Over the past few days we have watched as severe stormy weather developed over the southern and southeastern USA, from Texas to Virginia. Tornado destruction in Texas was widely on display on TV’s evening news.
Atmospheric conditions that generated such violent weather have continued on a southeasterly progression as a strong mainly westerly wind flow have pushed these storm cells toward the east. In this process Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia have been affected while states further to the east, in the coastal mid-Atlantic USA, await their turns.
This morning, Thursday 5 April 2012, extreme South Florida woke-up to cloudy stormy skies, some rain and wind especially in the coastal regions, as a large blob of disturbed weather slowly pushed from west to east reaching from lake Okeechobee to the Florida straits.
As this day has progressed conditions for severe weather reaching South Florida have coalesced thanks to a strong southwesterly wind flow over the Gulf, which is pushing storm cells over Louisiana and Mississippi toward Florida, while the the system that generated morning rain over South Florida slowly moves away over the Atlantic. The fact that temperatures are reaching toward the high 80s to low 90s over the region, while sea surface temperatures in the southern Gulf and Florida straits continue to climb, will contribute to the probability of severe weather developing over vast regions of Florida including South Florida later on today and tomorrow.
The satellite image above, courtesy of NOAA, shows the large cell of severe weather over coastal Louisiana and the northern Gulf of Mexico, an offshoot of the severe weather that impacted Texas and neighboring states earlier this week, as it is pushed by strong westerly winds toward the Gulf and Florida beyond. Gulf waters and atmospheric conditions over the region are such that there is a high probability of sever weather developing near the west coast of Florida later on today and over most of Florida by tonight and tomorrow.
Also of interest in the same satellite image is the large region of rain and thunderstorms over most of Central America, mainly El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama and northern South America, which is similar to a persistent pattern that has prevailed over the same region for several months during the last 2 – 3 years.
It would appear we might be seeing conditions that are similar to those a year ago both over the southern USA, the Gulf and Florida and also over Central America and northern South America including the neighboring waters of the eastern Pacific and the Caribbean. In this regard it is also important to note that we are also seeing some significant changes over the larger region relative to what prevailed in 2011, we are talking of the much cooler surface waters and larger reach of the Mid Atlantic Oscillation and the disappearance of La Nina off the Pacific coast of Peru, which is being replaced by much warmer waters suggesting the genesis of El Nino might be possible. All of these now prevailing conditions are factors that in one way or another are capable of affecting tropical cyclone formation in the Atlantic basin. In consequence, it behooves all of us in the periphery of the basin to pay close attention as to how these conditions evolves in the near term as they might be good indicators of how the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season might eventually evolve over the next few months. In this regard it is interesting to note that the Colorado State University team has finally issued a forecast for a “below average” 2012 season in the Atlantic basin.
Regardless of what the forecasts from various teams say about he 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, I believe is important to take a look at the consequences of recent severe weather events mentioned above, and those that might be in store for Florida in the next day or so, to be reminded of the power of wind and water for causing tremendous structural and physical damage and, above all, death, injury and human suffering. After all, wind and water are the main damage components of hurricanes, and it only takes one hit for us to witness yet again how powerful and damaging Nature can be when humankind and human activity interact with its hazards.
NOAA is already warning about rain, hail, thunderstorms and severe lightning, rip currents along both Gulf and Atlantic coast even a slight chance of tornadoes, and wind gusts in excess of 55 to 60 mph that are capable of causing quite a bit of damage to property and the natural environment, for South Florida. From the looks of the weather patterns that are interacting over the larger southeastern USA – Gulf- Florida region, there is a possibility that other regions in the state beyond South Florida could be in for even worse impacts later on tonight and tomorrow.
Behind this approaching foul weather there is a ‘cold front’ that should start to arrive over South Florida by Saturday bringing more pleasant weather by Sunday with temperatures in the mid to high 70s over the area. After the storm there is the calm!
There is also calm before the storm, so be prepared! Pay attention!! MITIGATE!!!