Drought Conditions Develop

There isn’t much to say about the weather in the Deep South, unfortunately. A cold front is set to move through the region this weekend, dropping temperatures down about 10 degrees again and making the air outside seem truly fall-like. However, it is going to be a dry cold front. Nothing has changed as far as rain is concerned; there is none predicted as far as the forecasts are made. The Weather Service in Jackson has begun issuing fire weather products for the state, and the office out of Birmingham has issued red flag warnings. Burn bans are also in effect for large areas, though it’s highly inadvisable to burn even if you aren’t officially under a ban. It’s hard to believe that within a half a day’s drive, the Carolinas are getting drenched with the rainfall of a trough and the remains of Tropical Storm Nicole entrained into the cyclone, while we in the Deep South are now officially under drought conditions.

With the state as parched as this, it’s reaching a point where we will look anywhere for something that might send us some moisture—or at least, that has not yet been eliminated as a contender for doing that. Out in the tropics, there is a new system in the Central Atlantic, 97L, probably one of the last to develop in places like that this year. However, while the track and development of this system are still very much up in the air, the 12Z GFS doesn’t seem particularly interested in the disturbance. It does, in the two-week range, show a big, wet cold-core cyclone coming through the Southeast and finally ending the drought. I am going to keep an eye on this model and see if it retains this feature; the models are beginning to show some skill in long-range forecasts. And besides, hope springs eternal.

Tropical Depression 16 Headed to FL

As expected, the disturbance formerly known as 96L was classified today as Tropical Depression 16. The depression will probably strengthen to Tropical Storm Nicole. The models are forecasting the depression to get picked up by a trough and carried away as it becomes extratropical, with the GFS from 12Z indicating a rainmaker for most of the East Coast. (Lucky punks.)

This is impressive model agreement and indicates that they have a good handle on the strength of this trough.

Despite extremely warm water in its path, there probably isn’t enough time for it to strengthen into a hurricane, and shear associated with the trough is expected to increase before it makes its landfalls in Cuba and Florida. The SHIPS model shows a modest increase of 28 knots in the storm’s intensity before it weakens again.

In the longer term, this system—along with its predecessor, Matthew—probably heralds a shift in the type of tropical cyclone that will be forming in the remainder of the season, as well as the likely players that will be influencing the path of whatever does form. With the demise of the persistent ridge that brought the Southeast such oppressive heat for weeks upon weeks, and the establishment of a fall-like troughing pattern, we should see a greater threat to the Gulf Coast from anything that brews up—and, statistically, it is approaching the time of year when the Cape Verde conveyor belt shuts down and the tropical threat from “home-grown” systems increases. Additionally, this is a La Nina hurricane season; those have a tendency to start late and finish late, and by no means should the Gulf Coast consider itself safe from threats, including significant systems. In 1999, also a La Nina year, Hurricane Lenny almost reached Category 5 status in November. Even last year, during an El Nino, Hurricane Ida entered the Gulf in November and reached Category 2 status. We’re still in this.

Fall at Last, But When Will We Have Some Rain?

Over the weekend, an extremely welcome cold front passed through the Southeast, finally giving the record high temperatures and the persistent high pressure system that generated them a kick out the door. No 90s in the foreseeable future. According to Jackson NWS, this should finally begin a fall pattern in which troughs periodically pay the Southeast a visit. The front didn’t make a dent in the drought conditions that have developed over the area in the past month, however. It brought cool temperatures and rainfall to select areas, but most places just didn’t get much. Columbus AFB recorded less than a tenth of an inch for the entire frontal passage. With the ground as parched as it is, this meager water was soaked up immediately. It looks like we’ll have to wait a bit for a significant rain event.

That rain event unfortunately probably will not come from the tropics, though this would be a very fruitful source if it did happen. The Hurricane Center is giving a 40% chance of development to an area of low pressure in the west Caribbean, designated 96L, which is forecast to move into the Gulf.

However, models are all taking this disturbance into South Florida.

Things can change, of course, but it’s uncommon to have this much agreement that close to a landfall and to have a shift of that magnitude.

The next frontal passage will be this weekend, but this front is expected to be dry. It’s soon going to be tempting to have fall bonfires, but I don’t think it’s quite safe to do that just yet!