UPDATE: Florence plummets to Cat 1, expected to restrengthen next week

UPDATE 5 p.m.: Hurricane Florence is fighting wind shear that knocked it down to a Category 1 storm with 80 mph winds.

The storm, which just 24 hours ago was a powerful Cat 4, is about 1,050 miles east-southeast of Bermuda and moving northwest at 10 ,m.p.h.

The National Hurricane Center’s 5-day forecast has Florence restrengthening to a Category 3 hurricane early next week.

Forecasters shifted Florence’s track slightly to the south, but cautioned there is a discrepancy in track models after Sunday.

“The uncertainty in this forecast remains larger than normal,” hurricane center forecasters wrote in their 5 p.m. advisory.

While the path of a weakened Florence was still a puzzle Thursday, it’s expected regain Category 3 muscle as it nears Bermuda on Tuesday, putting meteorologists on edge that a powerful hurricane could be off the U.S. east coast late next week.

“It’s going to be a formidable storm,” said Weather Company meteorologist Dale Eck, who is head of forecast operations for the Americas. “We can cross our fingers our fingers and hope it will only be a close call, but it will definitely be some type of threat.”

 

A sheared Hurricane Florence drops to a Cat 1 with 80 mph winds.

 

 

Previous story: 

Hurricane Florence, which roared to a major tropical cyclone on Wednesday, could impact the U.S. coastline this weekend with large ocean swells that forecasters called “life threatening.”

Florence reached Category 4 power briefly Wednesday before easing back to a Category 3. This morning, the storm has maximum sustained winds of 115 mph and is moving northwest at 12 mph. It is about 1,100 miles east-southeast of Bermuda.

Some additional weakening is expected over the next few days as Florence is buffeted by wind shear, but the National Hurricane Center forecast has it restrengthening over the weekend.

Check the Palm Beach Post storm tracking map.

Category 3 Hurricane Florence is 1,170 miles east-southeast of Bermuda.

Where Florence will go is still a mystery. Forecast models are not in agreement as to the track, which is dependent on an area of high pressure in the central Atlantic that could move more westerly this week with Florence riding underneath of it.

If the high pressure weakens, Florence could be little more than a fish storm heading away from the U.S and out to sea.

RELATED: Four hurricane graphics to know before a storm hits

“However, if the high pressure area remains strong, then Florence may complete a 3,500-mile-long journey over the Atlantic and be guided right into the U.S. East Coast somewhere from the Carolinas to southern New England sometime during Wednesday or Thursday of next week,” AccuWeather forecasters said.

Behind Florence, the National Hurricane Center is watching two tropical waves it is giving medium to high chances of development over the next 3 to 5 days.

The first wave has been given a 90 percent chance of development and is expected to become a tropical depression by Monday.

The second wave, which will leave Africa tomorrow, has been given a 50 percent chance of development.

The next names on the 2018 storm list are Helene and Isaac.

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UPDATE: Tropical Depression Six forms, expected to strengthen tonight

Tropical Depression Six has formed in the far eastern Atlantic with forecasters expecting it to become Tropical Storm Florence tonight.

The system is 70 miles south-southwest of the southernmost Cabo Verde Island with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph. It is no threat to the U.S.

Early forecast models had the system strengthening to a Category 1 hurricane in the five-day forecast window, but  have since backed off, keeping it a 70-mph tropical storm.

 

Previous story: 

Tropical Storm Florence is expected to form today in the far off eastern Atlantic, but South Florida should be watching a disturbance closer to its shores for a potential Labor Day washout.

A tropical wave near Hispaniola has a 10 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone over the next five days, but regardless of formation is expected to dump rain Sunday through Tuesday.

RELATED: Safest places to live in Florida to avoid a hurricane

Meteorologists at the South Florida Water Management District are predicting the heaviest showers on Monday and Tuesday with some areas seeing between 5 and 10 inches of rain.

Heavy rain is forecast for South Florida beginning Sunday into Tuesday from a tropical wave that could develop in the Gulf of Mexico next week.

