Southeast U.S. drought: another Tropical Storm Alberto needed

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 11:26 AM GMT on April 19, 2012

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Today is my last day in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, where 700 of the world's hurricane experts are gathered to attend the 30th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology of the American Meteorological Society. It's been a great week of learning and catching up with old friends, and I present below a few final summaries of talks I attended.

Impact of Tropical Cyclones on drought alleviation in the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts
Dr. Pat Fitzpatrick of the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi discussed how landfalling tropical storms and hurricanes can alleviate drought. The biggest winner tends to be the Southeast U.S. states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, where about 20% - 50% of all droughts between 1960 - 2009 were busted by a landfalling tropical storm or hurricane. It is uncommon for Texas to see a drought busted; less than 10% of all Texas droughts have been ended by a hurricane or tropical storm. This occurs because the Southeast U.S. can receive heavy rains from hurricanes moving up the East Coast, or moving through the Gulf of Mexico, while relatively few storms track over Texas. Over the course of a year, hurricanes and tropical storms contribute 15 - 20% of rain along the Gulf Coast, and 3 - 16% along the East Coast. The length of a drought does not seem to affect whether a drought can be ended by a hurricane or not. Hurricanes have been able to end both short (< 3 month) and long (> 12 month droughts) equally well.


Figure 1. Example of a drought-busting tropical storm. Moderate drought (Palmer Drought Severity Index, PDSI, ≤ –2.0) was present in 52 percent of the Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina climate divisions in May 2006. The percentage decreased to 29 percent after Tropical Storm Alberto passed through on June 11 - 15, 2006. Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor.


Figure 2. Rainfall in inches from the passage of Tropical Storm Alberto in 2006. Image credit: NOAA/HPC.

According to the U.S. drought monitor, over 90% of the area of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina are currently in moderate to exceptional drought. There is 1 - 2 inches of rain coming to much of the region over the next few days, but that will not be enough to bust the drought. Based on Dr. Fitzpatrick's research, there is a 20% - 50% chance that the drought will be broken by a tropical storm or hurricane. The first storm on the list in 2012 is Alberto again; let's hope we get another Alberto this year that imitates the 2006 version of Alberto.

Patterns of rapid intensification
Peter Yaukey of the University of New Orleans studied patterns of hurricane rapid intensification in the Atlantic from 1950 - 2009. The Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean saw the most rapid intensification events, and the Northeast Atlantic the fewest. Interestingly, he found that rapid intensification events did not peak in September, but tended to be more common in June and July. Hurricane are less likely to intensify in the late afternoon and early evening (near 00 UTC), and more likely to intensify just after midnight, at 06 UTC.

Jeff Masters

TS Alberto Surfer (Loyce)
This surfer was taking advantage of the storm with the high waves in the height of Tropical Storm Alberto.
TS Alberto Surfer
Alberto feederband (earthlydragonfly)
At about 2 am a feederband passed through Winter Garden. My weatherstation recorded a 40mph wind gust and a pretty server drop and barometric pressure. I got this shot last night as well. Really not much lightning in these storms
Alberto feederband

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Last Sunday here in Wisconsin wind shear was so great that any developing storms were destroyed at 20 thousand feet. We were very lucky. It's a very rare thing to get a moderate warning here. 75% of residents here would have paid no attention at all, could have been tragic. Looking for opinions here. If Florida has an outbreak of severe weather are people there more apt to be prepared because of hurricane experiences or are they likely to not heed the warnings properly because they rarely see tornadoes with winds above 100mph? Great place, been lurking for quite awhile, this is my first post. Thanks everyone for the great weather info.
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342 Tazmanian: All the model runs did very very poorly with 91L...
345 Hurricanes101: Most of the ones I saw showed a deepening non-tropical core low...

The path models' predictions weren't anything that their algorithm designers would wanna brag about.
And while I didn't look closely at many of them, the isobar charts that I did expand enough to read the numbers predicted minimum pressures under 1000millibars.
What we've seen are rising pressures of 1002mb, 1003mb, 1004mb, 1005mb, and 1006mb.
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
Quoting nigel20:


The plunge has stopped for now as it is going up from 8.0 that was a couple of days ago. The daily SOI has turned positive and the 30 day one follows.

Link
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Quoting pottery:

Looks like you had a dry one for a change.


Yes, we needed a brake... Today it was sunny.... very pleasant day...
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Quoting StormTracker2K:


Damm! The SOI just keeps plummiting!

yeah but if you look closly at the end it is now riseing
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Quoting StormTracker2K:


Damm! The SOI just keeps plummiting!

The SOI was 7.7 yesterday so it went up a bit
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 12 Comments: 8485
Quoting sunlinepr:



Looks like you had a dry one for a change.
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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Here, you happy now??? This was just taken a few years ago. Well, about 42 years ago actually.


