Frank Strait

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Summer Begins, The Heat Is On, Time To Watch The Gulf

June 18, 2012; 7:00 PM ET

7:00 p.m. Monday:

OK, I have no time to do a video today, but I do have some time to write between radio reports, so we'll do this the old-fashioned way today. For starters, how about my Gamecocks the other night? If I did have time to do a video, I'd be wearing the Gamecock tie again. I'd start the countdown to three-peat now but there's a mighty good Razorback team in the way tonight and suspect the Gators will get a shot at revenge down the road. The weather looks good in Omaha this evening except that it's currently 95 degrees and humid there as I'm writing this, so it looks to be warm for the game tonight.

Back home, what a wonderful weekend we had in a lot of the Southeast! The best was from Virginia to Georgia where it was cooler than usual for mid-June in addition to the humidity being low, but even farther west the humidity stayed in check so it was pretty nice. Even a lot of Florida had a good weekend. Farther west, it was not so nice, we either saw some storms or it was hotter and muggier.

Well, changes are afoot. Heat is going to surge eastward this week as an upper level ridge develops for a few days over the eastern part of the country. So, today was generally hotter and more humid than the weekend (though still quite tolerable in Virginia and the Carolinas), and even hotter and even more humid air is on the way. The usual cooling afternoon thunderstorms that we see in such a pattern will in this case be relatively few and far between, unless you live in the mountains. In the Appalachians, a phenomenon called differential heating, where the air over the mountains gets hotter than it otherwise would (because the sun heats the land and the land heats the air), resulting in greater instability over the mountains than elsewhere. So, a few storms will pop there and along the East Coast a couple can also pop because of sea breeze boundaries. Elsewhere, no such luck until the ridge breaks down and a front pushes in at the end of the week. However, not everyone will see a break from the heat from this front, in fact perhaps few do as that front looks to stall out over the Carolinas, Tennessee and Kentucky. No such luck farther south and west, which will become influenced by an even bigger and badder ridge that will set up shop over the middle of the country. More on that after I talk about what's going on now west of the Mississippi.

The other question is whether or not we can ever get an organized storm system to form out of this disturbance as it's lifting northward. As I have said a couple of times lately, the MJO is currently favorable with general upward motion over the Atlantic basin, particularly over the Gulf and western Caribbean. Waters are, of course, warm over the Caribbean and the Gulf is plenty warm enough now, too ... especially over the loop current and the western Gulf of Mexico. The problem is currently shear, and a lot of it, but the upper winds look to become more favorable later this week. So, in my opinion, we'll have to watch the Gulf of Mexico closely this week. I am not sure we do in the end see a named system form there, but it can happen.

Back in Louisiana and Texas some thunderstorms have fired up this afternoon around a broad upper level low that's centered over South Texas. Most of the action today has been over Louisiana and Southeast Texas, but it will gradually shift west over the next few days. However, as it does, it will be pulling some rich tropical moisture northward, so beware of locally heavy downpours with those storms.

But as the upper low departs to the west, the upper ridge will take over and cause some serious heat this weekend. A lot of the area west of the Mississippi ... and some areas east ... will be looking at highs of 95-100 starting on Friday and lasting into next week. So, prepare to simmer this weekend until that ridge breaks down, which may be a while.

There are two more things to talk about. First, the front that will arrive in the Southeast late this week will get into the southern Plains before stalling as the upper ridge takes command. That out to cause some locally nasty thunderstorms from the Texas Panhandle across Oklahoma and into northwestern Arkansas on Thursday.

The other thing to talk about is Florida, which I am lumping in with tropical talk today since they are going to go hand in hand. Not that I think Florida is going to get hit by a hurricane over the next week or so, but it looks as though a pretty big slug of moisture will hit at least parts of Florida this week. If you look at a satellite picture of the Caribbean, you see a band of showers and thunderstorms stretching across the northwestern Caribbean, Cuba, Hispaniola and the southern Bahamas. This mass of moisture is going to be pulling northward over the next several days. The only questions about it are how far north and how fast ... models disagree on that ... therefore meteorologists likely will, too. What looks certain to me is that some of this tropical moisture will filter into Florida starting tomorrow night and especially on Wednesday. By Thursday, the resulting showers and thunderstorms should be at least as far north as Orlando and Tampa, possibly even farther north than that. There will be so much available moisture that slow-moving tropical downpours are going to become a concern at the end of the week, definitely up to I-4 but maybe even farther north than there. It will take quite a lot of rain to cause flooding since it's been a relatively dry year so far, but at least some spots could get quite a lot. Of course, for it to rain harder in Florida than the drainage systems can handle is far from unheard of, too.

I also need to address is whether or not we get a named system to develop out of this area of disturbed weather as it pulls northward. Certainly, the waters are warm over the western Caribbean now, as well as the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. Waters are quite warm over the western Gulf, too. The MJO is favorable now as well with upward motion over most of the basin, particularly over the Gulf and western Caribbean. The problem currently is shear, which is high over the Gulf of Mexico but the upper winds should get more favorable later this week. So, while it's far from guaranteed that we see a tropical cyclone form, this is our best shot at it through this weekend and any surface low that does form there will have a good chance to become a named storm. It's hard to say who would be hit if it does form, since there are reasons it could go toward Florida (low-level westerly to southwesterly flow south of the front pushing into the Southeast this weekend) and reasons it could go toward South Texas (the steering flow south of the expanding ridge over the southern Plains this weekend). If it stays weak or doesn't develop, it probably goes to Florida, but if it does get strong, then it will follow the upper level winds more and that would mean South Texas gets threatened.

One other thing to watch for is that next week models show a closed low cutting off from a trough that will dig in along the East Coast early next week (supporting a better cool front into the Southeast ... more on this tomorrow). If that happens and it sits over the Gulf Stream for a while, then we will have to watch for another Alberto/Beryl situation. Such a storm ought to get pushed out to sea, though.

Yes, I see the 50 percent area north of Bermuda that the Hurricane Center has. It's over relatively cool water and is heading toward cold water, so if it's not a tropical cyclone yet, it won't become one. Naming it at this point would mean you were wrong before by not naming it.

Well, that's it for today but I'll be back tomorrow. See y'all then!

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Frank Strait
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