2016 hurricane season, 97% chance of named storm hitting U.S.

Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science stopped doing quantitative December hurricane forecasts for pending storm seasons in 2012.

But researchers are still issuing a more qualitative discussion of the factors that will influence the 2016 hurricane season, including the climatological chances that the U.S. and individual states will get hit by a tropical storm, hurricane or major hurricane.

This year’s discussion, released last week, relies on two main events for its hurricane predictions; whether El Nino will remain a strong influence through summer next year and the potency of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation (AMO).

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El Nino is known to knock down hurricanes by creating strong westerly wind shear, such as we saw during the 2015 hurricane season.

The AMO is a longer-term phenomenon that impacts sea-surface temperatures. Warm sea surface temperatures are like candy to growing hurricanes.

While CSU’s study, which was written by hurricane expert Philip Kotzbach with assistance from William Gray, looks generally at four scenarios affecting hurricane frequency and strength, it also gives climatological landfall probabilities for 2016. The probabilities are long term chances, taking into account data from the 20th century.

“While we are not issuing a quantitative forecast in this early outlook, we can still provide interested readers with the climatological probabilities of landfall for various portions of the United States coastline,” Klotzbach wrote.

For all of the U.S., Klotzbach said there is a 97 percent chance of a named storm making landfall. That could mean a tropical storm, hurricane or major hurricane.

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Last week’s discussion also gives the climatological probabilities that a hurricane or major hurricane will impact specific states.

Climatological chance for a hurricane landfall in 2016
Climatological probabilities for a hurricane landfall in 2016.

Klotzbach notes that none of the 27 major hurricanes that have formed since Wilma in 2005 made a U.S. landfall.

“The 10-year period that the U.S. has gone without any major landfalls exceeds the previous record of eight years set between 1861 and 1868,” he wrote.

But why?

“There is obviously a luck component that has played a significant role,” Klotzbach said.

He explains another part of why in a blog for the Capital Weather Gang written with Brian McNoldy. Basically an exploration of how an east coast low pressure system may be steering hurricanes away from the U.S.

Florida is singled out as being “remarkably lucky” to have not been impacted by a hurricane since Wilma. Klotzbach said there has been a marked decrease in hurricanes hitting the Florida peninsula over the past 50 years.

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Bob Henson, a meteorologist and blogger for Weather Underground said CSU’s recent discussion makes him even more “eager to see how this very uncertain hurricane season will unfold.”

“As one would expect, the skill of these outlooks steadily improves as the hurricane season nears,” he wrote in a blog last week.  “Even if it’s too soon right now to expect an accurate forecast for 2016, the latest thoughts from CSU make me even more eager to see how this very uncertain hurricane season will unfold.”

Patchy dense fog a concern for drivers this morning

The National Weather Service has issued a special weather statement warning of patchy dense fog across portions of inland Palm Beach Palm Beach County.

The main concern is along portions of Alligator Alley and areas around Lake Okeechobee.

In worse case scenarios, visibility could be reduced to less than half a mile.

The fog is expected to burn off quickly once the sun rises. The statement is in effect until 8 a.m.

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Cold front to send South Fla. temperatures plummeting

South Florida may break record high heat temperatures this week, but the scorcher is expected to end soon.

A strong cold front is forecast to move through the peninsula Friday or Saturday morning, bringing with it daytime temperatures cooler than normal for this time of year.

The National Weather Service is predicting a high around 70 degrees on Saturday, which is six degrees below the 30-year normal maximum high for that day. AccuWeather puts Saturday’s high at 69 degrees.

AccuWeather forecast
AccuWeather forecast

The NWS has the overnight low temperature dipping to 60 degrees, which is one degree warmer than normal for Dec. 19.

“A much drier and milder air mass may finally knock temperatures and humidity levels back to values more typical of the holiday season, particularly for this coming weekend,” NWS forecasters wrote this morning.

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But before the cold from hits South Florida, temperatures will continue well above normal for this time of year and could break records.

The high today in West Palm Beach is forecast to hit 86 degrees. The record for today was 87 degrees, set in 1920. It’s possible the overnight low of 75 degrees was a record-setter, or at least tied for the record. I’m checking on that now.

The typical normal high temperature 76 degrees. The normal low for today is 60 degrees.

This Saturday forecast shows the low pressure system pushing through Florida into the Florida Straits.
This Saturday forecast shows the low pressure system pushing through Florida into the Florida Straits.

Florida is suffering its hottest year on record and is expected to finish 2015 as top ranked for toasty temperatures.

South Florida temperatures have been running an average 3 degrees warmer than  normal this year.

