Sunday, May 29, 2011

Heat wave breaks, gorgeous weather and sunsets will continue!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chris Lee sent in this beautiful picture of our sunset last night from St. Johns County. The added smoke in the atmosphere combined with cirrus clouds helped light up the sky and turned our sunset into what looked more like a postcard. While they can provide beautiful atmospheric scenes like this one unfortunately we now have over five dozen wildfires across the area with no rain relief in sight. Thunderstorms today will be isolated and stay west of Interstate 75. The next best chance of rain will be Friday into Saturday but even that is not guaranteed with a weak front moving our way. It looks like the hot and dry weather will be the weather rule across much of the eastern 2/3 of the country through at least mid-June. The trough will continue to dominate out West keeping the ridge in firm control in the East.

There is no rain relief in this pattern but at least nature is offering us up some relief from the heat for the next few days here at home with forecast highs only in the middle 80s beaches to the upper 80s at Jacksonville. I say "only" because we have had 9 consecutive days at 90 or above which is very unusual this early in the season. High pressure responsible for the hot pattern will reorganize and stay farther north and west of our area. This will allow nature to send us some refreshing breezes off the ocean, while areas from Texas to Washington, D.C. sizzle. Some portions of Texas could hit 110 degrees while the warmer spots around the nation's capital should have no trouble reaching near 100 degrees by Tuesday!

What is amazing is we have already had 23 days of 90 or above and the average up to this point of the year is 10. So far in May we have 14 days of 90 or above and our monthly average is only 8. Last year we had 14 days of 90 or above as well and it ended up being our second hottest summer on record with 99 days of 90 or above compared to our average of 82! Got all that! LOL...I do love numbers but in this case these statistics do not lie. At this pace we could give last year a run for its money but we will see. My forecast all along has been temperatures and rainfall near normal this summer as the high pressure ridge sets up farther west allowing us to see more of our typical summer thunderstorms as well as rain from tropical systems. We will have to wait and see and I will update my summer forecast next week here on the blog to let you know if I see any big changes.

Today we do have great pool and beach weather but make sure to apply and reapply the sunscreen with a UV index of 11 which is extreme. You can burn in as little as 10 minutes. Also, as we talked about on the blog yesterday rip currents are becoming more of a concern with only experienced swimmers advised to go out in water deeper than thigh high. The wave period is now closer to 10 seconds which tells us there is a whole lot more motion in the ocean. Surf will actually be increasing to near 2 ft. today and 3 ft. on Monday. Boating still looks decent with 2-4 foot seas today building to 3-5 ft. on Monday with no advisories expected.

This weekend is just getting started and tonight there is a big fireworks show at Riverfest in Green Cove Springs. Watch for a brilliant sunset at 8:22 p.m. and great viewing conditions at dusk with temperatures in the upper 70s with an east wind at 5-10 mph. Tomorrow there are many ceremonies celebrating our veterans and it is fitting that it will be a sunny beautiful day with highs in the middle to upper 80s. There is also the inaugural Freedom 8k Run at 8 a.m. out at the Riverfest. It should be bright with a smell of smoke in the air with temperatures in the lower 70s. It is put on by Freedom Marathon Inc. and all proceeds benefit our veterans. Have a great Sunday! Let the sun shine and freedom ring!!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The calm after the storm but remember to break the grip of the rip and watch for the ire of the fire.

May 28, 2011 Saturday

Your only live doppler radar got quite the workout last night. Mike shows us some of the golf ball size hail that melted in his hand. Severe thunderstorm warnings are issued when hail reaches .75" or nickel size. Yesterday the hail easily surpassed that with 1.75" or golf ball size hail. This can ding up cars and awnings and also cause shingle damage.

Curlita sent this picture in from Dunn Avenue showing how nature turned her lawn into what looks like a driving range. Our Live Doppler Radar did a good job of showing this large hail in the cloud that grew at times as large as grapefruit size hail. Luckily, it reached the ground much smaller thanks to our temperatures near 90 degrees. It could have been a lot worse. You put this set-up over the Midwest and we would have had much larger hail smashing windows and likely accumulating a few inches on the ground.

