Part of why South Florida was so hot last month was it remained for weeks in the grip of a high pressure system, which is still influencing the weather with strong easterly winds and mostly clear skies.
Today’s high in West Palm Beach is forecast to reach 90 degrees. If that holds true, it will be the eighth day in a row where the mercury reached 90 degrees or higher.
The normal high for this time of year is 87 degrees, with an overnight low of 74.
Hurricane Irma’s torrential rains flooded Lake Okeechobee with more than 450 metric tons of phosphorus in a single month, contributing to a fertilizer dump that nourished this summer’s harmful algae bloom and surpassed the state’s phosphorus goal 10 times over.
About 6 percent of the water and 7 percent of the phosphorus that went into the lake during the same time period came from areas south of Lake O, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
Scientists predicted an algae bloom was possible after Irma’s September soaking drove lake levels up 3 feet in a month, but the extent of the phosphorus loading wasn’t clear until results were released during a September meeting of the district’s Water Resources Analysis Coalition, or WRAC.
“Last year was a fluke because of the way the rain came with Irma, but it’s a high point in a chronic problem,” said Audubon Florida scientist Paul Gray, who specializes in Lake Okeechobee research. “Clearly we haven’t done near enough to fix it.”
The five-year average flow of phosphorus into the lake, including last year, was 598 metric tons. In each of the four years previous, the range of phosphorus was between 415 metric tons and 574 metric tons.
Blame a stubborn Bermuda High, which has had a hold on the state through much of the month, for the unusual warmth. Fifteen days have seen the mercury rise to 90-degrees or warmer at Palm Beach International Airport, including hitting a whopping 93 degrees on Sept. 19 and 20.
The normal daytime high for late September is 87 or 88 with the normal overnight low typically dropping to 75.
Derrick Weitlich, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Melbourne, said the extra daytime heat has been aided by an easterly sea breeze pushing further inland and causing showers and thunderstorms to bypass the coast.
“The storms increase cloud cover and rainfall to really cool things off, but we’ve been drier than normal for most of the month and had higher temperatures,” Weitlich said.
An average of 4.6 inches of rain has fallen over coastal Palm Beach County this month, which is more than 2 inches below normal, according to South Florida Water Management District records.
Miami meteorologists warned Thursday of “feels like”, or heat index, temperatures in the triple digits into the weekend. West Palm Beach hit a high of 91 degrees Thursday with a heat index of 105. Although warm, it’s not enough to trigger a heat advisory which is issued when the index is forecast to reach 108 degrees for at least two hours.
“Heat indices are a concern the next few days as temperatures could feel 100 to 107 in some locations in Hendry, Glades, Collier, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties,” meteorologists at the Miami NWS wrote in their forecast.
Through Monday, daytime highs in West Palm Beach are expected to reach near 90 degrees with overnights dipping into the upper 70s.
This weekend, the Bermuda High will move further west with its center over the Peninsula. Its clockwise flow is forecast to whip winds up to 15 mph with higher gusts. By Monday, east winds could increase to 16 mph with higher gusts.
That means higher chances of rough seas and rip currents through the weekend.
On Tuesday, a stronger high pressure system moves across the northern part of the U.S., which could push a “backdoor” cold front “possibly through South Florida” Miami meteorologists said.
Although uncertainty in the forecast remains high, meteorologists said models have been hinting at the front with enough consistency they felt confident putting it in the forecast.
Weitlich said a backdoor front is one that comes from the northeast. He’s skeptical one would make it to South Florida this early in the season.
“In terms of temperatures, we certainly won’t see much of a change,” he said.
The cyclone once named Kirk is back to tropical storm strength, regaining its name at the 5 a.m. advisory as it heads toward the Windward Islands.
Kirk had been reduced to remnants of its former self on Monday, but National Hurricane Center forecasters said this morning the system has better organized thunderstorms around a defined center. Add maximum sustained winds of 45 mph and Kirk is reborn.
The system is expected to produce scattered rain and rough surf along the Carolinas as it moves northeastward to merge with a front that will push through over the weekend.
Through this morning, this hurricane season is still above normal for this time of year for named storms with 12, compared the climatological norm of 8.7, according to Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project. Named storm days (57), number of hurricanes (5) and Accumulated Cyclone Energy (83) are also higher than normal.
