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    Updates on the tropics updated every day: 'Talking the Tropics With Mike'.  Image below tweeted by Phil Klotzbach shows above avg. shear forecast through September for the Caribbean & tropical Atlantic.  However, lower than avg. shear for the Gulf of Mexico & parts of the SW, Western & Central Atlantic which coincides with warm ocean temps.  This will be an area to watch in the coming weeks. (28 degrees C = 82 degrees F - tropical cyclones generally can thrive over water 80+ degrees F) On another tropical sidenote... it was 60 years ago that the first 'real time' tropical cyclone forecast was issued by the University of Chicago - on tropical storm 'Becky' in 1958.  And so began the hurricane forecasting era. As 'whacky' as our weather has been across the U.S. this year, the number of tornadoes is well below avg.  The map below shows the number of tornado warnings this year so far.  Only 4 by the Jax N.W.S.  Hot spots include Jackson, Mississippi, Des Moines, Iowa & Denver, Co. Kids left in hot cars!..... from 'Kars4Kids': A new alarming survey finds that an overwhelming majority of parents are still unaware or refuse to believe that they are susceptible to forgetting a child in the car. It’s this fatal belief that prevents people from taking simple precautions that can save their child’s life. Research shows that every parent, even the most loving and responsible, is at risk of forgetting a child in a car. Yet, our survey found:   · Only 16% of parents are concerned it can happen to them. · 78% think negatively of a parent who forgets a child in a car. (Parents are “irresponsible”, “unfit to be a parent”, and even “murderers”) · Only 15% currently take precautions. (Full survey results and analysis here)   The survey is part of an awareness campaign “It Can Happen” aimed at educating parents that it can happen to anyone. The campaign website explains the brain process that allows someone to forget their precious child in a car. EARTH GAUGE.... 'Stirring up the Seven Seas' - NEEF - by Sarah Blount: You might be familiar with some version of the seven seas—early Greeks used the term to encompass the Aegean, Adriatic, Mediterranean, Black, Red, and Caspian Seas (with the Persian Gulf); and later the phrase was used by Medieval European literature to describe the North, Baltic, Mediterranean, Black, Red, and Arabian Seas, as well as the Atlantic Ocean. More modernly, the seven seas have been used to describe regions of the five oceans—the Arctic, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific, Indian, and Southern Oceans. Throughout history, terminology for what was viewed as distinct regions of the charted world has adapted to embrace the expanding edges of those explorers' maps and nautical charts. Today, however, we know that these regions of the watery world are not as disparate as early explorers may have once thought—each of these bodies of water, from the frigid reaches of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, to the balmy stretches of the Caribbean Sea, to the icy waters surrounding the Aleutian Islands, are connected through a deep-ocean current called the global ocean conveyor belt. This global circulation pattern helps to cycle nutrients and energy across the planet, supporting the world’s food chain and creating a dynamic marine environment. This global current is powered by changes in ocean chemistry in different parts of the world. Local differences in seawater temperature and levels of salinity give different parcels of water varying densities, causing them to sink or rise in the water column. Very cold, salty water, such as you would find in the Arctic Ocean where the formation of sea ice excludes salt and increases the salinity of the surrounding waters, is very dense, and thus sinks thousands of meters down to the ocean floor. Once at the bottom of the water column, this cold, dense water spreads out to make room for incoming water that is continuing to chill and sink from the surface. This sinking motion pulls in more water from the surrounding surface, creating a current.     NOAA JetStream(link is external) ©   The Great Ocean Conveyor Belt - The blue color represents the deep cold and saltier water current with the red color indication shallower and warmer current. As it spreads at depth, the dense, cold water has nowhere to go but south. It moves across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, past the equator, and on towards the Antarctic continent, where it’s pushed around the southern landmass and fed more cold, salty water sinking from the surface. From here, the waters split—some of it is pushed back north towards the Indian subcontinent, and the rest of it moves up towards the North Pacific. On this journey north, the waters are warmed by the sun, becoming less dense and rising up in the water column. Once the water reaches its new, higher position in the water column as a result of surface winds, equatorial heat influx, and salinity reduction, it once again spreads to make room for more rising water parcels, creating the second half of the current of the global ocean conveyor belt. This global current is vital in providing for the planet’s ecosystems, but it is at risk of being impacted by climate change. Learn more about these impacts here. If you’re heading out to the beach this summer, just ask yourself—where else in the world has this water been? Sources: NOAA National Ocean Service. 2014. “What are the Seven Seas?” NOAA. Accessed August 15, 2016.  NOAA National Ocean Service. 2014. “What is the Global Ocean Conveyor Belt?” NOAA. Accessed August 15, 2016.  NOAA Ocean Service Education. 2013. “Currents: The Global Conveyor Belt.” NOAA. Accessed August 15, 2016. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. 2016. “The Ocean Conveyor.” Accessed August 15.