“We’re forecasting excessive rainfall. It could be an average over the entire water management district of about two inches but really what that means are there are locations that could receive up to 5 to 10 inches of rain,” said John Mitnik, chief engineer for the South Florida Water Management District.

Mitnik said the district is lowering its primary canal systems in anticipation of larger volumes of water coming from the local water control districts.

RELATED: Official wind gauges went dead during Hurricane Irma

Although the rain is expected to be concentrated south of Lake Okeechobee, it affects discharges to the northern estuaries if water conservation areas south of the lake fill up.

The lake was at 14.6 feet above sea level on Thursday, higher than the Army Corps of Engineers prefers it to be during the rainy season when one tropical system could push it quickly into the danger zone.

Last week, the Army Corps of Engineers increased discharges to the St. Lucie Estuary and Caloosahatchee River, saying the lake continued a “dangerous rise” into the peak of hurricane season.

RELATED: Top 15 Hurricane Irma moments

Concerns about the integrity of the aging Herbert Hoover Dike mean the lake is closely monitored during the rainy season, but a record-wet May forced intermittent discharges to begin June 1.

Forecast rain accumulation Friday through Monday.

The dike protects Glades-area communities from life-threatening flooding, but can suffer breaches if the water level is too high.

“With continued paramount focus on Herbert Hoover Dike safety throughout 2018, we need to make increased discharges to slow the still dangerous rise in lake levels,” said Col. Jason Kirk, the Corps’ Jacksonville District commander, in a press release.

National Weather Service meteorologists said there is still some question about whether the tropical wave will pass through the Florida Straits or to the north of the straits, which could affect which areas get the heaviest showers.

BOOKMARK The Palm Beach Post’s storm tracking map

Forecast for West Palm Beach.

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BREAKING: Tropical system may develop close to Florida

UPDATE 1:51 p.m.: A tropical wave in the Caribbean was given a 10 percent chance over the  next five days of developing into something more by the National Hurricane Center in its 2 p.m. advisory.

Forecasters were already predicting a wet weekend in South Florida from the wave, which could mean a Monday washout with a slight chance of flooding rains.

National Weather Service meteorologist James Thomas said more than 2 inches of rain are possible through Monday, but cautioned that forecast models differ on timing and location with one taking the tropical through the Florida Straits and another moving it north of the Straits.

RELATED: Safest places to live in Florida to avoid a hurricane

“There’s a rather wet pattern setting up with the showers and storms coming really at any part of the day,” Thomas said. “I wouldn’t say there will be an overall washout Saturday and Sunday, but that could come Monday and Tuesday.”

Forecast rain accumulation through Monday.

Rain chances increase from 40 percent Friday to 50 percent Saturday and 60 percent Monday through Wednesday.

Hazards, including a slight risk for flooding and a moderate risk for rip currents, are expected Sunday through Tuesday. A high risk for lightning is also in the forecast for the same time period.

“If anything it will be Monday and Tuesday we keep our eyes open for flooding,” Thomas said. “Sunday the rain will be more hit or miss.”

RELATED: Official wind gauges went dead during Hurricane Irma

If the wave makes it into the Gulf of Mexico, it will have plenty of warm water to “feast on,” said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground.

At 86 degrees, the Gulf is running 1.8 degrees warmer than normal.

“The total amount of heat energy in the Gulf right now is at near-record levels for this time of year – similar to last year’s levels, and much higher than observed during the awful hurricane season of 2005,” Master’s wrote in his Cat 6 blog.

Peak hurricane season

RELATED: Top 15 Hurricane Irma moments

UPDATE 10:52 a.m.: The National Hurricane Center is issuing advisories on Potential Tropical Cyclone 6, which is forecast to strengthen to Tropical Storm Florence and then a hurricane by Sunday.

It would be the third hurricane of the 2018 season, following Beryl and Chris.

The potential tropical cyclone is in the far eastern Atlantic, about 425 miles east-southeast of the Cabo Verde Islands with maximum sustained winds of 30 mph.