James confirms there was a brief light accumulation of hail in the World Golf Village. This large hail usually only occurs once our twice during the year here at home. Usually the atmosphere is too warm and moist for hail to reach the ground intact. But yesterday the freezing level was about 3,000 to 4,000 feet lower than it normally is and when you add in sea-breeze collisions with this cold pocket of air it was more than enough to generate strong updrafts that helped to coat the raindrops with layers of ice. The good news is we did see a nice heavy swath of rain along the Interstate 95 corridor with many areas in the .50" to 1" range. The bad news was the beaches and areas near highway 301 and westward were missed. Take a look at the rainfall.

That is right many areas were shut out like Macclenny and Keystone Heights. It is beginning to look a lot like summer here in Florida. This was only a stripe of heavy rainfall which is bad news for the abundant wildfires burning around the area. Today we will have a chance of a few more thunderstorms but they will be isolated in nature and mainly west of highway 301 as you can see on your Futurecast.

Today's thunderstorms will be more typical of Florida. They will be short-lived with the main threats of lightning and gusty winds near 40 mph. There could still be some marble size hail but it does look like nature's attic has already warmed up by 3 degrees since yesterday and with a higher freezing level it will be tough to find much hail that makes it to the ground.

The main weather concerns this weekend will not be thunderstorms as high pressure builds in from the Atlantic. It will be the wildfires and rip currents. A few roads including US 1 in Georgia may be closed north of Folkston due to smoke reducing visibilities to less than a mile. In Florida no road closures are expected but hazy, smoky skies are expected this afternoon especially in western Putnam, Clay, Bradford, Baker, and Union Counties.

Today the overall theme will be blue skies winning out and it looks like the forecast is on track based on this nice picture sent in on this Saturday morning from Palatka at the Blue Crab Fest. It is absolutely gorgeous on the St. Johns River. The finest things in life are free and nature is delivering. We have to include the Jazz fest going on here in Jacksonville which is free of charge and when you add in the nice sea breezes during the afternoon it does not get much better! What will make it feel even better is that highs today will be closer to 90 rather than 100 like we saw last weekend thanks to our onshore flow. One thing we do have to be careful of is increasing seas and rip currents this weekend. Today is the best boating day with 2-3 ft. seas but by Monday seas will build from 4-6 ft. and caution will be needed. Today make sure to enjoy the light river chop. While rip currents are not a concern today an increasing easterly wind and fetch over the Atlantic will cause moderate rip currents by Sunday. Break the grip of the rip by swimming parallel to shore. The water also looks murkier in a stronger runout and you can always ask a lifeguard about local conditions at the beach to help keep you and your family safe.  Have a great weekend and do not forget the sunscreen!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Car temperatures hot enough to bake cookies & warning signs from the tropics

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hot enough for you? It is so hot that yesterday in my car I recorded a temperature of 140 degrees at 4 p.m. in the First Coast News parking lot. While we officially hit a high of 95 in Jacksonville yesterday there were a few locations like Palatka that reached 97 degrees and this is in the shade. If you put a thermometer in the sunshine you can easily add 15 to 20 degrees and then you can add in for type of surface and humidity to come up with the real feel temperature. Yesterday my formula came out to it feeling between 115 and 120 around town. Luckily we did not have much humidity or it would have felt even hotter. But, this also meant the atmosphere was so dry and warm at all levels that thunderstorms were unable to develop along the sea breeze front. Remember last weekend we had cold air aloft and that helped bring plenty of needed rain. This weekend it is the total opposite. We can feel it and so can the atmosphere.

This means our thunderstorm chances today will remain below 10% with maybe an isolated storm possible for Central Florida along colliding sea breeze and lake boundaries. But as you can see on this map, it is the hot weather that will win out! I do think we could hit 100 degrees in Alma, Georgia today and interior Florida on Monday! The hot high pressure is still building into the area which means we will continue to heat up. The center of the high pressure or the heat wave will not be over Jacksonville until Monday afternoon and will slowly move offshore on Tuesday. So I think we have a good shot of still making it to a record-breaking 98 degrees on Monday, then we will simmer down and see gradual improvement through the week with slowly increasing rain chances and a sea breeze that will come earlier each day.