  • The hottest part of the summer did not quite deliver in July(!) - that's right - it could have been hotter. The 20 90-degree days was a bit below tha avg. of 24.  Overall, we're just about on track for our annual avg. of 82 90-degree days.  By the way, our avg. high temp. finally falls below 90 degrees by late Aug.  The chart below is through Aug. 7th: The local area finally had a break for a few days in early Aug. from the seemingly incessant summer rainfall.  The pattern is sure to turn wetter again though as we enter what is climatologically the wettest time of the year from mid Aug. through late Sept.  The storms have provided for some beautiful cloud viewing.  Check out the photos sent to me from Nassau Co. in Florida - gorgeous shots of a mix of pileus clouds & iridescent clouds.  The rainbow of colors is caused by ice crystals in the high level cirrus clouds.  The sun reflects & refracts through the ice crystals resulting in a prism effect. The Aug. night skies have lots to offer.  A highlight no doubt will be the perseid meteor shower which peaks over the weekend - 12th & 13th.  To add to the 'show', there will be very little moonlight.  No need for binoculars.... just get out in the open where there is little light pollution... sit down & lay back... & look up! - best hours between about midnight & 4am. From Sky & Telescope: August (evening, all month): Four bright planets in view at once (west to east): Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars   Aug. 11 (daytime): A partial solar eclipse is visible across Greenland, northern Europe, and northeast Asia.   Aug. 12–13 (late night to dawn): Perseid meteor shower peaks. No Moon in view, so rates of up to 1 per minute.   Aug. 14 (dusk): Venus and delicate waxing crescent Moon, around 6° apart, are low in the west.   Aug. 16 (dusk): Jupiter hovers a mere ½° above star Alpha (α) Librae; Moon is 7° to their right or upper right.   Aug. 20 (evening): Waxing gibbous Moon is 4° to the upper right of Saturn, in Sagittarius.   Aug. 22 & 23 (evening and night): The fattening Moon traces an arc some 8°-9° above Mars, upper right to upper left.   Aug. 26 (dawn): As full Moon sets in the west, look along east-northeastern horizon to spot Mercury. Binoculars help.   Aug. 31 (dusk): Venus and bright star Spica are separated by little more than 1° as they set toward the west.   Sept. 5 & 6 (dawn): Mercury poses in the east 1½° above Regulus in Leo before the Sun rises. Binoculars help.   Moon Phases Last Quarter: August 4, 2:18 p.m. EDT New Moon: August 11, 5:58 a.m. EDT (partial solar eclipse for Greenland, northern Europe, and northeast Asia) First Quarter: August 19, 2:48 a.m. EDT Full Moon: August 26, 7:56 a.m. EDT (Sturgeon Moon; also Green Corn Moon, Grain Moon) And.... finally... an interesting article recently in the Washington Post by the 'Capital Gang' on the nicest places in the U.S. based on weather.  Of course, what's 'nice' to one person, isn't so nice to another but the general criteria was where the weather is generally the most 'moderate' - high temps. between 65 & 85... dew point less than or equal to 65 degrees... daily peak winds less than 25 mph.. daily cloud cover less than equal to 65%... & no precipitation.  California won big as a whole with an average a little either way of 200 'nice' days per year.  But Jacksonville scored 71 nice days which beats Las Vegas & is right up there with the likes of Atlanta, Charlotte, San Francisco & Portland.  The lowest number of 'nice' days - 40 or less - included much of Texas, Alaska & even Honolulu(!).  Get the full story including methodology - here. In my humble opinion.... it doesn't get much better than good ol' Jacksonville & our area beaches!:
  • Daily updates on the tropics: 'Talking the Tropics With Mike'. The 3 M's: (1) Mammatus [coming at us :)] .... 'tis the season for mammatus clouds.  Cool-looking 'lumpy' clouds - appear as pouches in the sky.  It's a misconception that these clouds are associated with - or produce - tornadoes though it is true that mammatus are often a product of strong t'storms - but not always. The clouds are usually formed with the anvil of t'storms & are created by a combination of saturated, cooling, sinking air that then dries, warms & then rises again where condensation begins anew.  This process forms the pouches. First photo below from John McClellan, Yulee.... 2nd from Shawn Leary at JIA. The NOAA weather glossary:  Mammatus Clouds Rounded, smooth, sack-like protrusions hanging from the underside of a cloud (usually a thunderstorm anvil). Mammatus clouds often accompany severe thunderstorms, but do not produce severe weather; they may accompany non-severe storms as well. (2) Mars 'close' encounter - closest (35.8 million miles) to earth in 15 years July 30-31.  Such a close encounter won't occur until September, 2035. But don't be fooled by the social media rumor mill that will tell you Mars will be as big as the moon -  not so!  But the so-called red planet is - & will be - easy to spot in the nighttime sky.  Image below from EarthSky: NASA: (3) Late July full moon - 'full buck' (new buck's antlers typically emerge this time of year) .... 'full thunder moon' - peak of the thunderstorm season in the N. Hemisphere... but will also be the longest - more than 1 hour, 40 min. - lunar eclipse until 2123 BUT the eclipse is ONLY visible in Europe, Asia & Africa as the eclipse will occur while it's daylight for N. America. BUT the next full lunar eclipse Jan. 20, 2019 WILL be visible across most of the U.S. with the moon high overhead in the evening. From Space.com (dark gray area on the map is where the eclipse will not be visible):
  • We're at the peak of our summertime heat!  The national average is July 21st.  But for Jacksonville, the avg. high temp. does not fall below 90 degrees until the end of Aug., & our wet season usually continues deep into Sept., if not Oct. which means our humidity & 'feel like' temps. - heat index - stays uncomfortable for another 2-3 months.  But we're getting there! :) Good viewing over Jacksonville of the International Space Station through Mon., July 23rd: Date Visible Max Height Appears Disappears   Wed Jul 18, 5:50 AM 2 min 21° 10° above NNW 21° above NNE   Wed Jul 18, 10:26 PM 6 min 46° 10° above WSW 11° above NNE   Thu Jul 19, 4:59 AM < 1 min 11° 10° above N 11° above NNE   Thu Jul 19, 9:34 PM 6 min 71° 11° above SW 11° above NE   Fri Jul 20, 5:42 AM 6 min 63° 11° above NW 10° above SE   Fri Jul 20, 10:19 PM 4 min 18° 10° above W 11° above N   Sat Jul 21, 4:50 AM 5 min 28° 11° above NNW 11° above ESE   Sat Jul 21, 9:26 PM 6 min 34° 10° above WSW 10° above NNE   Sun Jul 22, 3:59 AM 4 min 15° 11° above N 11° above ENE   Sun Jul 22, 5:34 AM 6 min 36° 10° above WNW 10° above SSE   Mon Jul 23, 4:48 AM < 1 min 10° 10° above SE 10° above SE   Mon Jul 23, 9:22 PM 1 min 13° 13° above NNW 10° above N     EARTH GAUGE (NEEF):..... By Sarah Blount: July is UV Safety Month, and with summer in full swing, it’s time for a reminder about staying safe in the sun.  Skin cancer is a serious issue in the United States, where each year, more than 3.5 million skin cancers are diagnosed—more than all other forms of cancer combined. While skin cancer can be deadly and is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in the US, it is also highly preventable. But don’t let this information make you completely avoid the outdoors—getting outside is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and there are many easy ways you can protect your skin and eyes while enjoying nature. Read on for frequently asked questions about UV safety to learn how to better protect yourself from the sun. Remember to check the UV Index, combine sun protection strategies, and enjoy the warm summer months! Is the level of UV protection found in moisturizer and cosmetics that have an SPF as effective as the sun protection afforded by sunscreen? It depends—when you’re looking for moisturizer or cosmetics to double as sunscreen, there are a few factors you should take into consideration. Range of coverage: Look for products that have broad spectrum coverage, with an SPF of at least 15. Broad spectrum sunscreens and the products that contain broad spectrum sunscreen protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. Products that lack the broad spectrum label but still show an SPF factor are only shielding you from UVB rays—thus still leaving you vulnerable.  