UPDATE 10:15 a.m.: The National Hurricane Center said it will begin issuing advisories for Potential Tropical Cyclone Six at 11 a.m.  The bundle of showers and thunderstorms is east-southeast of the Cabo Verde Islands.

The center started identifying “potential tropical cyclones” in 2017 so it could issue advisories to people before the system actually forms.

Previous story: A strong tropical wave about to hit the main development region of the Atlantic basin has a 90 percent chance of development over the next five days, and is likely to become a depression or tropical storm by the weekend.

The system would be named Florence if it becomes a tropical storm.

RELATED: Will a hurricane be named after you this season? 

Sea surface temperatures have warmed from their unseasonably cooler status earlier this year and the dry Saharan air, which is known to discourage tropical development, is north of where this system is about to emerge.

BOOKMARK The Palm Beach Post’s storm tracking map

“All of the models show some development of this wave in the waters near the Cabo Verde Islands off the coast of Africa as early as Saturday,” said Weather Underground co-founder Jeff Masters in his Cat 6 blog.

Saharan air concentrations appear in deep oranges and reds.

Of more immediate concern to South Florida is whether Labor Day weekend will be a washout.

The NHC is showing no tropical development near Florida over the next five days, but a tropical wave near Puerto Rico will be making its way west late this week.

Masters is predicting a tropical depression to form early next week in Florida waters, but he said anything that forms has a better chance of doing so in the Gulf of Mexico, affecting the west coast of the state. But he notes that none of the major weather models predicted the wave to develop into a cyclone by Saturday.

A tropical wave near Puerto Rico will be moving west over the next few days and could affect Florida over the Labor Day weekend. GOES-16 satellite image valid 7:15 a.m.

RELATED: Cape Verde is now Cabo Verde, here’s why

The National Weather Service in Miami said models differ on location, timing and rain chances with the wave’s arrival still a few days away. But a strong tropical wave would “more directly impact the region with precipitation chances that could be enhanced just about any time of the day.”

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Reliable Perseids put on light show this weekend

A special cosmic gift will add to this weekend’s acclaimed Perseid meteor shower, which is considered one of the most reliable and robust celestial shows of the year.

The attention-hogging moon will be just past new, meaning less lunar light pollution to obscure the Perseids — an omission that won’t happen again during this shower until 2021.

Saturday after 11 p.m. through Sunday morning, and again Sunday night through early Monday will be the best viewing times for the shower named for Perseus, a mythical monster slayer and Greek hero.

The Perseids are generally active from late July through Aug. 24, but peak Saturday through Monday.

RELATED: Why the 2018 hurricane forecast changed so drastically

The shower gets going in South Florida as the constellation Perseus comes up over the northeastern horizon, which is about 11 p.m., said J. Kelly Beatty, senior editor for Sky and Telescope.

In this 30 second exposure, a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in Spruce Knob, West Virginia. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

“The very early ones are skimming through the atmosphere and can create really dramatic fireballs,” Beatty said. “If you are looking from a very dark site, like the middle of the Everglades, you might see one every minute, but if not, it might be one every 10 to 15 minutes.”

The best viewing conditions — generally a dark area away from the city lights — can be hard to come by in South Florida, but a drive to Lake Okeechobee or even a stroll on the beach may suffice. Also, the website Slooh will live webcast the shower to its members beginning at 5 p.m. Sunday. Memberships are available at Slooh.com.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

The Perseid shower is considered runner-up in quantity and brilliance only to the Geminid shower in December, and is known for being fairly rich in fireballs. Fireballs are brighter than the planet Venus.

A NASA analysis of all-sky images taken from 2008 to 2013 shows that the Perseids deliver more bright meteors than any other annual meteor shower, according to Sky & Telescope.

Debris from the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle is the source of the Perseids. The comet orbits the sun in a large cigar-shaped motion, with Earth passing through the comet rubble every year in mid-August.

STORM 2018: Hurricane Central

This Perseid fireball was observed by the NASA All Sky Fireball Network in the skies over New Mexico on the morning of Aug. 12, 2015.