But until then we are taking this heat seriously even if this is what we expect in Florida. We need to find ways to stay cool and this includes our pets. Rachel sent this picture to show how her dog Walter is staying cool. Yes, he just got a nice summer haircut. Thank you Rachel.

Yesterday at the Trail of Tails the Jacksonville Human Society came up with a clever way to beat the heat by setting up a doggy pool. Lori did a great job of showing this large pool. It was so hot yesterday I would have jumped in with the dogs! Lori also sent a good reminder for us humans to drink plenty of water in this heat and wear hats and sunscreen that also help keep the body cool. But back to our pets that we do love. Make sure not to take them on any errands or even think of leaving them in your car even if it is for just a few minutes. While most of us know this is a big no-no there are a few folks that do not realize even with the windows cracked open car temperatures can reach deadly readings well over 100 degrees in just a few short minutes.

I did a few experiments yesterday between shows. For instance, yesterday at 2 p.m. my car temperature in only 10 minutes reached 125 degrees with the windows rolled up. I then cracked the windows open after letting all the hot air out of the car and recorded 108 degrees after 10 minutes. Yes, cars are death traps this time of year. Keep the pets home and your cars locked when you are home so no kids can play in them as well since they do  not know better. Tonight on First Coast News Jessica Clark will have more pets vs. heat safety tips.

Speaking of staying safe I wanted to give a special shout-out to the church group I spoke to in Mandarin this past week. They are from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and were certainly a breath of fresh air. I want to thank Ashley for the nice invite and say a special hello to her family back in Indiana. She showed me that Hoosier and southern hospitality that is for sure! Those A&W floats were awsome! They were very impressive and were already handing out information on hurricane preparedness kits and realize that you need to buy a few things on that list each week before hurricane season really gets cranked up. That way when and if we are impacted by a storm we will be ready.

I dispelled the myth that hurricanes do not hit North Florida and South Georgia and explained how St. Augustine may not have been the oldest city in the US if it was not for a hurricane that hit the area in 1565 which allowed the Spanish to defeat the French. Not only have we had hurricanes here on the First Coast but back in the 1800s we had 2 hurricanes hit North Florida in 11 years. Overall we have had 5 hurricanes including Dora since 1565 and if you add in South Georgia which is a part of our family here at home we have had 10 hurricane strikes since the founding of St. Augustine. So whoever told you we are safe here at home now you know better. I always say prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

What can we expect and where will the hurricanes hit this year? That is the million dollar question. The latest NOAA forecast confirms what I was thinking which is an above average year. We average 10 storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes of 111 mph or greater. My numbers are 16 storms, 10 hurricanes, and 5 major hurricanes. I have a map of all the tropical systems from 1950. This is a year that matches up well with this year. Unfortunately there were 4 hurricanes that impacted Florida just like we saw in 2004. We had a hurricane near Pensacola, Tampa, Cedar Key, and Miami. This year I do expect the west coast of Florida to be busy with a few teasers moving up the east coast toward the Carolinas. This is another reason to get prepared now.

This year looks like we will have plenty of activity in and around the Florida peninsula unlike last year when we had one lone tropical storm impact South Florida. Pressures have literally reversed compared to last year across the Atlantic and Caribbean while the water temperatures still remain well above average. It was incredible we did not have one hurricane hit the US despite it being the third most active season on record. I do not see another "miracle" year this year.

You can already see the tropics are heating up with plenty of storms flaring up. Lower average pressures combined with the La Nina and record warm water are not a good sign. While the Gulf of Mexico has high pressure at this time it looks like this high pressure will likely park over central Texas which means tropical activity will not be blocked like we saw last year when Mexico had one storm after another. No organized activity is expected in the near future due to too much wind shear but be ready. This will not hold up. I do have one of my hot spots for tropical activity stretching from Louisiana to Tampa. Two other areas to watch will be the Keys to Palm Beach and the Carolinas. While we do not know exactly when and where these storms will hit you can count on our weather team to be at our best when nature is at its worst. Have a great Sunday and please take care in the heat and stay safe!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Record-Breaking Triple Digit Heat and a World Record are in sight!