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A report released Wednesday by the National Centers for Environmental Information, shows the first 11 months of the year have simmered at an average 73.7 degrees in the Sunshine State. That’s 2.5 degrees above average and higher than anything measured in the 121 years records have been kept.

Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties are on a similar track with November topping off as the hottest 11-month streak since Grover Cleveland was president with an average temperature of 77.8 degrees.

This weekend’s cool front is an extension of an incredibly strong storm that hit Alaska last weekend.

According to AccuWeather, the central area of low pressure of the storm as measured over the Bering Sea was 924 millibars. The strongest low pressure measured over Alaskan soil was from a storm in 1977 that measured 925 millibars.

Video: vultures a sign of fall, but also eat car parts and known to puke

Surfing lazily on thermal air currents rising from the steamy earth, the graceful yet gruesome vulture is a sure sign that fall has arrived in the Sunshine State.

They are the original snowbirds – here before seasonal residents flocked to condos dug into South Florida’s shores.

And while the vultures typically arrive closer to Halloween than Christmas, one national wildlife researcher said the flight schedule of this year’s flock was a little delayed.

Read the full Palm Beach Post story on Florida’s vultures here. 

“Some of our birds have just arrived in the last couple of weeks,” said Michael Avery, project leader for the National Wildlife Research Center at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Gainesville. “We have some that we previously tagged in Key West that are still making their way down.”

Turkey vultures roost and soar near the Southern Boulevard drawbridge on Thursday morning, December 10, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
Turkey vultures roost and soar near the Southern Boulevard drawbridge on Thursday morning, December 10, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

Avery said it’s not clear yet what may have delayed the seasonal southern sojourn, but it’s possible record warm temperatures nationwide this autumn contributed to the rescheduling.

Temperature readings released this week by the National Centers for Environmental Information revealed that from September through November, temperatures nationwide were above average to record warm. Areas around the Great Lakes, where Avery said many of the birds he tracks spend their summers, experienced their hottest autumn in years.

Turkey vultures roost and soar near the Southern Boulevard drawbridge on Wednesday morning, December 9, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
Turkey vultures roost and soar near the Southern Boulevard drawbridge on Wednesday morning, December 9, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

Michigan’s average temperature was 51.6 degrees September through November, nearly 5 degrees above the 20th century average for that time period and the second warmest on records dating back 121 years. Minnesota’s average temperature of 49.5 degrees was 6.3 degrees higher than average.

Florida too is experiencing record warmth, with 2015 expected to go down as the hottest on record.

But maybe it’s not such a bad thing if the vultures’ visits are shortened, because once they get here, they can be quite a nuisance.

While a vital component in clearing carrion, black vultures also are predators, attacking and eating small animals, including newborn cattle, piglets and goats.

They also, for reasons unknown, have an affinity for rubbery materials and are known to pull windshield washer blades off cars, eat the rubber around windows, destroy outdoor furniture and pull the rubber splines from pool enclosures.

“They are a very important component of a healthy ecosystem, but vultures are one of those birds that do create a lot of hassles,” Avery said.

In a 2005 federal report on the management of damage by vultures in Florida, the scavenger bird topped the list of troublemaking fowl with 680 requests for assistance from wildlife services between 1993 and 2003. That’s more than six times higher than the second-ranked nuisance bird — the duck.

The report estimated that vultures caused $1.4 million in damage in the same period — everything from chewing up vehicles to leaving excessive fecal droppings.

Forecasters alert to dense fog in Palm Beach County

The National Weather Service issued a special weather statement this morning warning of dense fog for all of Palm Beach County.

Visibility is less than a half mile in coastal and western Palm Beach County.

Drivers should use low beam headlights and slow down while driving through the fog early this morning.

The statement is in effect through 7 a.m. but fog could linger until shortly after sunrise.

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Light fog on State Road 7 extension north of Okeechobee Boulevard Tuesday morning, April 2, 2013. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

Weather observations at Palm Beach International Airport reflect the fog started to form just before 5 a.m. as northwest winds stilled to 3 mph and the air temperature and dew point temperature met at 66 degrees.

The relative humidity shot to 100 percent and cloud heights plummeted from 3,000 feet to near ground level. Without strong winds or the sun’s dispersing rays, the low fog will linger.

The National Weather Service sends out a special weather statement, like the one this  morning, when visibility is reduced to one-half mile. If visibility dips to one-fourth mile, a fog advisory is issued.

Dense fog is rare in Florida. Between 2000 and 2011, NOAA’s storm events database recorded just 35 days during which dense fog was present statewide. But those incidences can be lethal.

The database lists five deaths and 17 injuries directly attributable to dense fog, while Palm Beach Post archives list multiple car accidents in which fog was involved.

