NOAA report unable to pinpoint causes of the historic 2012 U.S. drought

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:27 PM GMT on April 12, 2013

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The extreme 2012 drought in the Central Great Plains of the U.S. was more intense than any drought since record keeping began in 1895, says a new NOAA assessment of the historic drought, released Thursday. However, the study was unable to pinpoint the cause of the drought. Other major global droughts in recent years have been linked to global warming and/or natural variation in patterns of sea surface temperatures, but these factors were seemingly not important in causing the drought of 2012, said the team of 19 atmospheric scientists, led by Martin Hoerling of the NOAA Modeling, Analysis, Predictions and Projections Program (MAPP). Their study attributed the drought to a random natural variation in the jet stream, which caused it to become "stuck" far to the north in Canada. Since rain-bearing low pressure systems travel along the jet stream, the northwards displacement of the jet stream resulted in abnormally dry conditions over the Central U.S. "This is one of those events that comes along once every couple hundreds of years," said Hoerling.



Key findings of the report
The researchers focused on a six-state region--Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Iowa, and found that the amount of precipitation in 2012 was only 53% of the long-term average. This was the driest year since record keeping began in 1895, surpassing the previous record driest years of 1934 and 1936, during the great Dust Bowl drought.

The researchers called the 2012 drought a "flash drought"--it developed suddenly in May, and was unrelated to the 2011 drought over Texas and surrounding states. The 2011 drought had a separate and well-understood trigger (a change in the jet stream and storm tracks, due to a La Niña event in the Eastern Pacific.)

The 2012 drought was not predicted by long-range weather forecast models. The new report concluded that our ability to predict drought is limited, but some new experimental techniques could improve future drought forecasts. For example, NOAA's long-range GFDL forecast model and the European EUROSIP model correctly anticipated the summer 2012 heat and dryness over the Central U.S. in projections made as early as January 2012.


Figure 1. Drought-damaged corn in a field near Nickerson, Nebraska, Aug. 16, 2012. The great U.S. drought of 2012 was the most extensive U.S. drought since the 1930s Dust Bowl. Over a six-state region--Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Iowa--precipitation during 2012 was only 53% of the long-term average., making it the driest year since record keeping began in 1895. Damage from the 2012 drought is at least $35 billion, and probably much higher. The associated heat wave killed 123 people, and brought the U.S. its second hottest summer on record. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Criticism of the report
Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research was critical of the report's conclusions. In comments posted in Joe Romm's blog at climateprogress.org, Dr. Trenberth said that the study failed to "say anything about the observed soil moisture conditions, snow cover, and snow pack during the winter prior to the event in spite of the fact that snow pack was at record low levels in the winter and spring" and "no attempt was made to include soil moisture, snow cover anomalies, or vegetation health" in the climate model runs performed.

I would have liked to have seen the paper mention the growing body of research that has linked unusually early May snow melt in the Northern Hemisphere and Arctic sea ice loss in recent years to unusual summertime jet stream patterns, like the jet stream pattern observed during 2012. A March 2013 paper by scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany found that under special conditions, the atmosphere can start to resonate like a bell. This causes the jet stream pattern to freeze in place and amplify, leading to months-long periods of weather extremes. They showed that warming of the Arctic due to human-caused climate change might be responsible for this resonance phenomenon, which became twice as common during 2001 - 2012 compared to the previous 22 years. One of the more extreme examples of this resonance occurred during the summer of 2012, and could have been the cause of the 2012 drought.

Other blogs on the report
Yes, Climate Change Is Worsening U.S. Drought — NOAA Report Needlessly Confuses The Issue by Joe Romm at climateprogress.org

Global Warming Not Significant in 2012 Drought: Report by Andrew Freedman of climatecentral.org

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Jeff Masters

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Get a load of this storm report in Bismarck—astounding!
PRELIMINARY LOCAL STORM REPORT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BISMARCK ND
731 AM CDT MON APR 15 2013

..TIME... ...EVENT... ...CITY LOCATION... ...LAT.LON...
..DATE... ....MAG.... ..COUNTY LOCATION..ST.. ...SOURCE....
..REMARKS..

0730 AM HEAVY SNOW BISMARCK 46.81N 100.78W
04/15/2013 M23.5 INCH BURLEIGH ND TRAINED SPOTTER

NORTH 12TH STREET IN NORTH BISMARCK
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I see that Scott. Very high water content in the snow pack in the Red River Valley.

At least no drought though!
Member Since: August 9, 2011 Posts: 25 Comments: 8067
896. VR46L
Quoting NttyGrtty:
Since it's Monday, and Tax Day...why not?