While UVB rays are the ones that primarily cause sunburns and most skin cancers, UVA are also carcinogenic, and are linked to long-term skin damage and may play a role in some skin cancers. Frequency of application: For any sunscreen, you should be reapplying it every two hours, as well as after sweating or swimming. If you’re not reapplying your moisturizer or cosmetics that often, you may be leaving yourself unprotected from UV radiation later in the day. Amount of product used: You should be using at least one ounce (about two tablespoons, or enough to fill a shot glass) of sunscreen to cover all exposed areas of your body. Most people only apply about 25-50% of this amount, which reduces the product's SPF. You may not be applying this much moisturizer or other cosmetic products—if not, you may want to consider adding a sunscreen to your daily routine. Finally, even if you are applying the recommended volume of a broad spectrum, 15+ SPF product every two hours, remember that the best way to protect yourself from the sun is to combine sun protection strategies—no one method, including wearing sunscreen, is enough to fully protect you. In addition to using products with broad spectrum SPF, you should still seek shade, wear protective clothing, and put on your sunglasses. What SPF level is recommended by health organizations? The SPF unit on a sunscreen product is the “Sun Protection Factor”—this refers to the level of protection that the product provides from UVB rays, which cause sunburns and most skin cancers. The higher levels of SPF mean more protection, but after a certain point the difference in protection levels shrinks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using a sunscreen with at least 15 SPF, which filters out about 93% of UVB rays. Moving up to 30 SPF, which the American Cancer Society recommends, the sunscreens at that level filter out about 97% of incoming UVB rays.  Beyond SPF 30, there is debate about the true effectiveness of these higher-rated products—SPF 50 is designed to filter out about 98% of that radiation, and SPF 100 is designed to absorb 99%, but it’s important to know that no one sunscreen can protect you completely. Is it possible to get a sunburn if it's cloudy? Yes! While some types of clouds can partially reduce the amount of UV radiation reaching the surface, other types of clouds can actually reflect that radiation and increase UV exposure on the ground. On the ground, UV rays can then bounce off of surfaces such as water, snow, pavement, and even grass, so be sure to take protective measures no matter what the sky looks like. For a better understanding of your potential UV exposure on a given day, check the UV index, not the clouds. Should I wait before getting in the water after applying sunscreen? Yes, no matter what activity you’re about to engage in, you should apply sunscreen 30 minutes before heading outdoors. No product provides instant coverage, so be wary of any packaging that seems to make that claim.  For swimming in particular, look for water resistant sunscreen. No sunscreen is waterproof or sweat proof, and manufacturers are no longer allowed to make that claim on sunscreen packaging. When you’re applying your water resistant sunscreen before heading out to the pool or beach, make sure you check the label carefully—water resistant sunscreen is required to specify whether you should be reapplying the product every 40 or every 80 minutes while swimming or sweating. Sunscreen also usually rubs off when you towel yourself dry, so take that opportunity to reapply the product. And as always, make sure you combine sun protection strategies: Wear sunglasses Seek shade Wear protective clothing, including a hat with a wide brim Does sunscreen expire? Yes. While sunscreens are designed to remain at their original strength for three years, you may need to give them a shake to re-mix the ingredients before applying. However, if the bottle has been exposed to extreme heat for extended periods—for example if it sat in your glove compartment throughout the summer—the shelf life will be reduced as the heat breaks down the active ingredients in the product. Look for an expiration date on the bottle before using the product, and consider using a permanent marker to write the date of purchase on the bottle. When three years have passed since that date—time to get a new bottle! Will a “base tan” offer protection from further skin damage from the sun? No. A tan, or a change in your normal skin color as a result of sun exposure, is a sign of skin damage—even if you aren’t turning red as