Dorian Gray????
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11557
Quoting pottery:
Copious quantities of convection here today.


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
000
FXUS62 KTBW 192351
AFDTBW

AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAMPA BAY RUSKIN FL
751 PM EDT THU APR 19 2012

.FOR THE EVENING UPDATE...
SHOWERS ARE WINDING DOWN AS THE ATMOSPHERE HAS STABILIZED ACROSS
WEST CENTRAL FLORIDA WITH THE ONSHORE FLOW PUSHING THE MARINE
LAYER INLAND. SKIES WILL BECOME PARTLY CLOUDY OVERNIGHT WITH WARM
RATHER HUMID CONDITIONS ACROSS THE FORECAST AREA. ATMOSPHERE WILL
REMAIN UNSTABLE ON FRIDAY WITH DAYTIME HEATING AGAIN GENERATING
SCATTERED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS. MAIN FOCUS WILL BE ON
DEVELOPING SCENARIO OVER THE WEEKEND AS A STRONG U/L LOW DIGS OVER
THE GULF OF MEXICO AND ACROSS NORTH FLORIDA SATURDAY INTO SUNDAY.
MUCH TOO EARLY FOR SPECIFICS AS LOCATION OF MID LEVEL JET AND BEST
U/L DYNAMICS REMAIN IN DOUBT...BUT POTENTIAL FOR SEVERE
THUNDERSTORMS LATE SATURDAY INTO EARLY SUNDAY VERY POSSIBLE. THIS
MAY COME IN TWO SEPARATE EVENTS...FIRST A SQUALL LINE AHEAD OF THE
MAIN COLD FRONT WITH POSSIBLE DAMAGING WINDS AND AN ISOLATED
TORNADO LATE SATURDAY. THEN THUNDERSTORMS ASSOCIATED WITH THE COLD
CORE U/L LOW CAPABLE OF PRODUCING LARGE HAIL AND DAMAGING WINDS
SATURDAY NIGHT/EARLY SUNDAY. HOWEVER TIMING AND OVERALL EVOLUTION
OF THIS SYSTEM REMAIN HIGHLY UNCERTAIN AS MODELS HAVE BEEN
INCONSISTENT RUN-TO-RUN. THE FURTHER SOUTH THE SURFACE LOW
TRACKS...THE FURTHER SOUTH THE SQUALL LINE WILL SET-UP AND MAY
ONLY IMPACT SOUTHERN PORTIONS OF THE FORECAST AREA.

&&

.AVIATION...
VFR CONDITIONS THROUGH THE OVERNIGHT. SHOWERS DEVELOP AFTER 18Z FRI
BUT WILL REMAIN SCATTERED SO CONTINUE VFR FORECAST WITH VCSH TO
COVER THEM. WINDS BECOMING LIGHT AND VARIABLE OVERNIGHT AND TURNING
SOUTHWESTERLY FOR FRIDAY AROUND 10 KTS.

&&

.TBW WATCHES/WARNINGS/ADVISORIES...
FL...NONE.
GULF WATERS...NONE.
&&

$$

SHORT TERM/MARINE/FIRE WEATHER...13/OGLESBY
LONG TERM/AVIATION...35/JOHNSON


Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8026
Quoting Jedkins01:



Yeah it does look like there may be a stationary warm front feature that will set-up from may area across yours. If we actually do get a solid surface low moving across Central Florida with the cold upper low overhead as well I can almost assure you there will be very showers and thunderstorms and a lot of them. Moisture will be very high. This old front that stalled over us is helping to steadily pull the tropical air from the far south up into Florida, setting a good environment for the weekend.

Just remember though, we can't be sure of this event yet because its hard to say what will actually happen with respect to the complex low pressure system.


Yeah this moisture is streaming up from the NW Caribbean and you can really feel it now as dewpoints are around 70 or even higher in some cases.
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Great News!!!

HRRR become operational on May 1st, replacing the RUC for short-term forecasts!

Link
Member Since: September 3, 2011 Posts: 13 Comments: 3477
Quoting StormTracker2K:


Yup and models are now showing this. It almost seems a warm front is going to set up across C FL and this looks like it will act as a focus for very rains and strong storms training over the same areas for maybe 12 hours or more. You and I know living here sometimes these record rain events can go un-noticed. This deep tropical moisture that's in place will act as an ignitor for the system as it hit the C Gulf.



Yeah it does look like there may be a stationary warm front feature that will set-up from my area across yours. If we actually do get a solid surface low moving across Central Florida with the cold upper low overhead as well I can almost assure you there will be very showers and thunderstorms and a lot of them. Moisture will be very high. This old front that stalled over us is helping to steadily pull the tropical air from the far south up into Florida, setting a good environment for the weekend.