"The Economist and other journalism icons are beginning to reassess their position on global warming."

Link


You are gonna get them mad !!! LOL
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6623
Quoting BaltimoreBrian:
Raise the Bismarck!


There is going to be some major flooding across the Upper midwest as there has been lots of snow across the Dakota's this past Winter.
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Quoting 1900hurricane:

Also non-tropical. My first flag was that low's huge vorticity field. Tropical lows are much tighter and more compact. I also traced the low's origins using the 500 mb chart overlaid with the surface analysis, which distinctly shows that that low is merely the surface reflection of a mid-latitude cutoff.





And as you showed with your GFS forecast, the feature is a pretty common one among the model forecasts, so we also have the opportunity to look at it using the GFS phase diagrams.



Clearly, not tropical or even subtropical.


1900..you are killing me over here..crushing me left and right..:)..but..I'll wait and see what happens
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Quoting Jedkins01:


the genesis of the low is not tropical, but that of baroclinic processes. Otherwise the model wouldn't be generating a low pressure system. Keep in mind, just because forming in a tropical region is not an automatic sign to put the tropical cyclone flag up.

Florida historically is impacted by quite a few gulf including southern gulf generated low pressure systems that are of extra-tropical origin. This output by them model may seems suspicious due to the lack of gulf lows so far this spring. However, remember that much of the peninsula is in a drought, some of which can be attributed to no real gulf lows this spring.

During El Nino years, gulf lows are generated frequently in the spring, and often are quite potent, none of which have any tropical origin.


True but Im speaking from personal experience as of last year during hurricane season when I was posting a certain model run and got shot down about a potential low not being tropical and it ended up being an invest..I have seen it happen and the NHC labels it..not saying it will happen this time just pointing out that because long range model runs says its not tropical in long range doesent mean it wont change..of course, the models have dropped it now..
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Good morning/afternoon/evening to all!

Reading the blog yesterday, someone asked the question about flooding in North Dakota/Manitoba/Saskatchewan. I apologize for the length of the article but there's some interesting info in it:

Lindy



Flood Risks Rising in Canada Grain Belt as Snow, Cold Delay Thaw

By Katia Dmitrieva & Luzi Ann Javier - Apr 12, 2013 2:25 AM GMT-0300.

The risk of crop-damaging floods is increasing in Canada, the world’s second-largest wheat exporter, as late-season snow and freezing weather delay spring planting across the Prairie Provinces and into the northern U.S.

Most of southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan, which together produced 61 percent of Canada’s wheat last year, got at least 15 percent more precipitation than normal in the past six months, including twice as much in an area from Saskatoon to below the North Dakota border, government data show. Manitoba classified its flood risk April 10 as “moderate to major,” two days after Saskatchewan predicted above-normal runoff.

While farmers in western Canada rely on melting snow to aid crop growth, a late thaw can mix with spring rains to deliver too much moisture in a short period, leaving soils saturated. Snowpack last month along the Saskatchewan and North Dakota portions of the Souris River, which feeds the Red River Valley, was as much as twice the average, Manitoba said this week. The government was anticipating normal weather on March 18 when it predicted a record-large wheat harvest in 2013.

“We normally plant in April, but now we’re a month behind,” Will Bergmann, 30, said by telephone from Glenlea, Manitoba, where he grows wheat, canola, oats and corn less than half a mile from the Red River. As of yesterday, there was still a foot (30 centimeters) of snow on his fields. “It’s a waiting game now to see if the river overflows from the excess ice, if more snow falls, and how fast the snow melts.”

Thick Ice

The cold spell has left major rivers and tributaries in Manitoba, which accounted for 14 percent of Canada’s wheat crop last year, with a thick ice cover and below-normal flows this month, the province’s Hydrologic Forecast Centre said in its April 10 report. The melt may not begin until April 17, increasing the chance of aggravated overland flooding and tributary flows, it said.

In Saskatchewan, the top Canadian wheat grower at 47 percent of total output, the government said April 8 that the highest flood risk was from Moose Jaw east to Indian Head and then south to Weyburn, and from Saskatoon to North Battleford. During the past six months, the area from Moose Jaw to Regina had as much as 120 millimeters (4.7 inches) more precipitation than normal, or twice the average, according to data from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, a government agency.

“With the increased snow cover and late melt, I urge all people and communities to look at the forecast and prepare for flooding,” Ken Cheveldayoff, the province’s minister responsible for the Water Security Agency, said in a statement.