The comet sheds debris that can range from the size of a pinhead to a half-dollar.

“The moonless sky this year means the viewing will be excellent, and the shower’s predicted peak is timed especially well for North America,” said Sky & Telescope Observing Editor Diana Hannikainen in a press release. “Under a very dark sky, you might see up to one Perseid per minute late on Sunday night or after midnight on Monday morning.”

Whether South Florida’s skies will cooperate with viewing the Perseids is in question.

After a bout of Saharan air dried out the atmosphere mid-week, showers were expected to return Friday afternoon and extend through the weekend in a more typical summer pattern.

Courtesy Sky & Telescope

The National Weather Service in Miami is forecasting a 30 percent chance of rains today and tonight for much of Palm Beach County with a daytime high temperature of 91. The heat index, or “feels like” temperature could hit 103 today.

Sunday also has a 30 percent chance of showers with the possibility of thunderstorms. The high temperature Sunday should be in the high 80s to low 90s.

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BREAKING: 2018 hurricane forecast amended with new prediction

Flagler Drive is raked by wind, rain and water from the Intracoastal Waterway in West Palm Beach Sunday afternoon, September 10, 2017 as winds from Hurricane Irma rake the county. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Confidence that 2018 will experience a below normal hurricane season increased substantially this week as global forces align to temper tropical activity.

An updated forecast released Thursday by the federal Climate Prediction Center is now calling for a 60 percent chance of a less active storm season, a hefty jump from a May forecast that predicted only a 25 percent probability of below normal activity.

Gerry Bell, the center’s lead seasonal hurricane forecaster, said the growing likelihood that a storm-thwarting El Nino will form in the fall combined with tropical Atlantic water temperatures that are the coldest since the 1990s were key factors in making the new prediction.

The forecast comes as Florida enters the peak of hurricane season between mid-August through October when 95 percent of hurricanes form. Already four named storms  – Alberto, Beryl, Chris and Debby – have spun up this season. Beryl and Chris both mustered hurricane strength.

As of Thursday afternoon, Tropical Storm Debby was still churning harmlessly in the northern Atlantic.

And hurricane experts warned Thursday there will be more storms.

“It’s not dead,” said Stanley Goldenberg, a meteorologist with the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Storms can pop up quickly and we do expect more storms.”

STORM 2018: Hurricane Central

An average hurricane season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

RELATED: Will a hurricane be named after you this season? 

The hyperactive 2017 storm season produced 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes and six major hurricanes.

Bell said when the May forecast was released the chances an El Nino would form were only 45 percent.

An update this week puts the odds of an El Nino forming in the fall at 65 percent and up to 70 percent of a winter El Nino that could last into 2019. Bell compared this season to 2015, which had 11 named storms and 4 hurricanes.

“Please remember the hurricane seasonal outlooks are a general guide and do not predict landfalling storms,” Bell said. “Whether or not a storm strikes land is determined by the weather patterns in place when the storm approaches and those are generally not predictable until five to seven days in advance.”

Earth was put on an El Niño watch in June, but it’s not officially declared present until ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific are more than 1 degree above normal and are expected to maintain that temperature for six months.

After that, it can take 30 to 60 days for the atmosphere to respond.

The onset of El Niño occurs in tandem with the relaxation of the trade winds — those Earth-skimming easterlies that have guided sailing ships across the world’s oceans for centuries.

With the trade winds reduced, warm water that has piled up in the western Pacific Ocean and around Indonesia rushes back toward the east. That movement of warm water shifts rainfall patterns and the formation of deep tropical thunderstorms. The exploding storms whose cloud tops can touch the jet stream disrupt upper air patterns so winds come more out of the west.

The west winds create shear in the Atlantic, which can be deadly to budding hurricanes.

“The main message should be that no matter what this or any other prediction says that people must treat this like the peak of hurricane season and be prepared,” Goldenberg said. “Remember, 1992 was overall a very slow year.”

