Update 6/25: The latest US Drought Monitor website has upgraded the drought to “severe” for portions of Bradford, Baker, Clay and Duval counties. The area of abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions has also recently been expanded to include more of extreme north Florida and the First Coast. Despite recent heavy rains near Gainesville, other areas to the north and east have largely missed out on some of the heavier thunderstorms. I explain in my Weather Why’s that the deficits of rain leading up to the drought have been caused by a much larger weather pattern and are not related to typical sea breeze showers we have seen recently.
The near-record heat over the last week combined with abnormally dry conditions have officially left much of Florida in a drought. The U.S. Drought Monitor officially placed almost all of Northeast Florida in a moderate drought late last week, and categorized much of North Central Florida, including parts of Alachua County, as abnormally dry. What’s worse, the forecast calls with unusual certainty for persistence and even intensification of the drought over the next two weeks.
By the Numbers
Through June 20, Jacksonville has seen less than two inches of rain this month, despite averaging 3.64” over the first 20 days of June. Going back to the beginning of March, the rainfall deficit has grown to nearly 5”. In Gainesville, the period May 15 to June 20 this year has been the third driest on record for that same time span since rainfall records have been kept (the late 1800’s). Our wetter-than-average April is, so far, keeping the city from official drought conditions. However, this could change soon.
The Story So Far
Over the last week, a persistent ridge of high pressure has been in place over the Southeast, causing most areas to be drier than normal. As a result, sinking air has prevented cloud formation during the time of year with the longest days and highest sun angle, making it feel more like Gainesvegas than Gainesville. Another byproduct of this feature has been a stronger-than-normal eastern wind off the Atlantic. The more dominant wind from this side of the peninsula keeps the Gulf seabreeze from marching inland, which is also typically a large contributor to rainfall this time of year .
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center suggests some relief is possible later this week, but it may not be enough to eliminate the drought. Despite the typical daily afternoon thunderstorms that may be more numerous across the state in the coming days, drought persistence and intensification are forecast in the Jacksonville metro area, and development is possible here in Gainesville. We have a nearly 70% chance of seeing above normal temperatures over the next 10 days, with a 40% chance of seeing below normal precipitation values.
How it Could Affect You
According to the US Drought Monitor, abnormally dry conditions typically occur during the onset of a drought, and occur about once in every three years in a given area. Elevated fire risk and decreased crop growth are the primary impacts to nature, while heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses are possible among vulnerable children and the elderly. A moderate drought, like the one across Jacksonville, typically occurs about once every five years. Water shortages will develop in the hardest-hit areas, the fire risk is high, and crop and pasture damage is likely.
The UF Weather Team will be tracking the dry weather, as well as any drought-busting rains that may rumble through the area. Stay up-to-date on UFWeather.org for the latest forecasts via the links below