ORLANDO, Fla. – Just a few weeks ago, the western half of Central Florida was getting deeper into drought status, and the eastern half was considered abnormally dry by the United States Department of Agriculture. Typically, this is one of the driest stretches of the year and wildfire season is in full swing.
More recently, however, it has been unusually wet and stormy. Since March 1, Central Florida’s rainfall is running anywhere from 3 to 8 inches above normal.
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Melbourne set a new daily record for rainfall April 1 and is already in the top five for wettest Aprils on record.
So, is the wet season here?
The wet or rainy season is defined by the increased humidity and almost daily thunderstorms that impact the Sunshine State. These storms are typically generated by the sea breeze when the air over land becomes warmer than the water. This starts to happen frequently in late May or early June and lasts through about the middle of October.
The warm air over land starts to rise while the air over the relatively cooler ocean sinks. Low pressure forms over land, while high pressure develops over the ocean. Air moves from areas of high pressure to low pressure creating a boundary, in this case the sea breeze.
The air moving inland forces up the air over the land, creating thunderstorms.
We have seen the sea breeze generate clouds and thunderstorms a few times this season, but most of the unsettled weather has come from a large-scale, stormy weather pattern.
More often than not during this timeframe, a large ridge of high pressure, or bulge in the jet stream, has been locked in the western U.S. This has led to warmer-than-normal conditions and the enhancement of drought conditions out west.
The dip in the jet stream in the eastern U.S. has brought shots of cold air, especially in the North, and stormy weather to the South. Over the past two weeks, this pattern has fueled two major severe weather outbreaks in the Deep South. Those systems, though much weaker, brought Central Florida rounds of heavy rain and strong storms.
So while we have been very wet and at times cool lately, the wet or rain as Floridians know it is still about six weeks or so away.