May 21, 2011  Saturday

Great to talk with you again! It is all about the big numbers over the next few days. The latest models in this morning are going nuts when it comes to this next heat wave building in. It looks like we will see our hottest weather of the year and I really do think some of those warmer interior locations could nip 100 degrees in the shade by late Sunday and Monday, especially for those located near Alma, Georgia!This is not including the heat index which makes it even more impressive. The earliest 100 degree day on record for Jacksonville was set on May 13, 1967. While I do think we officially will fall shy of it with a high of 97 on Sunday and 98 Monday it will be close enough to get your attention and we have a good shot at breaking the record high of 97 set back in 1960 on Monday.

It is fitting we are talking about highs near 100 since Callahan is celebrating its centennial this weekend. Nature is also on cue with this dog day weather for the Trail of Tails benefiting the Jax Humane Society taking place at the Jacksonville Landing highlighting by dogs taking a dip in the water to stay cool. With all this talk about big numbers this morning, the biggest number I could find was 7,384 which is the World Record for the most people doing the Hokey Pokey dance. Today at 5:30 p.m. head to Neptune Beach so you can be a part of history by setting our very own world record at the Dancin' in the Streets Fest. I think we have enough sunshine to have at least 10,000 folks doing the Hokey Pokey in the sun, without a doubt. The good news is the beach is the place to beat the heat today with a sea breeze moving in by mid-afternoon. You see the beach planner above and it gives you yet another reason to think big today!

The reason for this hot weather is an area of high pressure will slowly build in from the West at all levels of the atmosphere. This tends to stifle the sea-breeze and any thunderstorm activity that can cool us down this time of year. The atmosphere looks too dry for the sea-breeze to fire up any thunderstorms today and it will be delayed until late afternoon for most areas near the river. This is the recipe for hot, hot, hot! This morning nature was off to a smoking start at the baseball fields near the corner of Kernan and Atlantic Blvd. Glenn Sebold sent this in and the good news is this fire was brought quickly under control. Our First Coast News softball team had a smoke delay but now it is time to play ball! The bad news is more fire activity is likely with no appreciable rain until later next week. There is plenty of hope on this morning's models for rain. Take a look at all the blue and purple shading near us. This means an average of .50" to 1" of rain is looking more likely. We will have to be patient and keep our fingers crossed that a trough of low pressure that is bringing tons of rain to the Midwest will in fact hold together and move our way.

Taking a look at not just the next 7 days but through August I have even better news. Our drought which is still extreme in many areas is expected to loosen its grip over our area as the La Nina pattern continues to weaken. A La Nina is synonymous with below average water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific which shift the jet stream away from Florida keeping us drier and usually warmer than normal. It set in last summer and since then we are running about 20 inches of rain below average. This summer looks much wetter with rainfall at least getting back closer to normal. It all depends on what the La Nina decides to do. Here is the latest assessment from NOAA below.

Now see I am full of good news here on this May 21st when there are many predicting gloom and doom on this date. I hope this blog helps balance everything out for you and you have the best day yet! I will have more on a great group I spoke to this past week on Hurricane Season and where I think the hot spots are this year. But since I do think we will all be here to enjoy next week I wanted to share with you some exciting news. Endeavour which lifted off this past Monday morning will be flying over Jacksonville this coming up Tuesday morning bright and early.

Look south-southwest about 10 degrees above the horizon at 5:36 a.m. It will exit in the eastern sky at 5:40 a.m. 32 degrees above the horizon. If you are in my neighborhood, I will bring the doughnuts. See you there! We will not need a telescope. Have a great day and keep your head up and your eyes to the sky. You deserve the best weatherwise and otherwise.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Smoke storm choking Georgia-Florida border showing no signs of letting up & your weather score card for TPC!