CSU’s next two-week forecast is scheduled for release Thursday.
8 p.m. UPDATE: The remnants of Tropical Storm Kirk are likely to redevelop into a tropical cyclone during the next day or two before it moves into an area of highly unfavorable upper-level winds as it approaches the Caribbean, according to the latest Tropical Weather Outlook from the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
At 8 p.m., the remnants were about 750 miles east of the Windward Islands and moving quickly westward at 20-25 mph. Chance of tropical formation in the next 48 hours was 70 percent.
Meanwhile, off the coast of North Carolina, a low pressure area still has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical system. An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft reported that the circulation has become better defined but the associated showers and thunderstorms remain disorganized.
The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board will give final consideration to its 2018-2019 budget tonight, which includes no property tax increases for the eighth consecutive year.
The tentative budget of $813.9 million reduces the tax rate for 15 of its 16 counties by about 5.3 percent to $29 per $100,000 of taxable property value. That reduction, called the “rollback rate”, ensures that even though property values have increased, residents will pay the same, or slightly less, than the previous year.
“By eliminating nonessential costs and limiting administrative overhead, this governing board proudly continues its tradition of not raising taxes while achieving flood protection, water supply and environmental restoration,” said Governing Board Chairman Federico Fernandez in a July press release after the board tentatively approved the tax rate in an 8 to 1 vote.
The lone dissenter in the July vote, and subsequent budget discussions, was Jim Moran, who represents Palm Beach County on the board.
Moran, who was appointed to the board by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011, is a self-described “conservative tea party guy,” and advocate of smaller government.
But he said he can’t support an 8th year of reduced tax rates.
“We need more money, we’re broke” Moran said in July. “When I first came on the board we had $400 to $500 million in what I call unrestricted reserves, but we’ve spent that down for restoration projects and other projects to what is now below $60 million and we are still only collecting the same amount we were eight to nine years ago.”
Moran said keeping the tax rate the same this year would raise an additional $18 to $20 million that could be used for repairs and maintenance to the district’s flood control system, employee raises and bonuses, invasive plant control and upgrades to the district’s fleet of vehicles, including construction equipment.
“It’s one thing to cut back to the bone and still be able to run efficiently, but it’s another thing to have the budget so lean you are not adequately doing flood control or rewarding employees who deserve better bonuses and raises,” Moran said Monday.
The proposed budget does include an additional $3 million for employee compensation, which is a $1.7 million increase, and $3 million for operations and maintenance, which is used to for repairs to levees, canals and water control structures.
District staff said in July that even if money was no object for operations and maintenance, they couldn’t physically complete more projects or do more repairs and that the $3 million allocation was decided on after discussions with Chief Engineer John Mitnik.
Moran has been the lone voice on the board with concerns regarding the upkeep of district flood control systems, repeatedly pointing to a year-long review by the inspector general that found the annual allotment set aside for repairs should be about $88.5 million, while the actual budget averages only $53 million.
District officials agree the repair budget needs to be bolstered, but not by as much as what is indicated in the report, which they say is based on a facilities survey conducted three years ago that is outdated.
The district is in charge of about 760 culverts, weirs, spillways, locks and pump stations. It also maintains 2,100 miles of canals and 2,000 miles of levees in the 16-county region it oversees from Orlando to the Florida Keys.
Moran resigned as chairman of the district’s Water Resources Analysis Coalition in May after he had asked that the report be added to the coalition’s agenda, but was denied.
“Where I’m not seeing the great concern arise is with our staff,” Fernandez said in July about Moran’s concerns. “The messaging we’ve been receiving is one of staying the course because we’ve been very effective in sticking to our knitting and in not asking for more than what we need.”
The district has been in cost-cutting mode since 2011, which included losing hundreds of employees to layoff and buyouts. In 2009, the district had 1,828 full time employees. The 2018-2019 budget includes 1,475 employees – a nearly 20 percent reduction in the past decade.
Moran wasn’t the only person encouraging the board to keep the millage rate the same.
He was joined by NylaPipes, a member of the district’s Water Resources Analysis Coalition and executive director of One Florida Foundation, and Cara Capp, Everglades restoration program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. Both spoke at the July meeting.
