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Storms in the Gulf of Mexico are not expected to ease Southwest Florida's drought

Weather image showing a low-pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico
AccuWeather
Most forecasters have decided the disturbance developing in the Gulf of Mexico does not have the time, or the mojo, to undergo the rapid and daunting transformation into an early tropical system. Nor are the rain clouds expected to drift far enough toward Southwest Florida to help ease the region's drought.

Most forecasters have decided the disturbance developing in the Gulf of Mexico does not have the time, or the mojo, to undergo the rapid and daunting transformation into an early tropical system and ease the drought.

Disturbed weather developing in the central Gulf of Mexico had meteorologists watching to see if it was going to turn into the first tropical system to ever develop there in April.

And, if so, might a large storm spread out enough to help ease Southwest Florida's drought that is contributing to recent wildfires in Lee and Collier counties?

Those unlikely scenarios became even less probable heading into early Tuesday.

That’s when most forecasters decided the disturbance did not have the time, or the mojo, to undergo the rapid and daunting transformation into a tropical system. Such growth would entail a southernly change in the jet stream’s flow, and warmer water temperatures at the ocean’s surface to start the circulation characteristic of a tropical system, also called a "closed low."

 Florida Forest Service tractor cuts fire lines to stop a recent blaze
Florida Forest Service
Florida Forest Service tractor cuts fire lines to stop a recent blaze

“The closed low must sit over the Gulf of Mexico for 48-72 hours in order to gain tropical characteristics, and it appears that it may only get into the northern Gulf of Mexico for about 24 hours before moving inland,” Rayno Bernie, AccuWeather’s chief on-air meteorologist, said earlier this week. “If this is correct, the storm will not have enough time to develop tropically.”

Tropical systems have formed in April before, but it is rare.

Tropical Storm Arlene in 2017 was the most recent system to develop in April, and it did so in the open Atlantic Ocean where Arlene soon fell apart. From the Major Coincidence Department, Arlene is the name set to be given to the first tropical system in the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season.

 Lee, Hendry, and Collier counties currently have burns bans in effect prohibiting outside burning during the heightened threat of wildfires in Southwest Florida
Florida Forest Service
Lee, Hendry, and Collier counties currently have burns bans in effect prohibiting outside burning during the heightened threat of wildfires in Southwest Florida

Forecasters said the current storm system’s track is to the north dumping heavy rains along the Gulf Coast from central Louisiana to the Florida Peninsula.

"At the very least,” said Alex Silva, an AccuWeather meteorologist watching the storm. “It appears that portions of Florida and southern Louisiana will receive some much-needed rain from the ordeal."

AccuWeather has predicted a near-average 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, which officially begins June 1. However, last year's hurricane season was rather quiet - right up until the strong Category 4 Hurricane Ian pummeled Southwest Florida causing more than $109 billion in damage to become the costliest tropical system to ever hit Florida.

At the same time, AccuWeather meteorologists say there is a good chance for a preseason tropical storm due to environmental changes associated with the El Niño pattern that has developed in the tropical equatorial Pacific.

Environmental reporting for WGCU is funded in part by VoLo Foundation, a non-profit with a mission to accelerate change and global impact by supporting science-based climate solutions, enhancing education, and improving health. 

Sign up for WGCU's monthly environmental newsletter, the Green Flash, today.

Copyright 2023 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Tom Bayles