May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day! While the smoke cleared out in most of northeast Florida as forecasted many were not as lucky especially from Nassau County northward today. Here is a picture from near St. George, Georgia taken by Ray King. He said the sky was a weird orange color through most of the day with flurries of ashes. Those ominous smoke clouds or pyrocumulus clouds looked more like approaching tornadoes according to Ray. Yes, our Live Doppler Radar was picking up on the smoke clouds as well but the good news is we had no fire tornadoes or fire devils reported near the Okefenokee Swamp where the fire has now charred 45,000 acres.  With no heavy soaking rain in the forecast this fire will likely continue to grow and cause problems throughout the week. Evacuations of some homes cannot be ruled out.

Remember back in 1998 we actually did have fire devils in St. Johns County whipped up by a large wildfire converging with a warm updraft of air in windy conditions. Some grew to 50 feet and uprooted some trees. In some extreme cases fire devils can have destructive wind speeds of 100 mph and last up to 20 minutes. I am not expecting a repeat. In fact the wind speeds for much of this week will remain less than 10 mph. The bottom line is we need rain and we need it soon even if it is TPC Week! My car still had ashes on it from yesterday but today was all about my wonderful wife who means everything to my family and three daughters. I made sure she took the day off and the kids and I took advantage of the nice sunny weather by washing her car. High temperatures reached 92 degrees in my neighborhood so it was a great way to stay cool!

It was certainly a team effort and yes I did help out my three girls that are getting just too tall and growing up too quickly by taking car of those tires and of course the roof! I hope all Mom's had a wonderful day  and if you notice the skies were nice and blue south of town but compare and contrast this with a picture in Hilliard by Crystal Brown were the smoke was so thick today it held temperatures down into the middle 80s.

This shot is amazing  because the smoke is so impressive it looks more like a dust storm.  Patty Martin captured some more interesting optical effects caused by the smoke. Check it out!

This was taken in the St.Marys and Kingsland, Georgia area.  You see the orange sun sky. Now keep in mind tonight be on the outlook for an orange crescent waxing moon like we saw last night. My latest smokecast does have the smoke shifting farther south due to a wind shift which may cause problems with the morning commute not only in Georgia but areas as far south as Clay and St. Johns County.

The combination of smoke and fog may reduce visibilities in some areas to less than a quarter mile and we cannot rule out some road closings. Take it easy and stay alert.

 I captured this smoke cloud moving south just before sunset here at First Coast News. It was quite a daunting sight. Let's make sure to take it seriously. The other big story this week will be the TPC! Now it will not be the best weather for golf but it could be a lot worse.

It is a huge week for our First Coast News weather team. It is like our Super Bowl with the world's greatest golfers and visitors coming from all over the world coming to the TPC. I think overall we can give nature a grade that would come out close to par. But the hot weather and smoky conditions may make it feel more like a bogey at times, especially with heat index values near 100 by mid to late week. I broke down your best day being Thursday and gave it a birdie as a nice sea breeze keeps highs down in the middle to upper 80s. Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday look to be decent days as long as you find some shady spots and stay hydrated. Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday were given bogeys due to extreme heat and or better chances of rain. Nature needs to straighten up its swing or should I say jet stream. We still have more of a July flow which will bring temperatures to near record highs this week. We will have some rain showers and storms in the forecast but they should stay mainly west of Sawgrass. Sunday a front coming in from the west may increase our chances of thunderstorms even at the course.  Have a great week!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ashes coat cars like snow, smoky sunshine, and keeping Mom cool for her big day!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

That does look like snow! Some cars looked like this in Jacksonville when it really snowed back in December. So imagine Joshua's reaction when he went out to start his car early this morning. He thought he was  dreaming and sent this picture in to show that there was so much ash falling from the sky near Hanna Park that it coated his car.  Yes, this was in fact caused by the big Okefenokee Swamp Wildfire that has now burned 30,000 acres after starting off as a much smaller 3,000 mile wildfire sparked by a cloud to ground lightning strike last week. We can blame the drought and the fact that many of us are running three to five inches below average on rainfall since meteorological spring began on March first. It just does not take much now to stoke a fire. We had a northwest flow in the atmosphere overnight causing the shallow smoke to move south. Also, a temperature inversion set up when we had lows drop into the upper 40s this morning. An inversion means temperatures rose with height which is the exact opposite of what normally happens which acted to trap the smoke near the ground. The good news is no road closures are expected in Florida with visibilities remaining greater than 5 miles but southeast Georgia could be a different story especially near Highway 1. Here is the forecast or should I say smoke cast for the remainder of this afternoon.