Category 5 Hurricane Andrew – the first named storm of the 1992 season – devastated areas of South Florida when made landfall Aug. 24.

At least 20 research groups, private companies and universities churn out annual hurricane forecasts, including the University of Arizona, The Weather Co. and Pennsylvania State University’s Earth System Science Center.

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Climatology shows the hurricane season typically peaks in mid-August through October.

New hurricane forecast released as peak season approaches

The official hurricane season begins June 1, but Mother Nature really turns up the heat beginning in mid-August when tropical cyclone activity typically spikes.

But Colorado State University has some reassuring news today in its August updated forecast that continues to call for a below normal season.

RELATED: The El Niño forecast has changed, what it means for hurricane season

Hurricane season typically begins to peak in mid-August.

CSU is predicting nine more named storms through November, three hurricanes, and one major hurricane of Category 3 or higher.  Today’s forecast does not include sub-tropical storm Alberto, or hurricanes Beryl and Chris.

A normal season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

STORM 2018: Hurricane Central

Phil Klotzbach, the lead author of the forecast, said an unusually cool tropical Atlantic and increasing chances of an El Nino forming during the fall or winter influenced the updated forecast.

The CSU forecast is intended to provide a best estimate of activity to be experienced during the upcoming season – not an exact measure.

Hurricane Chris sits nearly stationary off the Carolinas on July 10, 2018. 

Michael Bell, associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science at CSU and co-author of the report, cautioned coastal residents to take proper precautions.

“It takes only one landfall event near you to make this an active season,” Bell said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will issue its updated seasonal forecast Aug. 9.

ELATED: How El Nino boosts winter storms in Florida.

Today’s prediction comes on the heels of a report from the National Hurricane Center that showed July was an unusually active month for tropical cyclones with hurricanes Beryl and Chris.

Based on 30-year climatology, one named storm typically forms in the basin in July.

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Above normal tropical cyclone activity occurred in July, but the 2018 season overall is forecast to be below average.

Sargassum harasses South Florida during worst seaweed assault on record

People navigate their way through the seaweed while swimming near the Blue Heron Bridge. Tides pushed the seaweed into the Intracoastal Waterway, July 5, 2018 in Riviera Beach, Florida. The lifeguard on duty said its the most seaweed he has seen there. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

South Florida’s beaches faced a sargassum assault this summer that some scientists believe is part of the largest spread of the nomadic marine weed on record, and one that could continue through September.

From the Keys through the Treasure Coast, islands of the brown algae floating on berry-like bladders have stained beaches and sailed through inlets thick enough that one Palm Beach County lifeguard saw a black racer snake drift by on one large mat.

While a reprieve may be underway locally, county officials report two waves of sargassum have swept ashore since May, with no guarantee another surge isn’t lurking.

In June, sargassum spread through 1,158 square miles of the Caribbean Sea. That’s three times the sargassum coverage during the same time in the record-high year of 2015.

“Right now there is still a lot of sargassum in the Caribbean, so I think these events will last for a while,” said Mengqiu Wang, a researcher at the University of South Florida’s Optical Oceanography Laboratory, which has tracked sargassum since 2000. “There still could be a high chance the sargassum could show up again in Florida.”

RELATED: What killed this baby manatee? Mortality rates highest since 2013

At Riviera Beach’s Phil Foster Park a glut of seaweed greeted tourists and locals alike the week of July 4.

That’s where Tom Lutz, a Palm Beach County Ocean Rescue lifeguard, saw the snake riding the seaweed, and when Georgia visitor Nathalie Latimer struggled through the living barricade to scuba dive.

“We couldn’t believe….Read the rest of the story at MyPalmBeachPost.com and why Palm Beach County doesn’t rake up the seaweed even when it’s thick and stinky. 

Tourist Nathalie Latimer, of Atlanta, Georgia, struggles to get through the seaweed after scuba diving next to the Blue Heron Bridge. Tides pushed it into the Intracoastal Waterway, July 5, 2018 in Riviera Beach, Florida. The lifeguard on duty said its the most seaweed he has seen there. He cautioned that people with sensitive skin may find it irritating to their skin. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

JUST IN: New Lake O satellite image of blue-green algae

Extent of cyanobacteria on Lake Okeechobee as seen July 26, 2018 by infrared satellite images from the Sentinel-3a operated by the EU Meterological Satellite Office.