Just remember though, we can't be sure of this event yet because its hard to say what will actually happen with respect to the complex low pressure system.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8026
Quoting nigel20:


Damm! The SOI just keeps plummiting!
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 12 Comments: 8485
Quoting Jedkins01:



lol not from what I've seen, I just checked the last operational run and it came in looking weaker, the SPC even talks about it.


Yeah from last night and this morning????


Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Quoting StormTracker2K:


You are way off there. The GFS has been showing higher totals the last couple of runs and higher convective signitures. ??????



lol not from what I've seen, I just checked the last operational run and it came in looking weaker, the SPC even talks about it.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8026
Some of us would need to have one in the first place before we could change them. Sure are a lot of generic ones. Didn't used to be so.
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Quoting StormTracker2K:


Hey by the way that 5 to 9 inch rain event you got last year was in March (end of March) not april:)


You are correct, that was a misprint, my mistake, lol :)
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8026
Quoting Jedkins01:


As I expalained though, GFS numbers are coming in less and less over the last few runs, as you can see there it shows less rain then the last 2 runs, not drastically less but its still headed in the direction we don't want. But then again, nobody ever said weather has to follow the models, the GFS could be wrong, I don't really like the way it sets up its convective structure with the low, it seems very unlikely for this type of system which makes me a bit suspicious the way it is handling the low. Remember the low doesn't even exist yet, its possible we could get less rain than expected, or possible even more. A well organized low would likely produce several inches in some places even though it won't hang around that long because PWAT's will soar into deep tropical values.


However, its also possible that this low won't really be much and we'll just have a cold upper trough swinging through which would be nothing more than some scattered strong storms-the scenario we don't want.


You are way off there. The GFS has been showing higher totals the last couple of runs and higher convective signitures. ??????
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Quoting Jedkins01:



Heaviest rain from low pressure events coming from the gulf tend to lign up around my area I've noticed, hopefully that will be the case this time as well :)

Most likely its because thick cloudiness from low pressure systems limit instability over land but the warmer gulf waters with a strong breeze allows for a continual energy source. We can get massive rain evens here on the West Coast of Florida from lows in the gulf sometimes.



Yup and models are now showing this. It almost seems a warm front is going to set up across C FL and this looks like it will act as a focus for very rains and strong storms training over the same areas for maybe 12 hours or more. You and I know living here sometimes these record rain events can go un-noticed. This deep tropical moisture that's in place will act as an ignitor for the system as it hit the C Gulf.
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 12 Comments: 8485
Quoting StormTracker2K:


Just wait and see what happens once this upper energy moves into this moist unstable enviroment. There are going to be some serious rainfall totals from this system across C FL. Look at the GFS and you can see the track of the low.

GFS


As I expalained though, GFS numbers are coming in less and less over the last few runs, as you can see there it shows less rain then the last 2 runs, not drastically less but its still headed in the direction we don't want. But then again, nobody ever said weather has to follow the models, the GFS could be wrong, I don't really like the way it sets up its convective structure with the low, it seems very unlikely for this type of system which makes me a bit suspicious the way it is handling the low. Remember the low doesn't even exist yet, its possible we could get less rain than expected, or possible even more. A well organized low would likely produce several inches in some places even though it won't hang around that long because PWAT's will soar into deep tropical values.


However, its also possible that this low won't really be much and we'll just have a cold upper trough swinging through which would be nothing more than some scattered strong storms-the scenario we don't want.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8026
Quoting pottery:

He needs to be more aggressive as a Skipper too.
Plus, we need a new opening bat. Or 2 !!

Agreed...our best opening batsman is Chris Gayle, but he's in the IPL as well
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 12 Comments: 8485
351. Jedkins01
2:59 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting StormTracker2K:
Locally 6" of rain this weekend across C FL with widespread 3" plus. Record for orlando for April is just over 9" for the month so this gives you a indication just how big of an event this will be this weekend as April is typically very dry. NWS mets along with local mets are saying some of the higher totals may come very fast with training storms coming in from the Gulf.



Heaviest rain from low pressure events coming from the gulf tend to lign up around my area I've noticed, hopefully that will be the case this time as well :)

Most likely its because thick cloudiness from low pressure systems limit instability over land but the warmer gulf waters with a strong breeze allows for a continual energy source. We can get massive rain evens here on the West Coast of Florida from lows in the gulf sometimes.

Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8026
350. StormTracker2K
2:59 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting Jedkins01:



We had a decent amount of rain over in Pinellas County today.


Hey by the way that 5 to 9 inch rain event you got last year was in March (end of March) not april:)
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
349. StormTracker2K
2:55 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting Jedkins01:



Yep, and because there is still a weak front washing out there, we also have a favorable environment now for convection being there is lots of moisture now in place and the lid of high pressure has been removed.


Just wait and see what happens once this upper energy moves into this moist unstable enviroment. There are going to be some serious rainfall totals from this system across C FL. Look at the GFS and you can see the track of the low.