Pipes mentioned this summer’s algae plague on Lake Okeechobee and in both northern estuaries.
“If you are looking at a rollback rate when all of us are advocating for projects we know we need, we are sending a very mixed message and I am confident Floridians want to get there on all of these projects and they want to get there faster,” Pipes said. “Literally, at this moment, we have declarations of emergency in this state, and it’s time to recognize the economy is getting better and Floridians will stand behind you if you continue doing the good work you’re doing.”
UPDATE 12:17 p.m.: Kirk lost its center circulation this morning, meaning it no longer fits the definition of a tropical cyclone.
The National Hurricane Center is no longer issuing advisories on the system, but its remnants will be monitored as it moves toward the Lesser Antilles.
UPDATE 8 a.m.: The Carolinas could be in store for another round of unwanted rain as a low pressure system between Bermuda and the Bahamas finds a more conducive environment for strengthening as it moves west-northwest.
The area, which was given a 40 percent chance of development over the next five days, is in an area with slightly warmer than normal sea surface temperatures, but is expected to reach even warmer waters this week.
If the area of low pressure near the Carolinas were to become a named storm it would be Michael.
Kirk, which became the season’s 11th named storm on Saturday, has weakened to a depression but could see some restrengthening before hitting the “ever-present wall of wind shear near” near the Lesser Antilles, Masters said.
That wind shear is expected to tear Kirk apart later this week.
According to the National Hurricane Center, four named storms develop in the Atlantic after mid-September in an average season, three of which become hurricanes and one of which becomes a Category 3 or stronger hurricane.
While the 2018 season remains above normal for this time of year with 12 named storms, including 5 hurricanes, it has one fewer major hurricane than normal.
Florence has been the only storm to become a major hurricane of Cat 3 or stronger.
The number of named storms is challenging forecasters’ predictions for an average storm season.
The Climate Prediction Center’s August forecast predicted 9 to 13 named storms, 4 to 7 hurricanes and 0 to 2 major hurricanes.
“This year, despite the recent uptick in activity, the overall activity remains typical of a less active season,” said Gerry Bell, lead hurricane forecaster for the Climate Prediction Center. “For example, only two of seven storms since August 1have become hurricanes. This propensity for weaker, shorter-lived storms is typical of a less active season.”
Tropical Storm Kirk has weakened to a tropical depression as it moves quickly west across the Atlantic.
The National Hurricane Center said it had 35-mph maximum sustained winds, which were expected to strengthen but then lessen and dissipate the next few days.
Meanwhile subtropical storm Leslie is lingering in the Central Atlantic with maximum sustained winds at 40 miles per hour. It’s not expected to move much today, nor gain strength until it merges with a frontal system in the next two or three days.
Lastly, there is an area of low pressure between Bermuda and the Bahamas that has a 30 percent of forming into a depression within 48 hours.
September’s full harvest moon rises tonight, but there’s something special about the lunar machinations this time of year.
Near the fall equinox, which was Saturday, the moon rises each day closer together, according to Earth and Sky. That means instead of a delay between 40 and 50 minutes each subsequent day, it’s more like 30 to 35 minutes.
The higher the latitude, the shorter the time lag. In Alaska, the lag time is just 10 minutes. In Denver it’s 30 minutes.
“No matter where you live worldwide, the moon will appear plenty full to you on both September 24 and 25, lighting up the night from dusk until dawn,” said Earth and Sky columnist Bruce McClure.
In West Palm Beach, moonrise tonight is 7:20 p.m.
Tuesday’s moonrise will be 7:55 p.m..
Wednesday will see the moon rise at 8:41 p.m.
The Harvest Moon is the only Full Moon name which is determined by the equinox rather than a month, according to TimeandDate.com.
Bottom line, look east tonight at 7:20 p.m. for September’s full harvest moon. Go to the beach, or the Intracoastal waterway for a special celestial treat when the moon emerges large and plump over the flat horizon.
11 p.m. UPDATE: Tropical Storm Kirk’s top sustained winds decreased to near 35 mph as it accelerated westward across the Atlantic, according to the latest National Hurricane Center advisory. It’s now a tropical depression.
