It’s Summer – Essentially – in Florida

roop_20100604_wxcampus_01

Memorial Day is over. The day is known to some as the “unofficial start of summer.” Everyone will be getting their fix of hot dogs, baseball, beach, watermelon, and sun.

In Florida, those aforementioned things will be the desires of most residents and tourists. But the summer also brings sunburns, thunderstorms, lightning strikes, ruined afternoon plans, terrible summer blockbusters, and people sweating their [insert desired body part]s off.

The summer time is also the time of the year when I became interested in the field of meteorology. The curiosity came about through my annoyance of having outside playtime being disrupted because of afternoon thunderstorms.

So, what changes?

1) Upper-air influences decrease. Put simply, the jet stream that we are used to hearing about in the winter, spring and fall makes a trip back to the north. This decreases any upper-air influences and keeps the winds aloft pretty light. Because the jet stream is petty far north, you usually don’t see many fronts impacting Florida.

There are times during the summer where Florida could get some mid and upper-level shortwave troughs, which help initiate lift beyond the normal sea breeze scenarios (to be explained). These types of troughs are usually weaker than what you would see in other seasons and usually don’t accompany any fronts.

2) Sea breezes become commonplace. With the lack of major upper-level, baroclinic influences, we usually experience sea breezes in the state.

(Source: NOAA)
(Source: NOAA)

The sea breeze begins when land near a body of water (whether its the Gulf or the Atlantic) begins to heat up.  The water is cooler than the land, causing air from the water to rush inland. This push causes the air to rise. When the air rises, it cools, creating a relative high aloft. The air then flows back towards the water aloft and creates a relative low. The air sinks down, creating a relative high. This high-to-low cycle feeds the sea breeze.

Depending on the overall weather pattern, thunderstorms could develop along the sea breeze boundary as it moves inland. The large-scale wind direction and speed could also determine which sea breeze (the east or west in Florida) is more predominant and how far inland it goes. For instance, stronger winds can hamper sea breeze development.

3) Tropical-based features also have influences. As the summer moves on, we could also experience westward-moving tropical waves. These waves aren’t quite tropical cyclones as they aren’t that intense or have a closed center, but these tropical lows can create enough lift, along with bringing additional moisture, to enhance showers and thunderstorms.

These are some of the atmospheric effects that impact the Sunshine State’s weather in the summer. So, when you are wondering why it’s raining at your barbecue, wedding, or even your divorce proceedings, these can be the likely culprits. Thanks, Mother Nature.

Could We Have ‘Ana’ Soon?

It’s only early May – less than a month from the official start of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season – and we are already talking about possible tropical or subtropical development. There is a possibility that we could see our first named storm just off the southeastern coast as early as today. 

The two big, global guidance models have been hinting at development For at least a week. It would take the leftovers from a stalled frontal boundary over Cuba and the Bahamas and move it northward. Fast forward to today and some of the predictions have come to fruition. 

As if this morning, there is a broad area of cloud cover and showers associated with this disturbance (see visible satellite image below). 

  

There are higher cloud tops east-northeast of Jacksonville in the Atlantic, with a healthy batch of rain northeast of West Palm Beach. 

  

Model guidance is mostly in agreement with development sometime later today into something more closed than open. The ECMWF (The Euro) is a bit delayed, as it has been, with development. Last night, the timing of any sort of landfall is also starting to come to consensus. 

 
The GFS, shown above (courtesy of WeatherBell) for Saturday morning, has “landfall” in South Carolina. The disturbance is still under the influence of a trough digging through the southeastern U.S., along with some higher winds aloft. The wind shear is expected to relax by Thursday; therefore, further organization  is possible. 

As of yesterday (Tuesday), the hurricane hunters have planned to send an aircraft out to investigate the system. We should have a better idea of what is going on with the system later today. 

I’ll keep you posted as much as possible via social media (@charles_roop on Twitter) – as much as my job allows me. 

Scholarship Fund Created In Honor of Late Storm Chaser

A scholarship fund has been created in memory of Jim Leonard, a legendary storm chaser who passed away in November 2014. A web page has been created on Jim Edds‘ website, another fellow storm chaser. Jim Edds and Greg Nordstrom helped put this together.

The scholarship is designed to help meteorology students at my alma mater, Mississippi State University.

Jim Leonard captured on video severe weather events including typhoons, hurricanes, and tornadoes for nearly 40 years. I remembered watching his videos on documentaries when I was younger. Seeing some of his work further fueled my interest in meteorology, and I am sure his work has inspired others. I’m happy to see that a scholarship was created in his honor.