GFS
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
348. Jedkins01
2:53 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting StormTracker2K:


Yeah lightning flashing here off in the distance. At my work today no rain but at my house in NW Orange County I got .42" today on top of rain I got last night.



We had a decent amount of rain over in Pinellas County today.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8026
347. pottery
2:53 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting nigel20:

Sammy should bat up the order more often and lead from the front.

He needs to be more aggressive as a Skipper too.
Plus, we need a new opening bat. Or 2 !!
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24906
346. Jedkins01
2:52 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
Showers and possibly a few thunderstorms will redevelop during the early morning hours in the eastern Gulf as a small pulse of energy moves out of the central gulf.



Yep, and because there is still a weak front washing out there, we also have a favorable environment now for convection being there is lots of moisture now in place and the lid of high pressure has been removed.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8026
345. Hurricanes101
2:51 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting Tazmanian:
all the mod runs did vary vary poor with 91L


they all showed Alberto and look what 91L did it went POOF


most of the ones I saw showed a deepening non-tropical core low, which is what happened, which has since weakened
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7874
344. nigel20
2:50 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting pottery:

It was strange that they had any play at all in POS.
It poured down here in central T&T.
Looked like Sammy was going to take them on.
If he and Bravo and Chanders got going.......
We had a chance.

Sammy should bat up the order more often and lead from the front.
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 12 Comments: 8485
343. StormTracker2K
2:49 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
Showers and possibly a few thunderstorms will redevelop during the early morning hours in the eastern Gulf as a small pulse of energy moves out of the central gulf.


Yeah lightning flashing here off in the distance. At my work today no rain but at my house in NW Orange County I got .42" today on top of rain I got last night.
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
342. Tazmanian
2:48 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
all the mod runs did vary vary poor with 91L


they all showed Alberto and look what 91L did it went POOF
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
341. StormTracker2K
2:46 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Locally 6" of rain this weekend across C FL with widespread 3" plus. Record for orlando for April is just over 9" for the month so this gives you a indication just how big of an event this will be this weekend as April is typically very dry. NWS mets along with local mets are saying some of the higher totals may come very fast with training storms coming in from the Gulf.
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
340. FLWeatherFreak91
2:44 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Showers and possibly a few thunderstorms will redevelop during the early morning hours in the eastern Gulf as a small pulse of energy moves out of the central gulf.
Member Since: December 1, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 3634
339. pottery
2:44 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting nigel20:

Whats up pottery? Rain interupted what could of been an exciting final day in the series between West Indies and Australia, but that's how it is

It was strange that they had any play at all in POS.
It poured down here in central T&T.
Looked like Sammy was going to take them on.
If he and Bravo and Chanders got going.......
We had a chance.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24906
338. WxGeekVA
2:44 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting Grothar:
Nothing yet



IS THST A PINEHOLE EYE NEAR MIAMI!?!?!

SARCASM FLAG: WAY ON
Member Since: September 3, 2011 Posts: 13 Comments: 3477
337. Grothar
2:44 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting pottery:

You haven't changed a bit.


Thanks, pott. A true gentleman you are. (You should see my mirror though)
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27210
336. Grothar
2:41 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Nothing yet

Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27210
335. pottery
2:41 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting Grothar:


Here, you happy now??? This was just taken a few years ago. Well, about 42 years ago actually.

You haven't changed a bit.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24906
334. Jedkins01
2:40 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting Grothar:


About 2 1/2 ephahs, I think.



How many cubits in length and width?

BTW, what did you think of Aaron? I always have a feeling he got a little jealous of Moses, you would know, you guys used to hang out under the terebinth tree dreaming of the promised land from what I hear...
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8026
333. nigel20
2:40 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting pottery:
Copious quantities of convection here today.

Whats up pottery? Rain interupted what could of been an exciting final day in the series between West Indies and Australia, but that's how it is
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 12 Comments: 8485
332. Grothar
2:39 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Some of you should change your profile pictures sometimes. Just sayin'.


Here, you happy now??? This was just taken a few years ago. Well, about 42 years ago actually.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27210
331. Hurricanes101
2:38 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting pottery:

What happened to the other 1/2 of the elephant....

Oh, sorry..
It's me eyes, yer know......


Have you ever seen Grothars wardrobe?

Thats where the other half went
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7874
330. pottery
2:34 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting Grothar:


About 2 1/2 ephahs, I think.

What happened to the other 1/2 of the elephant....

Oh, sorry..
It's me eyes, yer know......
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24906
329. GeoffreyWPB
2:31 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting pottery:

"Pinta", surely?


Correct.
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328. hahaguy
2:31 AM GMT on April 20, 2012
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Some of you should change your profile pictures sometimes. Just sayin'.


I don't like change!
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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