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Dense fog obscures islands in the Intracoastal this morning. Photo by Eddie Ritz

In March 2007, Boynton Beach resident Anita Zoet died after her car plowed into an 18-wheeler on Florida’s Turnpike in heavy fog. Four others were also killed in the accident that included a 12-vehicle pileup.

A year earlier, two people were killed and 20 injured in western Palm Beach County when smoke combined with fog to reduce visibility on State Road 80 and U.S. 27.

Meteogram at PBIA shows where dew point temperature and air temperature meet, helping to initiate fog.
Meteogram at PBIA shows where dew point temperature and air temperature meet, helping to initiate fog.
Dense fog this morning obscures islands in the Intracoastal between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach. Photo by Eddie Ritz
Dense fog this morning starts to break up shortly after sunrise, but still obscures islands in the Intracoastal between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach. Photo by Eddie Ritz
Dense fog this morning obscures islands in the Intracoastal between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach. Photo by Eddie Ritz
Dense fog this morning obscures islands in the Intracoastal between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach. Photo by Eddie Ritz

Epic December rain totals for South Florida

Just nine days into December and Palm Beach County is at least 3.65 inches over the historic norm as far as rainfall totals with 5.08 inches falling at the airport.

Miami-Dade County broke a record yesterday when it hit 9.24 inches of rain for the month, making December the second wettest since 1895.

And Broward County has seen 5.2 inches of rain since Dec. 1, more than 5 inches higher than the historic norm for this month, according to the South Florida Water Management District.

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The National Weather Service says Palm Beach County is just 3.35 inches away from making December one of the top 5 rainiest on records.

Florida State Climatologist David Zierden pointed to moisture from the tropical Pacific as connected to South Florida’s heavy rains.

And if El Nino is to blame, South Florida may be in for a wet and dreary (for the Sunshine State) winter.

35-foot sand tree gets face lift after heavy rains

Workers from Team Sandtastic arrived today to start fixing Sandi, the 600-ton sand Christmas tree in West Palm Beach, after heavy rains last week washed away many features.

Tom May, a sculptor with Team Sandtastic, said he was surprised at the amount of damage done by the deluge. Palm Beach International Airport has measured 5 inches of rain since Dec. 1.

“We had some pieces that dissolved completely,” May said. “We had an elf over there on the side that just fell apart.”

See Sandi photo gallery here

On Friday, even the showcase star toppled, crooking the tip of the sand pile and taking out the impressive light display with it. The light show has since been restored.

Fixes for the tree, dubbed Sandi, are estimated to cost about $5,100.

Sculptors work to restore Sandi.
Sculptors work to restore Sandi.

South Florida’s dry season was officially declared Oct. 18 by the National Weather Service, and forecasters said Monday the last week’s weather was uncommon for this late in the year.

“This is extremely unusual,” said Chuck Caracozza, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “To get this amount of rain in one week of December is rare.”

A ribbon of turbulent air advancing a cold front is responsible for the stubborn showers. While South Florida didn’t get chillier temperatures from the system, the front stalled in the Florida Straits shooting moisture north in its counterclockwise flow.

May said three or four sculptors plan to work on Sandi this week.

“The big thing is just getting the drier weather so it can harden and hold it’s shape,” May said.

A worker sprays a fine mixture similar to glue and water to keep sand from blowing away.
A worker sprays a fine mixture similar to glue and water to keep sand from blowing away.

Will South Florida see the sun this week?

South Florida will see the sun again this week after cloudy to partly cloudy skies have blanketed the area since at least Dec. 1.

By Friday, rain chances are expected to be down to 10 percent, and skies are forecast to be mostly sunny, according to the National Weather Service.

Saturday’s forecast is “sunny.”

“It will be a nice change,” said David Ross, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. “I’m sure it will be welcome.”

According to a weather station at the Palm Beach International Airport, every day this month has been either partly cloudy or cloudy. In technical terms, “partly cloudy” is a day when more than half of the sky is cloudless.

By Saturday the stubborn front that has brought so much rain is pushed south of Cuba.
By Saturday the stubborn front that has brought so much rain is pushed south of Cuba.

“Cloudy” is when 7/8 or more of the sky is covered by clouds.

The stubborn front stalled in the Florida Straits has been responsible for most of the clouds and rain.

Since Dec. 1, 5 inches of rain has fallen at Palm Beach International Airport. That’s 3 to 4 inches above normal for the first week of December.

A high pressure system is expected to push through later this week that will get rid of that soggy front to our south.

“By Saturday and Sunday, we’ll have the best couple of days we’ve had in several weekends,” said Arlena Moses, a NWS meteorologist in Miami. “If you look to Central and North Florida, they don’t have a cloud in the sky.”

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