It’s Gon’ Get Cold

Yea, I know it’s been a while since my last post on my blog. Big whoop – wanna fight about it? I kid. Life has been extremely busy, but I figured I’d take a break and do some weather writing on my page while my wife is at work.

People in most of the southeastern U.S. – especially here in Tallahassee – got to experience a cold bast the last two days. Temperatures didn’t get as cold Friday morning, but once the clouds left and the winds relaxed Friday night, the low got to 27F in Florida’s capital. The cold looks to be the norm for most of next week.

CURRENTLY

The front that brought us the arctic blast as moved out and brought sunny conditions. Winds have switch from Friday’s northerly direction to more westerly. This will help warm thing up a tad. Tonight’s (Saturday’s) low is going to be closer to 40F with highs Sunday near 60F.

Another “dry” cold front will push though early Sunday and push temps Monday night to the lower to mid 30s.

MID TO LATE WEEK

Things will start to transition Monday with the approach of another system from the west. A deep upper-level trough will deepen from a positively-titled trough on Tuesday and become more north-south by Wednesday. The upper-level dynamics will aid in the development with a surface low (see below) that is predicted to hug the gulf coast.

Run of the GFS model showing predicted surface pressure and precipitation Monday night. (Source: WeatherBell)
Run of the GFS model showing predicted surface pressure and precipitation Monday night. (Source: WeatherBell)

The two major guidance models (GFS and the Euro) are not exact on the amount of rainfall. The uplift and moisture are about the same, but the rain maxima seem to be a different places, but the Euro is going higher over Florida. I’ll call for between a half-inch and a inch of rain through Wednesday afternoon in the Tallahassee area.

The cold air will blast through the area once again starting Wednesday morning. Height anomalies will be pretty darn low across the eastern U.S., which will set the stage for a nice arctic blast. The statistical guidance of the GFS is only hinting at lows no lower than 30 through next weekend. But raw guidance – GFS and ECMWF – are going arctic on Tallahassee’s ass. The two models from different nationalities are going in the middle 20s for lows starting Thursday morning (see below).

Predicted low temps from the raw GFS guidance model valid Thursday morning. (Source: WeatherBell)
Predicted low temps from the raw GFS guidance model valid Thursday morning. (Source: WeatherBell)

 

These 20s predictions could be treated as…insane, but there might be some truth to it. Snow is expected to fall from Arkansas to North Carolina during the passage of this system. With cold, arctic air moving over fresh snow will not allow the air to modify much as it moves south; therefore, the temps could be slightly colder than expected. We’ll have to see how much snow they get, how far south the snow gets, and where the high pressure system is to get a real feel for what temps could be later in the week.

SUMMARY

Monday: Cold and Sunny during the day. Rain chances increase during the night.

Tuesday: Rain with warmer temps. The weather become tranquil sometime Tuesday night.

Wednesday: Clearing and getting cold.

Thursday: Cold and clear.

Friday: Cold and clear.

Don’t put away those warm coats yet, as you will freeze your bum off – unless you are from the Arctic.

Shameless plug: I write weather at least once a week on WCTV’s weather page. Check it out.

Slight Risk of Severe Weather in Tallahassee Today

(Source: SPC/NOAA)
(Source: SPC/NOAA)

The Storm Prediction Center has called for a slight risk of severe weather today for the Big Bend area, including Tallahassee. Points west are under an enhanced risk of severe weather, which includes Panama City. The primary threats are damaging winds and a few tornadoes, according to the SPC.

NOW

A low is sitting over Louisiana with a warm front dragged across the southeast, based on surface observations. The flow related to the low is helping to usher in wamer, moist air. Further aloft, a shortwave trough is over the western gulf area (see below). This upper disturbance is helping to provide lift across the region. These features are allowing for increased rain chances and thunderstorms today.

The 7 AM EST 500-mb vorticity map based on upper-air observations. (Source: College of DuPage)
The 7 AM EST 500-mb vorticity map based on upper-air observations. (Source: College of DuPage)

ABOUT THE THREAT: PROS

There are some variables that make this severe threat possible.

1) (Some) Turning of the winds with height (shear). The latest balloon launch from Tallahassee this morning shows winds out of the southeast at the surface, but turning quickly to the south roughly 5,000 feet up at 40 knots and changing again to the southwest just a little further up. What does this mean? Turning with height is good for supercell development. This even helps with tornado development. The SRH values are hovering around the 400-mark, which is impressive. The question is whether or not winds at the surface will shift to the south later in the day, limiting any turning with height and, therefore, lessen the threat.

2) Moisture increase. Winds are mainly from the south in the area, which is helping with moisture transport. Yesterday’s rain also helped, too. The current dewpoint in Tallahassee is 66, and it could go up just a little bit more.