Less Growth

Snow depths with the equivalent of as much as 7 inches of moisture may delay spring planting from Minnesota to Canada this year, Mike Tannura, a meteorologist and owner of T-Storm Weather LLC, said by telephone from Chicago. With the snow lingering, Canadian farmers may have a shorter time for optimal early planting, raising the risk of crop damage later in the season, he said.

“If you plant it too late, you can get hit by heat at the wrong time of year, or you can get hit by a cold wave early in the season,” Tannura said. “The earlier you plant, the less probable those things are.”

While wheat futures on the Chicago Board of Trade are up 6.6 percent from a nine-month low on April 1, closing yesterday at $7.0325 a bushel, prices still are down 25 percent from last year’s closing peak in July. The grain may start to rally if farmers aren’t planting by mid-June, Manitoba’s cut-off to qualify for full crop insurance, said Jerry Klassen, a manager at GAP SA Grains & Products in Winnipeg.

Crop Outlook

The Canadian government on March 19 predicted a record harvest of 28.4 million metric tons, up from 27.205 million a year earlier, mostly because farmers were expected to boost plantings by 5.8 percent.

The forecast was based on “very limited weather-related information,” Fred Oleson, the chief of the grain- and oilseeds-market analysis group of Agriculture Canada, wrote in an April 5 e-mail. “In Western Canada, the large amount of snow we have had this winter and the late spring melt has created a lot of uncertainty regarding seeding.”

The government won’t revise its estimates on 2013 seeding until Statistics Canada releases its survey results of farmers’ planting intentions on April 24, Oleson said.

U.S. Output

Excessive snow and cold weather is increasing the chance of planting delays in some U.S. states bordering Canada, according to DTN.

Spring-wheat crops may be sown later in North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota, where snow was as heavy as many parts of Manitoba, said DTN’s Bryce Anderson, who correctly predicted in January that drought in parts of the U.S. will persist through spring. The three states are the largest spring-wheat growers, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Farmers in North Dakota are forecast to plant 6.2 million acres of spring wheat this season, with 2.9 million acres in Montana and 1.35 million in Minnesota, the USDA said. Ice on the upper Mississippi River in Minnesota already has delayed the start of barge traffic until April 8, three weeks late, the USDA said yesterday in a report. The U.S. is the world’s largest wheat exporter.

As recently as 2011, flooding in Manitoba was so extensive that farmer Bergmann was able to kite surf across his fields, which were covered with 5 feet of water. In 1997, during a flood that forced 28,000 to evacuate the province, Bergmann said 99 percent of his land was underwater.

“We’re right along the Red River, so we would be the first farm to experience a flood,” he said. “Anything can happen.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Katia Dmitrieva in New York at edmitrieva1@bloomberg.net; Luzi Ann Javier in Singapore at ljavier@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Stroth at sstroth@bloomberg.net
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Since it's Monday, and Tax Day...why not?

"The Economist and other journalism icons are beginning to reassess their position on global warming."

Link
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Raise the Bismarck!
Member Since: August 9, 2011 Posts: 25 Comments: 8067
Quoting ncstorm:
Well..I also noticed that both the GFS and Euro have been showing a low pressure trying to develop in the atlantic..

00z Euro




00z GFS

Also non-tropical. My first flag was that low's huge vorticity field. Tropical lows are much tighter and more compact. I also traced the low's origins using the 500 mb chart overlaid with the surface analysis, which distinctly shows that that low is merely the surface reflection of a mid-latitude cutoff.





And as you showed with your GFS forecast, the feature is a pretty common one among the model forecasts, so we also have the opportunity to look at it using the GFS phase diagrams.



Clearly, not tropical or even subtropical.
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Despite myself only recording just over an 1" for the last event, all our area rivers were very near bankfull and the larger streams were in minor flood stage. This next event (3"-4")could pose some problems with widespread moderate floods likely along many area rivers, especially when most are still currently in minor flood stage as of now.

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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
The SPC has added a 30% hail risk and 5% tornado risk over today's slight risk area.





I personally like this setup today. Strong daytime heating associated with a weak boundary - weak forcing - strong EHI's - strongly favoring two to three severe supercells all capable of producing a tornado. Reed Timmer will have a prime chance to create an episode for his show Tornado Chasers today, and if not today, several chances in the upcoming days.
Member Since: July 18, 2010 Posts: 50 Comments: 1737
Orlando
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Quoting ncstorm:


according to levi yesterday..no..but its still far out and we all know models can and will change..


the genesis of the low is not tropical, but that of baroclinic processes. Otherwise the model wouldn't be generating a low pressure system. Keep in mind, just because forming in a tropical region is not an automatic sign to put the tropical cyclone flag up.