Kirk is about 835 miles west-southwest of the southernmost Cabo Verde Islands and moving rapidly around 25 mph.
Little change in the maximum winds is forecast during the next several days. But forecasters said Kirk could degenerate into a trough of low pressure as it moves quickly across the tropical central Atlantic over the next several days.
5 p.m. UPDATE: Tropical Storm Kirk continues on its rapid westward trek across the tropical Atlantic, speeding due west at 23 mph, according to the latest National Hurricane Center advisory.
Kirk is about 645 miles southwest of the southernmost Cabo Verde Islands with maximum sustained winds near 40 mph. Some strengthening is forecast during the next day or two.
However, Kirk could encounter shear that could weaken the storm over the Caribbean.
Meanwhile, newly named Subtropical Storm Leslie is crawling toward the west in the middle of the Atlantic. Maximum sustained winds are near 40 mph, but Leslie is forecast to dissipate in a few days.
11 a.m. UPDATE: Tropical Storm Kirk continues its westward trek, and is now moving west at 21 mph. It is 545 miles southwest of the Cape Verde Islands and still has maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Kirk’s forecast of continued westward movement and strengthening early in the week hasn’t changed.
Meanwhile, a new storm, Leslie, has formed. A subtropical storm, Leslie has maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, and is out in the middle of the Atlantic on the same latitude as South Carolina. Leslie is only moving west at about 3 mph and isn’t expected to move very far in the next two days, forecasters say.
NHC forecasters predict Leslie will likely be absorbed by a larger low-pressure system by mid-week.
Finally, Tropical Depression 11 is no more. The remnants of the depression were expected to weaken further in the next day or so. They have maximum sustained winds of 25 mph and are about 350 miles east-northeast of the Windward Islands.
Atlantic Ocean- Tropical Depression 11 and Other storms On this Sunday the National Hurricane Center is issuing advisories on weakening Tropical Depression Eleven, located several hundred miles east of the Windward Islands ….https://t.co/garxEbOHTlpic.twitter.com/iH5TWSeWx8
Forecasters say Kirk will begin moving more quickly across the ocean as of Tuesday and is expected to strengthen in the next two days. However, they add it may begin weakening in the middle of the week.
Meanwhile, Tropical Depression 11, what forecasters are calling a “poorly organized” storm, is likely to dissipate by this evening. It’s 415 miles east-northeast of the Windward Islands and had maximum sustained winds of 30 mph.
11 p.m. UPDATE: Kirk is about 425 miles south-southwest of the southernmost Cabo Verde Islands and moving west-northwest about around 16 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center advisory. Top sustained winds were still 40 mph.
A faster westward motion across the deep tropical Atlantic Ocean is expected Sunday through Tuesday. Some strengthening is forecast through Sunday night, with little change in intensity expected on Monday and Tuesday.
Meanwhile, poorly organized Tropical Depression 11 is creeping northwestward about 440 miles east of the Windward Islands with sustained winds of 30 mph.
The depression is forecast to dissipate on Sunday or early Monday.
5pm UPDATE: (Eliot Kleinberg)
Tropical Storm Kirk, which formed overnight, continued Saturday to cross the Atlantic Ocean, steering toward a possible collision with the islands of the eastern Caribbean by the end of next week, according to a 5 p.m. National Hurricane Center advisory.
At 5 p.m. Saturday, Kirk was about 430 miles south of the Cabo Verde Islands and was moving west-northwest at 15 mph, up slightly from its earlier 14 mph pace. Top sustained winds were 40 mph.
” A faster westward motion across the deep tropical Atlantic Ocean is expected Sunday through Tuesday,” the advisory said.
ORIGINAL POST: (Eliot Kleinberg)
Tropical Storm Kirk has formed out in the eastern Atlantic, and is expected to move quickly across the ocean and possibly threaten islands as early as Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said Saturday in an 11 a.m. advisory.
At 11 a.m., Kirk was far south of the Cabo Verde Islands. Top winds were 40 mph, just 1 mph over the minimum to be a tropical storm. It was moving west near 14 mph and was expected to speed up from Sunday through Tuesday.
“Some strengthening is forecast through Sunday, with little change in intensity forecast on Monday and Tuesday,” the advisory said.