3) Upper-air help. The aforementioned trough will help provide a lifting mechanism for rain and thunderstorms.

ABOUT THE THREAT: CONS

1) Cloud cover. The rain and clouds for the last 24 hours will not be beneficial for allowing any instability. The lack of instability will not help with potent thunderstorm development.

2) Possible lack of shear later. This goes back to my first point in the “pros” section. Some guidance is hinting that winds at the surface will be more out of the south or even southwest as time goes on.  The RAP guidance run is suggesting SRH values to increase towards the evening, but the thunderstorms might be gone by that point. Also, this is just model data.

SUMMARY

There will be a slight threat today for damaging winds and maybe a few tornadoes in the region later this afternoon. It’s important to stay weather aware in the event that the National Weather Service issues warnings today.

Mesoscale models are hinting of a line of thunderstorms moving through later this afternoon into the early evening. I would not rule out a stray storm ahead of this line today. We shall see.

I’ll be keeping an eye on the weather and data through the afternoon.

Bone-Chilling Weather Expected Across Tallahassee

Those in the panhandle were enjoying some warmer weather on Sunday, but not so much the severe weather today (at least one possible tornado). Tonight and the next few days are going to be much colder.

The cold front – which is passing through the Florida peninsula as I am typing this – will usher some of the coldest weather we have seen this season. And, no, it’s not a polar vortex! It’s a sizable dip in the trough that’s moving through the eastern U.S. This same feature that has brought snow and temperatures close to the single digits in some northern states.

Now, the passage of the front will continue to usher in the arctic blast through the area.

TONIGHT (MONDAY NIGHT)

Statistical and raw guidance are suggesting lows in the low to mid 30s tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. So far, the current temperature, dewpoint, and wind direction and speed are close to the statistical GFS run. The infrared satellite loop is showing some clearing west of Pensacola. If the clearing could make it here before midnight, this should allow some radiational cooling if it weren’t for one thing: The wind. Wind speeds should hang around 10 knots (~12 mph) tonight; therefore, the mixing will limit any radiational cooling and keep temps from plummeting too much. The wind along with the cold temps will make things feels much colder, though. I’ll call for a low tonight near 32.

TUESDAY NIGHT/WEDNESDAY MORNING

This should be the coldest night of the season so far. Most models are hinting of lows in the low to mid 20s. The statistical GFS is sippin’ on some syrup as it’s calling for a low of 18F. It seems too low, in my opinion. If the sky remains clear and the winds remain very low to calm, the temps could tank. I would keep an eye on the dewpoints through the day to give a hint of how low it could go. For now, I’m calling for a Wednesday morning low near 25.

There should be one more morning will below freezing temperatures (Thursday AM), but I would say that it should be about two to three degrees warmer than Wednesday morning. The high pressure cell is expected to move east of the area sometime Thursday, and temps will begin to moderate a bit. Lows Friday and Saturday mornings should be in the 40s and 50s, respectively.

PRECAUTIONS

Dress warm, protect your sensitive plants, and bring in your pets. Make sure your skin is covered as much as possible, and limit your exposure to the cold. Also, please do not leave candles and heaters unattended. Just don’t do anything that would make you wind up in the Darwin Awards.

Stay warm, my friends.

Storms Roll Through Starkville, Cause Damage

After becoming the top dog (no pun intended) in college football, the city of Starkville had some additional excitement. A line of storms rolled through the town of my alma mater, Mississippi State University, and caused damage and power outages Monday afternoon.

Mississippi and neighboring states in the deep south was and continues to be under the gun with a potent October storm that brings a moderate risk of severe weather. A line of potent thunderstorms moved through the town. People on social media posted images of damage, as well as posts reporting power outages across town.

The line of storms, as well as some discrete cells ahead of the line, continue to prompt warnings.

A slight risk of severe weather remains for the panhandle and Big Bend area on Tuesday – including Tallahassee.

SPC: Slight Risk of Severe Weather For TLH Tuesday

(Source: SPC/NOAA)
(Source: SPC/NOAA)

The Storm Prediction Center has placed a portion of the southeastern U.S. – including a portion of the Florida panhandle and the Big Bend – under a slight risk category of severe weather for Tuesday. This includes Tallahassee and Panama City.

An upper-level trough is expected to dig in the Midwest on Tuesday (see below). There will be plenty of lift associated with this large-scale system. At the surface, a low is expected to track from the lower Midwest to the northeast into the Great Lakes states. This will push a cold front through the eastern states Monday and Tuesday.

