here for more information.

‘Bomb cyclone’ sweeps U.S. on anniversary of 1993 ‘Storm of the Century’

Storm of century

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

This week’s “bomb cyclone” is all over the news as it wallops the Midwest, closing airports and lashing states from Kansas to Indiana with winds of up to 80 mph. It comes on the anniversary of 1993’s Storm of the Century, which triggered winds of over 90 mph in North Carolina and dumped up to five feet of snow.

Twenty-six years ago, 49 people died in Pennsylvania from the storm; 44 in Florida. Ten million households lost power.

In Florida, the system produced 100 mph wind gusts, tornadoes, and torrential rain.

“Every major airport on the U.S. East Coast was closed at one point by the storm,” the NWS says in a report on the Superstorm. “The volume of water dropped by the storm was immense: 44,000,000 acre-feet. (enough water to flood 44 million acres of land one foot deep) The volume of snow dropped by the Superstorm was computed at just under 13 cubic miles.”

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Spring break

(Image credit: NOAA/ NWS-Miami)

This post by the National Weather Service in Miami  on its Facebook page Thursday is a reminder that there’s yet another variety of seasonal visitor in Florida this month — spring breakers. Vacationers who chose the state’s East Coast are having a rough time with rip currents this year, the result of strong easterly winds.

“Swimming is not advised,” the National Weather Service said. Winds were gusting up to 25 mph in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday.

According to Forbes, though, Florida’s West Coast beaches are more popular for spring break, which runs from around March 8-24. Top destinations for 2019 include Bradenton, Clearwater and St. Petersburg, Fort Myers, and Sarasota.

There isn’t an East Coast destination in Forbes’ top 10.

Rip currents were less of an issue on the West Coast this week, but the top spots were chosen by Forbes for their parks, museums and shell collecting.

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7 day rainfall

Heaviest rain associated with the stalled cold front will likely be on Florida’s East Coast. (Image credit: NOAA/ WPC)

The cold front forecast to slide down the Florida peninsula late this weekend — associated with the tail end of the “Bomb Cyclone” to the north — will stall over or near the Keys and set up a stormy Monday, Tuesday and possibly Wednesday, according to forecasters.

After the front stalls out, a new low pressure system is expected to develop near Florida and roll over the southern peninsula, possibly delivering heavy rain, thunderstorms and very windy conditions.

NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center continues to adjust forecast precipitation amounts to the upside. The latest graphical estimate calls for as much as 3-4 inches in East-Central Florida down to coastal South Florida.

Ocean temps surrounding Florida jumped in February, satellite analysis shows

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Above: Sea surface temperature anomalies as of Thursday; below: temperature anomalies one month ago. (Image credits: NOAA/ NESDIS)

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With high pressure sitting over Florida during February, it didn’t take long for winter’s cool ocean waters to reverse trend. A month ago, anomalously cool temperatures surrounded the peninsula, the Bahamas, and were measured in the Gulf of Mexico. But what a difference a month makes.

In South Florida, water temperatures off the Lake Worth Pier have reached 77 degrees, a little warmer in Biscayne Bay.

A buoy 208 miles west of Naples posted a reading of 79.7 degrees this weekend.

With all the warm water and winds out of the southeast, some record warm low temperatures are possible in coastal South Florida, the National Weather Service said Sunday.

Record warm lows

Early week forecast lows in South Florida could approach record territory, forecasters say. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

Sunday morning’s low in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach was 73. Those temperatures are 1-2 degrees short of records. But Monday and Tuesday morning lows in Fort Lauderdale and Naples could challenge records.

While the Gulf is unusually warm for this time of the year, there are some patches of cool water in the Central Caribbean and in the Central Tropical Atlantic. It will be interesting to see what this looks like a month from now, when the first hurricane season forecasts are issued.

Colorado State University releases its first forecast in less than a month, on Thursday, April 4. Analysts will be looking at water temperatures as well as weighing the impact of weak El Niño conditions in the Tropical Pacific — which may or may not continue into the summer and fall. The latest forecast from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center puts the chance of El Niño continuing beyond spring at 50 percent or less.

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RAINFALL REPORT: Most of Florida was dry Saturday with the exception of coastal Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Some CoCoRaHS observers reported less than a tenth of an inch as a few showers streamed in from the Bahamas. An observer on Singer Island in Palm Beach County reported 0.17 of an inch.

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DST DEBATE: Daylight Saving Time, which began Sunday, has been getting more attention than usual this year. Several publications have weighed the pros and cons of clock changing. Here’s the New York Times story on it.

Popular Mechanics says DST is a good thing while Forbes gives it a thumbs-down.

80-degree temps return to Florida peninsula; Americans weigh time change

Weekend forecast

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

Nice March weather has returned to Florida, with forecast highs in the 80s from Miami to Orlando over at least the next seven days. There are no significant cold fronts on the horizon, the National Weather Service says.

On Friday, Miami reached 80 as did Gainesville, while Orlando just missed with a high of 79. It was 77 in Tampa.

Parts of coastal South Florida have been dealing with a few rain showers streaming in from the Bahamas, and that’s expected to continue through the weekend, but overall high pressure is in control, forecasters said.

On Friday, coastal Palm Beach County picked up as much as a quarter-inch of rain, while coastal Broward and Miami-Dade measured a few hundredths of an inch. Forecasters put rain chances at around 30 percent in coastal South Florida this weekend.

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CHANGES IN ATTITUDES: Are you ready to “spring ahead” into Daylight Saving Time on Sunday? Florida’s legislature and governor passed a bill keeping the state on Daylight Saving Time all year — lawmakers say the switching back and forth is too disruptive. It still needs approval from Congress.

Here’s another view: Don’t have Daylight Saving Time at all. A surprising majority of Americans favor this option, according to YouGov, a global public opinion and data company. Overall, 54 percent would like to ditch it, but there are regional differences, according to the company’s survey.

Alarm clock
(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The idea of eliminating DST is most popular in the U.S. West, where 60 percent like the idea; 55 percent favor it in the Midwest, 51 percent in the South and 49 percent in the Northeast.

“Millennials (44%) are generally less likely than members of Generation X (58%) and baby boomers (59%) to say they would support ending Daylight Saving Time,” Jamie Ballard, a “data journalist” wrote in a post published on Wednesday.

Americans aren’t even sure why DST exists. A third of them say it’s done to save energy, but studies dispute that this is actually the case. Another third say it’s done to give farmers more time in the evening to work, but that’s a misconception, the author of a book on the time change told National Geographic.

Michael Downing, a Tufts University professor and author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, told the magazine this is the “complete inverse of what’s true.” It actually disrupts scheduling in the agricultural industry. “Farmers were the only organized lobby against daylight saving in the history of the country,” Downing said.

Another slice of Americans believe we make the time change so that people can make better use of the evenings, or say we keep doing it because it would be too complicated to stop it.

Already, the time change is not observed in Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and some states are considering legislation to pull the plug. However, changes need to be approved by Congress, as Floridians discovered with their proposal.

Getting Congress to agree on anything is problematic, so we shouldn’t hold our breath that change will be coming soon.