Notice a sea breeze will work in by noon at the beaches and 2:30 p.m. on the St. Johns pushing the thickest smoke or gray areas mainly to the west of the river. This is also good news for the world's biggest inland regatta taking place on the St. Johns River. The sea breeze will make it easier to breathe and should really fill up those beautiful sails this afternoon! Please send in some pictures so I can show them in my weather. The sea breeze cannot come soon enough for many of us.

Our sunrise was glorious but check out all the blue haze our reported Mike Lyons captured over downtown Jacksonville. That weird bluish-gray tinge is something you would normally find in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, not here in Florida. It does look like most of us get our blue skies back not only this afternoon but in time for Mother's Day. Sunday our wind will turn more to the southwest keeping most of the smoke in Georgia. That brings us to our next big weather story and that is the winds of change will bring in a May heat wave with the first of several 90 degree days in a row beginning on Sunday.

Now my wife likes hot weather so I am not in any kind of trouble for this forecast. Whew! Thank goodness! She deserves the best weather wise and otherwise. Julie would live at the pool or on a sandy beach if she could. My Mom on the other hand does not like scorching weather so I have something for her in the long-range forecast. No, it is not easy being a meteorologist. LOL. Here is the latest synoptic map showing a big ridge of high pressure building into our area at all levels of the atmosphere. The "H" might as well stand for heat wave! When you see a high pressure building in from the west like this during May we usually have hot weather and this year is no exception. By Wednesday we could actually have our hottest May 11th since 1955 as highs soar into the middle 90s. I cannot rule out some upper 90s in the normally hotter spots!

Now last week here on the blog we talked about a cooler May developing. Patience. I do not see this blazing heat as a permanent thing and cooler weather will likely  move in for the TPC by Friday into the weekend. Yes, there could be some rain or thunderstorms around as a result of cooler air clashing with our tropical air mass, especially late Thursday into Friday but I do not see a washout with plenty of dry hours for the world's best golfers. Next Saturday and Sunday for the championship rounds, I have low chances of rain and high chances of great weather as temperatures return closer to where they should be! But until then it is all about Mom and making sure she stays cool! We average 8 days of 90 or above in May and we will see at least half of that total from now through Wednesday. Take care and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Watch for more fiery trails in the sky! A new month brings a new weather pattern!

May 1, 2011 and editing still taking place....

This week we will keep our eyes to the sky for more shooting stars. We have the Eta Aquarids meteor shower that peaks on Thursday night and Friday morning. Expect about 10 shooting stars per hour and they are known to also leave fiery trails since these meteors making up this shower are known to move at a whopping 150,000 mph. Make sure to look to the east southeast about an hour or two before dawn on Friday morning. This shower is caused by the earth going through the dust trail of Halley's comet which will not be visible to earth until mid-2061 and was last seen our sky in 1986. Enjoy the show.

Nature is also lighting up the skies this week with more storms which are breaking out across some of the tornado ravaged areas of the deep south. While severe weather is likely it will not be nearly as widespread as last week. Here at home this weather system will warm us up to well above average temperatures over the next couple days. By time it arrives late Tuesday night and Wednesday it looks like it will not have much wind shear or moisture to work with limiting instability. This means do not expect another squall line of storms, just isolated shower or thunderstorm activity.

If there is good news the long-range models for the rest of May keep our average high temperatures at least closer to normal after our warmest April in 9 years. More importantly rainfall should start picking up as well and end closer to normal. This pattern change is being caused by many factors including pressure changes across the globe. This includes a much weaker Bermuda high pressure in the southeast and a stronger high pressure near Greenland. This set up brought us beneficial rains to start the new year. This is welcome news but for this week no help for our plants but we will have a nice reinforcing shot of Spring weather by late week!