(Source: WeatherBell)
(Source: WeatherBell)

Warmer, more moist air will be transported northward towards the Florida panhandle and Big Bend. This, along with some shear, could help bring organized thunderstorms across the area on Tuesday. The GFS and the Euro are nearly identical on timing of the arrival of the front. Thunderstorms could be in the afternoon (if the current timing holds), where thunderstorm activity would get help from any daytime heating. CAPE isn’t expected to be very high, but might be sufficient.

The greatest threat will likely be damaging winds, but a couple of tornadoes can’t be ruled out.

We’ll find out more Monday when the latest data and model runs are released. For now, keep tabs on the weather.

Charley: My Perspective 10 Years Later

It was August 2004. President Bush was running for reelection, the iPod was the item of choice for listening to music, and people were getting ready to watch the Summer Olympics in Greece. I was a student at Central Florida Community College (now known as the College of Central Florida), and had two part-time jobs: A clerk at a grocery store in Belleview, Fla. and a lab assistant for the science department at CFCC. I was on the fence of whether I should study meteorology or journalism, but I was on a meteorology track at the time. I was living in Summerfield, which is three miles south of Belleview or 15 miles south of Ocala. It was just a few days before the fall semester started when Tropical Depression Three came on my radar. I kept writings to document what was happening at the time. Here’s what I wrote on the night of August 9…

At 11 p.m. EDT, Three was located 165 miles west of Grenada in the Caribbean Sea. Models have this thing going towards the west, then west-northwest, then, maybe, get into the gulf. The 2 p.m. GFDL model run has Three as a possible hurricane a couple hundred miles west of Naples on Saturday. The BAM Medium has it not far off the coast of Ft. Myers on Saturday. These long range models aren’t etched in stone. It could ruin my final weekend of freedom, [or] it could skip away. We’ll see. As of now, it looks real good on the satellite imagery and it could strengthen as predicted. The SHIPS model has it as a hurricane in 72 hours. It gives me something to watch. 

The “final weekend of freedom” bit refers to a planned trip to Ormond Beach, which borders Daytona Beach to the north. My mother has a timeshare in Ormond, and her time slot started when Charley would impact Central Florida. 

The next morning, Three became Tropical Storm Charley as it was 450 miles south-southeast of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Charley was moving rapidly to the west-northwest with 40 mph maximum sustained winds. Twenty-four hours later, it had its eye on Jamaica with winds of 65 mph with it’s forward speed not changing much. Hurricane watches were already issued for the Florida Keys. It became a hurricane 12 hours later as the center of circulation moved just to the south of Jamaica. Charley started to move northwest the next morning. As of the 5 AM EDT advisory on August 12, hurricane warnings were issued for southwest Florida and the Keys. Hurricane watches were issued for portions of coastal West Central Florida – including Tampa Bay. My level of concern increased. Here’s what I wrote on the evening August 12…

After waking up at 7:30 a.m., I was still wondering if I really did wake up and was in some kind of weird dream. I was pondering whether the forecasts and satellite imagery were real. Since Monday, forecast models have been pretty consistent on a storm named “Charley” striking Florida’s gulf coast. I was thinking that things would change. They didn’t. 

I went to work for the 11-4 shift. It was packed! It was constantly busy with no break in sight. It was like that all day long. Some people feared the storm. However, some employees and customers denied the thought of the storm coming to the area. One woman said it will just bounce off Cuba and go away. Some said, “God will make it go somewhere else.” 

I was told management at my job that the store would likely close because of the storm. Marion County Schools and CFCC planned on being closed, too. It was looking like I would have time to prepare for what might happen. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) and the media pretty much agreed that Charley would likely make a direct impact on Tampa Bay. This meant that the storm – moving northeast – would make a direct impact on Ocala. At its projected speed and intensity, it looked like it would be a category 1 hurricane at best by time it got to our area. Living in a home that I wouldn’t call safe for winds above 100 mph, I was became somewhat concerned – especially if this storm were to intensify. There was also one thing I noticed…

Tomorrow will be Friday the 13th. Interesting. I always knew some of the weirdest things happen on that day. 

As a meteorology student and weather fanatic, I await this storm with excitement. I’ve never experienced hurricane force winds before and it would be an interesting experience. However, another side of me thinks about the possible damage and the threat of lives being lost…

The next morning (August 13), I kept tabs with local media as early as 5:30 in the morning. Not a whole lot changed with the forecast and prep mindsets. 