part of a classic sunburn. This “base tan” is a result of injury from UV rays, and at most provides you with a sun protection factor of 3 or less—doing very little to protect you from further UV damage. Should people of color be concerned about sun safety? Yes. While people of color have significantly lower incidence rates of melanoma (the most deadly type of skin cancer), UV radiation can still lead to other types of damage for individuals who have higher levels of melanin. The major threats include suppression of the skin’s immune system, which leaves the body vulnerable to other health threats, as well as damage to the eyes. When discussing UV safety, much of the focus is devoted to the impact of the sun on skin—sun burns, skin cancer, and early signs of aging typically get top bill. However, ultraviolet radiation can also lead to both short and long-term eye damage for people of all ethnicities. According to the American Optometric Association, if your eyes are exposed to high levels of UV radiation over a short amount of time, you may experience what can be described as a type of sunburn on your eyes—also known as photokeratitis—which presents with temporary red eyes, extreme sensitivity to light, and tearing. For long-term overexposure to UV radiation, you have an increased likelihood of developing cataracts or macular degeneration later in life.  To help protect your eyes and the skin that surrounds them, look for sunglasses that block 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays—they may say on the label “UV absorption up to 400 nm” or “Meets ANSI UV Requirements”—this means that the glasses block at least 99% of UV rays. If the glasses only say “cosmetic” on the label, they’re only blocking about 70% of UV ray, and if there is no label, do not assume that the glasses block any UV radiation.  What are some major body parts that are often missed by sunscreen? Your skin is the largest organ of your body, so it can be easy to miss a spot with your sun protection coverage. When applying your sunscreen, cover any skin that is going to be exposed. Some common areas that may be missed include: Face Ears Neck Backs of the hands Lips (look for lip balms or lipstick with broad spectrum SPF of at least 15) Scalp Tops of feet Nose What should be done if I'm worried I have skin damage from the sun? If you’re concerned that you may have some skin damage or irregularity as a result of UV exposure, you can take steps at home to monitor your health, and you can speak to your physician. Your doctor may recommend that you check your skin yourself about once a month so you can catch any irregularities early. To perform a home skin check, follow these steps from the American Cancer Society. For more guidance, refer to this skin self-exam infographic from ACS. Sources: American Cancer Society. 2015. “Skin Cancer Facts.” Accessed July 19, 2016. American Cancer Society. 2015. “Skin Cancer Prevention and Early Detection: How do I Protect Myself from UV Rays?” Accessed July 19, 2016. American Cancer Society. 2015. “Skin Cancer Prevention and Early Detection: What is Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation?” Accessed July 19, 2016. American Cancer Society. 2016. “American Cancer Society Skin Cancer Prevention Activities.” Accessed July 19. American Cancer Society. 2016. “Don’t Fry: Preventing Skin Cancer.” Accessed July 19. American Cancer Society. 2016. “Protect Your Skin from the Sun.” Accessed July 19. American Optometric Association. 2016. “UV Protection: Protecting Your Eyes from Solar Radiation.” Accessed July 19. Ansdell, Vernon E., and Amy K. Reisenauer. 2016. “Chapter 2: The Pre-Travel Consultation; Sun Exposure.” In CDC Health Information for International Travel 2016. CDC, US DHHS.  Calvo, Trisha. 2014. “Does Sunscreen Ever Expire?” Consumer Reports, May 24.  CDC. 2013. “Traveler’s Health: Sun Exposure.” US DHHS. Accessed July 18, 2016. CDC. 2014. “Skin Cancer: The Burning Truth; A Base Tan is Not a Safe Tan.” US DHHS. Accessed July 19, 2016. CDC. 2016. “Skin Cancer: How Can I Protect My Children from the Sun?” US DHHS. Accessed July 18.  National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention. 2016. “Don’t Fry Day.” Accessed July 19. Office of Air and Radiation. 2013. “Prevent Eye Damage: Protect Yourself from UV Radiation.” EPA 430-F-13-023. US EPA.