Florida historically is impacted by quite a few gulf including southern gulf generated low pressure systems that are of extra-tropical origin. This output by them model may seems suspicious due to the lack of gulf lows so far this spring. However, remember that much of the peninsula is in a drought, some of which can be attributed to no real gulf lows this spring.

During El Nino years, gulf lows are generated frequently in the spring, and often are quite potent, none of which have any tropical origin.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6895
The SPC has added a 30% hail risk and 5% tornado risk over today's slight risk area.



Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 79 Comments: 7303
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
As of 5 am EDT, Dr. Forbes has issued a TOR:CON of 5/10 for Oklahoma and southwestern Missouri.


Likely to rise, based solely on the SPC.
Member Since: July 18, 2010 Posts: 50 Comments: 1737
The April ECMWF MSLP update is out and show higher pressures in the Atlantic than in the March update.

March Operational July,August,September update:



March Ensemble mean update:



April Operational August,September,October update:



April Ensemble mean for August,September,October update

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I just saw that the SPC issued a moderate risk for Wednesday already. I think there is a decent chance it will end up as a high risk day. Tends to happen when they issue moderates this far out in advance. Anyone else have a take on Wednesday?
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 33469
Well..I also noticed that both the GFS and Euro have been showing a low pressure trying to develop in the atlantic..

00z Euro




00z GFS
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Quoting VR46L:


Spoil sport :p... So that really is not tropical

That is probably subtropical;)
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Quoting VR46L:


Spoil sport :p... So that really is not tropical



according to levi yesterday..no..but its still far out and we all know models can and will change..
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875. VR46L
Quoting 1900hurricane:

Sorry to play fun-wrecker yet again. :P


Spoil sport :p... So that really is not tropical

Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6623
Good Morning..Moderate risk for Wednesday..anyone from the blog going chasing?
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Quoting LargoFl:
ok ty

Sorry to play fun-wrecker yet again. :P
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871. SLU
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Quoting StormTrackerScott:


LOL. Yeah just up I-4 coming into Orlando the weather was insane as the East and West coast seabreezes collided and produced some tremendous thunderstorms. It was raining so hard at one point yesterday that you couldn't see your hand in front of your face,
yeah thats what the nws keeps saying..best rain chances inland..well i guess inland needs the rains also..good luck with it.
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 33469
869. VR46L
Quoting LargoFl:
hmmm whats in the gulf at 192 hours?.............


Probably our first invest of the season ;)..... GFS 18z was showing a storm for the Carolinas about 2 days later and it appeared tropical in nature ... but the euro showing only a depression at best ... but a big fish in East atlantic ..
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Quoting 1900hurricane:

Some storms kicked up by a vort max at the base of a mid-latitude trough.

ok ty
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 33469

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Quoting LargoFl:
hmmm whats in the gulf at 192 hours?.............

Some storms kicked up by a vort max at the base of a mid-latitude trough.

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Quoting LargoFl:
I dunno, im starting to take these rainfall models with a grain of salt..this past weekend all the models had rain for my area..IF i got ONE drop last night that was alot..we'll see..this coming weekend is looking good..we'll see what happens


LOL. Yeah just up I-4 coming into Orlando the weather was insane as the East and West coast seabreezes collided and produced some tremendous thunderstorms. It was raining so hard at one point yesterday that you couldn't see your hand in front of your face,
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Nam for thurs...............
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 33469
I have been noticing the last couple of days that the GFS has been showing a broad area of low pressure in the western Carribean and East Pacific at the end of the run.
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As of 5 am EDT, Dr. Forbes has issued a TOR:CON of 5/10 for Oklahoma and southwestern Missouri.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 109 Comments: 30291
hmmm whats in the gulf at 192 hours?.............
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 33469

THIS HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK IS FOR WEST CENTRAL AND SOUTHWEST
FLORIDA.

.DAY ONE...TODAY AND TONIGHT.

...THUNDERSTORM IMPACT...
AMPLE MOISTURE AND INSTABILITY COMBINED WITH DAYTIME HEATING
WILL SUPPORT SCATTERED SHOWER AND THUNDERSTORM DEVELOPMENT
ALONG THE SEA BREEZE CIRCULATIONS TODAY...WITH HIGHEST STORM
COVERAGE EXPECTED OVER THE INTERIOR COUNTIES DURING THE AFTERNOON
HOURS. STORMS THAT DEVELOP TODAY WILL BE CAPABLE OF PRODUCING
STRONG GUSTY WINDS...FREQUENT CLOUD TO GROUND LIGHTNING...SMALL
HAIL...AND LOCALLY HEAVY DOWNPOURS.