Sometime after noon, WFTV-TV Chief Meteorologist Tom Terry went against the general consensus and made a bold forecast. When everyone was screaming “Tampa Bay” for Charley’s destination of choice, Terry said that this storm would eventually be an Orlando storm. Charley started making a nudge to the right, which gave him suspicion of it hitting the Port Charlotte and Fort Myers area – not Tampa Bay. I started to notice the nudge, too. Did this mean that Tampa Bay and Ocala would be in the relative clear? With this path, this would place the two areas in the left-front quadrant of the hurricane. This is the weaker side of the storm; therefore, winds would not be as strong.

Then, at 1:15 PM EDT, the NHC said that maximum sustained winds have jumped from 125 mph to 145 mph. This was now a category four hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Dropsondes from reconnaissance aircraft noted that the minimum central pressure fell from 964 mb at 11:22 AM EDT, to 941 mb at landfall nearly 4.5 hours later (Pasch et al, 2004). I was stunned by the sudden increase in strength. I was thankful and disappointed at the same time. I was thankful that our domicile would likely be okay, but disappointed as a weather fanatic that I would miss the chance to experience such a storm. 

The storm was compact – kind of like Hurricane Andrew 12 years earlier. This kept the effects to a smaller geographic area. With such a small-scale storm, any change in path could change the impacts from Charley in any given area. In fact, the strongest winds were within 6 nautical miles of the center of circulation (Pasch et al, 2004). If you were the unlucky family that was close to this storm’s center, you were in for one hell of a ride.

Charley made landfall at 3:45 PM EDT near Cayo Costa, north of Captiva, according to the NHC’s final report on the storm (Pasch et al, 2004). The eye then passed over Punta Gorda an hour later. At 6:10 PM EDT, I wrote…

Apparently, the upper and mid-level trough and a cold front decided to move slightly east and change the projected course of the storm. Instead of hitting Tampa Bay like it was  projected this morning, it hit about 50-60 miles south and made landfall near Charlotte Harbor. 

I’ve witnessed some live shots from Port Charlotte on WKMG-TV from reporter Donald Forbes. The area was slammed. Just before landfall, Forbes made wind measurement from his handheld wind gauge of 58 mph. Not long later, [his location] was hit really hard and he had to retreat.

As of now, some squally weather is on the way from the south and the sky is starting to get dark. 

I was glued to the Orlando TV stations through the evening as Charley got closer and closer. One interesting aspect I realized that evening: The people who evacuated from Tampa Bay to Orlando-metro got to experience the hurricane after all. Even the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got to enjoy some of that hurricane.  

As of the 8 PM EDT advisory, winds decreased to 85 mph with a minimum central pressure of 970 mb. The forward speed had increased as the upper-level pattern began speeding up the movement of Charley. The storm went through Orlando and vicinity around 9:30 PM EDT. You could see the live Florida Department of Transportation cameras across the metro area shake – some violently. The major highways – Interstate 4, the Turnpike, and other toll roads – were deserted except for the occasional crazy person driving at full speed and/or with their hazard lights flashing. Central Florida was mostly hunkered down. 

Meanwhile, I was outside my home with my VHS-C camera filming what was happening around me. Was it exciting? As much as watching grass grow. The highest wind gust at the Ocala airport was 24 mph, according to a post I wrote the following day. At Leesburg (18 miles southeast of Summerfield), the highest gust recorded was 39 mph (Pasch et al, 2004). Gainesville’s highest gust was 15 mph. It was relatively a gentle breeze compared to what was happening an hour to my southeast. The lowest pressure recorded at my home was 1008 mb, per my writings.

The change in path did shock some people. But the NHC did have warnings in place for southwestern Florida 23 hours before the storm made landfall. 

“No one near the landfall location should have been surprised by the arrival of this hurricane,” according to the NHC’s final storm report. 

Finally, I watched as the storm was heading right along the I-4 corridor towards Daytona Beach. That’s right: The place I was planning on taking a weekend vacation before classes started for the fall term. A small break before I decided to dive into a 16-credit-hour regiment of Spanish, chemistry, calculus, and a humanities class (which didn’t end in excellence). I watched as TV reporters flailed in the wind in Daytona as the storm was barely a category 1 hurricane. By midnight, Charley gave Florida the middle finger as it’s center of circulation entered the Atlantic waters to go screw with the Carolinas with 70-knot winds. 

The next morning, I was somewhat anxious to see what had happened to Central Florida. I had to make a quick decision as to stay in Summerfield, or join my mother and stepdad in Ormond for a short vacation that might suck. 

Lightning Safety: How One Business Prepares [VIDEO]

My colleague and friend, Brittani DuBose, and I worked on a promo piece for work about lightning safety. We talked to a local roofing company about their lightning procedures, and talked to an ER doctor on how lightning victims can be affected. This originally aired on Friday.