Atlantic Sat Image

Atlantic Sat Image
Clouds over Atlantic

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tropical Activity? Already?

There has been some talk, specially at the "Weather Channel" and a few other national outlets, that hurricane season may kick off next week. They are citing the potential for an area of low pressure forming over Cuba, just to our South.

Many of you have contacted me wanting to know my opinion. I have basically mentioned the potential for more rain next week but have stayed away from mentioning anything tropical. The main reason is that NOTHING has developed yet. If it does develop, it will probably get caught by a front and pushed away into the Atlantic.

What to expect:
If it does come together, we can expect a chance for more heavy rain starting on Monday. You should prepare for strong downpours and the possibility of street flooding through midweek.

Hurricane Formation:
Hurricanes and tropical systems need certain ingredients to form. The most important is hot water, with 80 degrees being the tipping point. Over that, and systems have enough fuel to grow, less and formation is very difficult. Present water temps are near 83°. So as long as this and other ingredients are present, systems can form at any time of year. Its only humans that have given Mother Nature a start and end date for hurricane season. (June 1st through the end of November).

The earliest (or latest depending on how you look at it) that formation has happened is Sub Tropical Storm #1 in January 18th in 1978. If the projections for a low to develop by next week come to pass, it would not be anything extraordinary.

What the models are suggesting: 
Here are two model runs. The first is the GFS, which shows a little tight circle in 180 hours east of Florida and the Bahamas.

The second is the CMC model, suggesting a small area of circulation just north of the Bahamas and east of Florida in 150 hours.

I always caution the validity of these long range models suggesting development. As of this moment, nothing has happened, there is no low, and upper winds are streaming out of the Southwest.  Models are never 100% perfect, as a matter of fact short range models were giving us a sunny Friday and Saturday and it appears we may remain mostly cloudy with a slight chance for showers.

This feature is nothing to panic about, but instead use it as a reminder that hurricane season is right around the corner staring June 1st.  So take the time now to slowly prepare for the upcoming season. We've been very lucky for almost a decade... lets hope we stay that way.

Friday, April 10, 2015


Strong solar winds and a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) which is like a huge sun sneeze, will be sending radiation our way that could arrive by Friday night. This  G2-class geomagnetic storm took place in the early hours of April 10th.

Some areas as far South as the border between Canada and the US have seen brilliant Northern lights. Even Colorado has been able to see some of this particular light show.

Experts are keeping a close eye on this solar activity as another CME could flare up later tonight.

The numbers on the sun graphic correspond to where these solar "sneezes" or flares are erupting.

So why do these solar winds cause the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights?

The following is courtesy of

Our sun is 93 million miles away. But its effects extend far beyond its visible surface. Great storms on the sun send gusts of charged solar particles hurtling across space.

If Earth is in the path of the particle stream, our planet’s magnetic field and atmosphere react.
When the charged particles from the sun strike atoms and molecules in Earth’s atmosphere, they excite those atoms, causing them to light up.

What does it mean for an atom to be excited?
Atoms consist of a central nucleus and a surrounding cloud of electrons encircling the nucleus in an orbit. When charged particles from the sun strike atoms in Earth’s atmosphere, electrons move to higher-energy orbits, further away from the nucleus. Then when an electron moves back to a lower-energy orbit, it releases a particle of light or photon.

What happens in an aurora is similar to what happens in the neon lights we see on many business signs. Electricity is used to excite the atoms in the neon gas within the glass tubes of a neon sign.

That’s why these signs give off their brilliant colors. The aurora works on the same principle – but at a far more vast scale.

Our Protect-a-shield:
Thank goodness our planet has a shield to protect us from these deadly radiation or solar flares. The magnetosphere pushes the excited atoms towards the poles.

This is why  lights typically are seen in the far north – the nations bordering the Arctic Ocean – Canada and Alaska, Scandinavian countries, Iceland, Greenland and Russia.

But strong displays of the lights can extend down into more southerly latitudes in the United States.

And of course, the lights have a counterpart at Earth’s south polar regions.

In very strong storms, we could see power outages, wireless phone drop outs, and bad satellite transmissions.

Right now the best and brightest Auroras are near the Arctic Circle. Some of these Auroras can be beautiful as in this display from 2014.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

First Forecast for the 2015 Hurricane Season

This is the first of what will be many outlooks for hurricane season 2015. It was released Thursday by Colorado State University,  presented by Philip J. Klotzbach and famed forecaster Dr. William Gray.

The outlook calls for 7 named systems, out of which 3 could become hurricanes, and out of that number, maybe one may turn into a Major Hurricane (winds of over 111mph...a category 3 on the intensity scale).  Compare that with an average season, and it looks like it may not be as active... but don't let that fool you. It only takes one.

For those who may have forgotten (hard to do if you lived through it), or those who are new to the area, we had a major Category 5 storm clobber deep Southern Miami-Dade county in 1992.

It was "Hurricane Andrew" killing dozens and causing Billions in damages.

If this forecast pans out, however,  it could be one of the least active seasons since the middle of the last century.

So why do these experts think it may not be as active?
They say that the phenomenon known as El Niño will strengthen this summer keeping storms from forming. They also cite that waters across the Atlantic basin are not as warm as they need to be. 

One of the ingredients in the recipe for hurricane formation is hot water. You need a temperature of at least 80°s, anything less and no formation occurs. Obviously the ocean will get warmer as the season progresses but it may be a slow start.

What is El Niño?
El Niño, is a warming of the equatorial waters of the Pacific Ocean. It not only impacts marine currents but atmospheric ones as well. This causes, what would otherwise be typical weather patterns around the globe, to go haywire.

What does it mean for South Florida?
For us it means strong upper level winds will be howling out of the Pacific and barreling through the Atlantic basin.

This will help to cut off the tops of any developing system. It will make conditions for organization and growth very hostile.

The CSU team also provided the chances of a major hurricane, a cat 3 or above, striking land. 
  • For the entire U.S. Coast its a 28% chance. Down from what is average.
  • For the East Coast and Florida, a 15% chance of a cat 3 hitting. Down from the 31% average.
  • The Gulf Coast is also down with 15%. Typical is a 30% chance.

The bottom line is that hurricane season starts June 1st. It will be here before you know it.

Start now and slowly build up your supplies, that way it will not be a big hit on the wallet and you can avoid the crazy lines and hysteria if and when a storm threatens. 

Out of all the phenomenons that Mother Nature throws our way...earthquakes and tornadoes...  a hurricane will never take you by surprise.  You will see me ad nauseum, sometimes a week out, telling you its coming. You can prepare and you can survive.

The official NHC outlook will be issued in May.  Keeping my fingers crossed for a quiet season.