The blue-green algae coverage on Lake Okeechobee remains at about 30 percent as seen in the latest satellite image released today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Thursday image is the first clear one of the bloom since July 18 when 30 percent of the lake was also covered. That’s down from July 2 when 90 percent of the lake was showing a bloom.

RELATED: Quick fix to Lake O algae woes uses land now used by cows

Sachi Mishra, satellite oceanographer with NOAA, said partial images taken July 22 and 25 show the bloom covering just 10 percent and 20 percent of the lake respectively.

Despite the increase to 30 percent in the Thursday image, Mishra said scientists believe the bloom is receding.

Richard Stumpf, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who is monitoring the Lake Okeechobee bloom, said last week the 30 percent coverage looked “promising.”

A sign posted by Martin County Health Department warns to avoid contact with blue-green algae near the Port Mayaca locks on June 12, 2018. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

“I will need to add that we are dealing with a live organism in a complex environment, so while we hope we are past the peak, there is not enough known to say whether the bloom will stay down or regrow,” Stumpf said.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Thursday it will cut Lake Okeechobee flows into the St. Lucie Estuary by 35 percent, and reduce discharges by 32 percent into the Caloosahatchee River.

The freshwater flushes weaken salinity levels in the estuaries and introduce blue-green algae that can grow into widespread toxic blooms.

Thursday’s announcement came after Florida Sportsman Magazine temporarily closed its Stuart office this week when employees were sickened by algae fumes, and as a top U.S. Department of Interior official took notice of South Florida’s water dilemma.

Read more here about a heated exchange in Washington, D.C. over the algae issue in South Florida that occurred this week. 

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JUST IN: Storms closing in on Wellington, West Palm, Palm Beach Gardens

A significant weather advisory has been issued for Central Palm Beach County as thunderstorms are tracked near South Bay moving east at 20 mph.

Wind gusts up to 50 mph and funnel clouds are possible with this storm.

Cities affected include Wellington, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Belle Galde, South Bay and Royal Palm Beach.

The advisory is in effect until 3 p.m.

Check The Palm Beach Post’s live radar map

Previous story: Palm Beach County was thrashed by a deluge of showers and rapid-fire lightning Sunday as a rush of rain cooled air from thunderstorms north of Lake Okeechobee clashed between themselves and afternoon sea breezes.

Robert Molleda, the warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami, said in just a 2-hour period between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Sunday an estimated 2,500 lightning strikes hit Palm Beach County.

“I would say certainly, that’s a lot and a lot more than your average thunderstorm day,” Molleda said.

The National Weather Service is compiling rain totals from stations throughout South Florida and should have those ready before 11 a.m.

The official weather gauge at the Palm Beach International Airport does not tell the full story.

STORM 2018: Hurricane Central

Although it recorded wind gusts as high as 30 mph, the airport rain gauge reads that just 0.65 inches of rain fell Sunday. I live about a mile from the airport and my rain gauge collected 2.5 inches.

South Florida Water Management District measurements were as high as 2.29 at the Corbett Wildlife Management Area in western Palm Beach County.

Below are some other measurements:

Jupiter, 1.47

Jupiter Farms, 1.34

North Palm Beach, 1.33

Royal Palm Beach, 1.30

Forest Hill School, 0.85

Boynton Beach, 0.55

Delray Beach, 0.60

Arlena Moses, a meteorologist with the NWS in Miami, said the storms focused on Palm Beach County as the outflow boundary from stronger systems to the north rushed into the area.

Check The Palm Beach Post’s live radar map

An outflow boundary is a flush of rain-cooled air that spreads across the land like a flood. They can interact with each other, forcing more storms to develop, or can intercept other boundaries such as South Florida’s familiar afternoon sea breezes.