.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...TUESDAY THROUGH SUNDAY.

...THUNDERSTORM IMPACT...
ISOLATED THUNDERSTORMS WILL AGAIN BE POSSIBLE TUESDAY AFTERNOON...
ESPECIALLY OVER INLAND AREAS. THEN LATE IN THE WEEK A COLD FRONT
WILL APPROACH AND MOVE ACROSS THE REGION BRINGING THE CHANCE OF
MORE SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS LATE FRIDAY THROUGH SATURDAY.
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 33469
Quoting SFLWeatherman:
Good rain for all of fl this week!!:)


That will be a drought buster if it pans out.
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Quoting SFLWeatherman:
Good rain for all of fl this week!!:)
I dunno, im starting to take these rainfall models with a grain of salt..this past weekend all the models had rain for my area..IF i got ONE drop last night that was alot..we'll see..this coming weekend is looking good..we'll see what happens
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 33469
S FL too!!!:)

Quoting StormTrackerScott:
E C FL looks to be stormy again this afternoon.

532 AM EDT MON APR 15 2013

THIS HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK IS FOR EAST CENTRAL FLORIDA.

.DAY ONE...TODAY AND TONIGHT.

.THUNDERSTORM IMPACT...
THUNDERSTORMS WILL FORM ALONG THE INLAND-MOVING EAST COAST SEA
BREEZE THIS AFTERNOON. STORMS WILL CONTAIN OCCASIONAL TO FREQUENT
LIGHTNING AND BE CAPABLE OF PRODUCING HEAVY RAINFALL. A STORM OR
TWO MAY PRODUCE WIND GUSTS ABOVE 45 MPH.

.FLOOD IMPACT...
DUE TO SLOW STORM MOTION AND SATURATED GROUND FROM SUNDAY'S
STORMS...NUISANCE FLOODING WITH STANDING WATER IN LOW-LYING AREAS
WILL BE POSSIBLE IN AREAS WHICH EXPERIENCE SHOWERS AND STORMS TODAY.
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 33469
Good rain for all of fl this week!!:)
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actually folks around tampa bay dont get that severe type of storms very often unless there's a hurricane land falling nearby..not like the midwest with those horrible huge tornado's etc...we around here, some say have been lucky so far..well we'll see THIS hurricane season what happens..around here we WISH for those flooding rains..we can use rain here badly...if you notice last night..all those tornado watches for central florida?..look back..my county wasnt even in it..the Tampa shields were up.
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 33469
North-Central Storm Winds Down, New Storm Hits West

Winter Storm Warnings continue for parts of the Northern Plains and Upper Mississippi Valley as snow and strong winds wane through the morning. Meanwhile, another late season winter storm brings snow to the Central Great Basin and Central Rockies.
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E C FL looks to be stormy again this afternoon.

532 AM EDT MON APR 15 2013

THIS HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK IS FOR EAST CENTRAL FLORIDA.

.DAY ONE...TODAY AND TONIGHT.

.THUNDERSTORM IMPACT...
THUNDERSTORMS WILL FORM ALONG THE INLAND-MOVING EAST COAST SEA
BREEZE THIS AFTERNOON. STORMS WILL CONTAIN OCCASIONAL TO FREQUENT
LIGHTNING AND BE CAPABLE OF PRODUCING HEAVY RAINFALL. A STORM OR
TWO MAY PRODUCE WIND GUSTS ABOVE 45 MPH.

.FLOOD IMPACT...
DUE TO SLOW STORM MOTION AND SATURATED GROUND FROM SUNDAY'S
STORMS...NUISANCE FLOODING WITH STANDING WATER IN LOW-LYING AREAS
WILL BE POSSIBLE IN AREAS WHICH EXPERIENCE SHOWERS AND STORMS TODAY.
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850. VR46L
Quoting LargoFl:
whew next saturday...


Looks like the dry season is finishing early this year..


Good Morning Folks
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6623
849. MahFL
Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
Floridians are extremely complacent when it comes to weather, especially Tampans with hurricanes..

We have had large hurricanes barreling straight towards us that were forecast to hit and only a handful of the people in evac zones decided to go.


Some might say Floridians are also stupid.....
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whew next saturday...
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 33469

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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.