August: A Hot, Soggy Mess

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

August: A Hot, Soggy Mess:

Outlier or new normal?

So far this year in the Miami Beach area, is it…
  1. Hotter than normal? 
  2. Rainier than usual? 
  3. Experiencing higher high tides? 
  4. All of the above?
It isn’t your imagination. The correct answer is “all of the above.”
Brian McNoldy, Senior Research Associate with the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, has kept up a running tally on his twitter account. On August 19, he noted that Miami reached a high of 92 degrees, “the 53rd day so far this year with a 92 degree plus high, two more days than in any other year on record, to-date.”
When Craig Setzer, Chief Meteorologist at CBS4 Miami questioned the significance given “normal is 91”, McNoldy responded “It’s that we’re always above normal… not just now and then. We are breaking records for just about every threshold of # of days above it. And so far, 2nd hottest year on record. So while it’s not insanely hot, it’s relentlessly hotter than normal.”
McNoldy told RE:MiamiBeach that the Miami area has had “two days previously this summer that reached 98 degrees, no other year had that happened.”
“For the number of days above 95, 94, for this time of the year we’re in first place,” he said. “So far this year, this is the second hottest year to date just behind 2017. There’s certainly no reason we couldn’t end up in first place… it could be warmer than 2017 the rest of the year.”


Asked if the heat records can be chalked up to climate change, McNoldy said, “I don’t think so. That’s a hard thing to pin on it. Otherwise each year would be warmer than the last… certainly the overall trend is up, but one year to the next I wouldn’t say it’s that.”
He said we can expect more of the same high temps over the next week. “Not record-breaking heat, but still quite hot,” he said.
But… we can definitely expect a lot of rain this weekend and that rainfall might break the record for the wettest August on record, according to McNoldy. “The first three weeks of August are the wettest first three weeks on record,” he said. “We’re at about 13.5 inches of rain at Miami International and no other first three weeks of August have had more than that.”
“That’s pretty impressive,” he said. “Even if it stopped raining right now [August 22] and we still have ten days left, it’s the 9th wettest month of August. If it stopped raining right now, but it’s not going to.”
The wettest August on record in our area? That was in 1943 when 16.88 inches fell. “We are actually close, 3.3 inches away from breaking the record, so that’s very possible,” McNoldy said. 
There has been little relief. McNoldy tweeted on August 18, “Just logged my second consecutive day with zero rainfall… the last time that happened was July 22 & 23!”
And about those tides. Earlier this month McNoldy noted on his twitter feed that we had nine consecutive days of record-breaking high tides, “occurring before #KingTide season even starts.” On August 2, he noted, “These are water levels ~6-8 inches higher than the average high tides during #KingTide season.” King Tides are higher than normal high tides which occur around new and full moons. The highest predicted tides of the year are in September, October, and November.
“Once in a while we do get these if there’s a combination of a new or full moon and the moon happens to be relatively close to us in its orbit,” McNoldy explained of the August tides. 
He said we can’t predict what will happen for sure with this year’s King Tides. “If the tides end up being right on the mark and actually fall on the climatological tide predictions, they won’t be that bad but if we happen to have a few ingredients come together while these higher than normal tides are happening, then we’ll have problems.” 
“There’s a few spots coming up in what I would call our King Tide season, one next week with a new moon. There’s a chance for some pretty high tides then,” he said. But, overall, “This year is not lined up to be quite as high,” he added.
Are the higher tides a new normal with sea level rise? In addition to “all those days with high tides that broke records for the date, one of the other things I’d like to look at is when you break the record for a month. That’s a lot harder to do,” McNoldy said, though he thinks it’s possible the highest average tide for the month could set a record. “That’s impressive,” he said. “As sea level rises those records become easier to break, so this becomes more likely with time but it still doesn’t happen often.”
Then, of course, there’s hurricane season… the big unknown every year. It’s been quiet, so far, but… there’s always a but, right?
“Right around now, late August is when things typically start to become active,” McNoldy said. “That’s when we start moving from the occasional ‘look for something here and there.’ This is when we shift our eyes to the systems coming off of the African coast, for example” where most of the major hurricanes come from. In fact, as McNoldy shared on twitter, “82% of hurricanes, and 93% of major hurricanes occur during Aug-Sept-Oct. In South #Florida, these three months historically account for 93% of all hurricane encounters!” 

Today is the 27th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew's landfall in South Florida.


In May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted a “near-normal” level or hurricane activity this year with 12 named storms and three major hurricanes. Almost two weeks ago, NOAA increased the probability of “above-normal” activity from 30% to 45% with up to 17 named storms and potentially four major storms. 
McNoldy said he’s not sure about the heightened activity. “I think sticking with a near normal or average season would seem about right to me. As of now there’s no reason to see why it wouldn’t be average… Things have looked pretty normal, I guess.”
Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30.
Follow McNoldy on twitter @BMcNoldy and check out his guide to thunderstorms and staying safe from lightening


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