Rain totals in the Kissimmee basin north of Lake Okeechobee were nearly 3 inches in many areas as the storms rolled through. It was an unusual situation for South Florida to see during this time of year when a low pressure system pushes a trough into the Sunshine State.

Weather map valid for 1 p.m. today.

Moses does not think today’s storms will be as robust as what was experienced Sunday, but the Storm Prediction Center does have Palm Beach County at a marginal risk for severe weather.

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The El Niño forecast has changed, what it means for hurricane season

Tropical Storm Chris on June 10, 2018.

An El Niño watch issued last month will continue after the latest forecast for the global climate pattern increased its chances of appearing this fall or winter.

The Climate Prediction Center is now forecasting a 65 percent chance El Niño conditions will be in place by the fall, and up to a 70 percent chance by winter.

That’s up from a June forecast that predicted a 50 percent chance of a fall arrival, and 65 percent chance of a winter arrival.

For Florida, the periodic warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean can mean a less active hurricane season with fewer powerhouse Cat 5 tropical cyclones.

But it also leans toward stormier days during the darkest part of the year when the Sunshine State typically enjoys its dry season.

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“The issue for the hurricanes is does El Niño develop in time and with sufficient strength to suppress the later part of the season,” said Gerry Bell, the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in a June interview. “Conditions are evolving more toward an El Niño right now, but there is still a long way to go.”

Typical El Nino influence.

 

Hurricane researchers are considering El Niño in their updated forecasts.

NOAA’s May 24 hurricane forecast for this season called for between 10 and 16 named storms, five to nine hurricanes and up to four major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.

An average hurricane season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

STORM 2018: Hurricane Central

Bell said the low end of the NOAA forecast reflects the idea that El Niño was a possibility but that the clues weren’t strong enough in May to base the prediction on it.

Colorado State University reduced its July 1 forecast to 11 named storms, four hurricanes and one major hurricane of Category 3 or higher.

The team’s start-of-season forecast on May 31 had called for 14, six and two, respectively. The historical average is 12, 6 1/2, and two. The 2017 season saw 17, 10 and 6.

Phil Klotzbach, CSU hurricane researcher and lead writer of the forecast, said an unusually cool tropical Atlantic, paired with the possibility of a weak El Niño led to the reduced forecast.

“A colder than normal tropical Atlantic provides less fuel for developing tropical cyclones but also tends to be associated with higher pressure and a more stable atmosphere,” CSU’s July 1 forecast notes. “These conditions tend to suppress Atlantic hurricane activity.”

RELATED: How El Nino boosts winter storms in Florida.

The onset of El Niño occurs in tandem with the relaxation of the trade winds – those Earth-skimming easterlies that have guided sailing ships across the world’s oceans for centuries.

With the trade winds reduced, warm water that has piled up in the western Pacific Ocean and around Indonesia rushes back toward the east. That movement of warm water shifts rainfall patterns and the formation of deep tropical thunderstorms. The exploding storms whose cloud tops can touch the jet stream disrupt upper air patterns so winds come more out of the west.

This GOES-East infrared image shows the remnants of Beryl in the lower right west of Puerto Rico with Chris off the coast of the Carolinas on July 9, 2018.

The west winds create shear in the Atlantic, which can be deadly to budding hurricanes.

Still, with three named storms, including two hurricanes – Beryl and Chris – already come and gone, this season is coming out of the gate strong.

On average, there are only 1.3 named storms through July 17 and no hurricanes, according to CSU.

Related: Watch funeral for the Godzilla El Nino 

Also, accumulated cyclone energy this season stands at 14.4 when the average for this time of year is 5.1. Accumulated cyclone energy, or ACE, is a way to measure the strength and longevity of tropical cyclones.

“So in terms of ACE, we are at 326% of normal activity for the date,” said University of Miami senior research associate Brian McNoldy in a column last week. “Another way to frame it is that the ACE is currently what it climatologically would be on August 14. And as I mentioned yesterday, the last time we had two hurricanes so early in the season was 2005.”

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