  • Finally a little bit of a dry period this week.  The multiple days in a row without measurable rain will be the longest such stretch since the first week of June & - for some areas - the longest since the first two weeks of May! Interesting marine life sighted at area beaches recently.  Stephanie Zangla had an enquiring mind as to what the creatures were - see the photos below.... These are 'sea butterflies' - swimming snails.  The shells have a tendency to stick on/in swimsuits & can be rather uncomfortable with a slight prickly feeling.  Harmless but bothersome at the same time. The night skies ahead from 'Sky and Telescope': July 11 (early evening): Mercury is at maximum angular separation from the Sun (26°) and easy to see to lower-right of Venus near western horizon for several days.   July 15 (early evening): Very thin waxing crescent Moon and Venus create a dazzling duo, less than 2° apart for the East Coast but only about ½° (1 Moon diameter) for the West Coast.   July 20 (night): Waxing gibbous Moon, the giant planet Jupiter, and the medium-bright star Zubenelgenubi form a compact triangle.   July 24 (night): Waxing gibbous Moon visits Saturn in Sagittarius, where the ringed planet has been most of this year.   July 26–27 (all night): Mars arrives at opposition, sitting opposite the Sun in the sky. Look toward east after 9 or 10 p.m.   July 26–27 (night): Total eclipse of the Moon. Visible from Europe, Africa, and Asia but not from North America.   July 30–31 (all night): Mars is closer to Earth than it has since 2003. Look toward east after 9 or 10 p.m.   August (evening, all month): Four bright planets are in view at once. West to east: Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars   Moon Phases Last Quarter: July 6, 3:51 a.m. EDT New Moon: July 13, 10:48 p.m. EDT First Quarter: July 19, 3:52 p.m. EDT Full Moon: July 27,4:20 p.m. EDT (Buck Moon; total lunar eclipse visible in Eastern Hemisphere)
  • Talking the Tropics With Mike' is updated every day during the hurricane season. Speaking of which.... Dr. Phil Klotzbach has updated his seasonal outlook & has lowered the numbers.  But remember the measuring stick for a season is usually whether or not any storms make landfall & their impacts.  So always be prepared!  Two primary reasons for the lower #'s: cooler than avg. water temps. over the Central & Eastern Atlantic & (2) the anticipated development of an El Nino over the equatorial Pacific. The map below is very telling.  Note the blue shading - below avg. water temps. by 1-2 degrees C (up to 3.6 degrees F) - from coastal Africa westward to almost Puerto Rico.  Much has been made of this cool water & rightfully so.... to a point.  The water is still 80+ (can sustain tropical systems)... & there's plenty of warm water elsewhere over the Atlantic Basin including a good portion of the Gulf of Mexico.  So we still have to be wary of so-called in-close development of tropical systems throughout the season. In the Pacific.... note the warming occurring close to the equator from S. America westward (though cool water lurks just to the south).  So there are early signs of a potential El Nino (see 'Buresh Blog' post from June 27th) which usually results in higher than normal shear over the Atlantic Basin - an 'enemy' of tropical cyclones.   However, I remind you of the 1992 El Nino driven hurricane season during which there were less than 10 storms & not a named storm until later in Aug., but that was Andrew! Meanwhile.... our 'wet season' (June through Sept.) which started early this year - in May - has continued through June. Rainfall totals around NE Fl./SE Ga. as provided by our Jax N.W.S.: FL   MAYPORT NAVAL STATION             4.29                         FL   JASPER                            7.98 FL   JACKSONVILLE BEACH                7.68 FL   LAKE CITY                         4.92 FL   LAKE CITY 2 E                     5.50 FL   PALM COAST 6 NE                   7.68 FL   CRESCENT CITY                     5.95 FL   GAINESVILLE RGNL AP               5.55 FL   HASTINGS 4NE                      2.49 FL   OCALA                             6.62   FL   JACKSONVILLE CRAIG MUNI AP        6.88 FL   JACKSONVILLE INTL AP              9.77   FL   JACKSONVILLE NAS                  7.37 FL   FEDERAL POINT                     8.97 FL   L. TALBOT ISLAND RANGER STATION   6.42 FL   BUNNELL                           7.08 FL   NE PALM COAST                     8.75 FL   NW PALM COAST                    10.02 FL   W PALM BEACH                      7.19 FL   EAGLE ROCK                        4.31        GA   PRIDGEN                           6.84 GA   HOMERVILLE 5 N                    4.87 GA   ALMA BACON CO AP                  4.45                 GA   NAHUNTA 6 NE                      5.40    GA   BRUNSWICK                         8.50 GA   BRUNSWICK MALCOLM MCKINNON AP     3.52 So with the 4th of July upon us (& gone if you're reading this after Independence Day)... the holiday goes up in a puff of smoke, right?  ..... as in fireworks.  Often times the smoke stays very close to the ground late in the evening & overnight.  That's courtesy a temperature inversion .... as well as high humidity.... in combination with light or even calm winds.  Smoke is much more easily dispersed during the day when the atmosphere is what's referred to as 'well mixed' - a breeze + there is little or no temp. inversion.  During the evening as surface temps. cool more quickly than aloft, an inversion develops (warmer air rises, cooler air sinks) which helps cause smoke to stay closer to the ground.  According to the journal 'Atmospheric Environment' in a study several years ago, 'the level of particulate matter - dust, dirt & soot in the air - increases by an average of 42% on the 4th of July'.  Holy smokes.
  • The week of June 25th is 'Lightning Safety Awareness Week'.  According to the N.W.S., lightning safety week began in 2001 & since then lightning deaths have dropped from an avg. of 50 per year to 30 per year in the U.S.  Get more info & safety tips - here.  Remember that lightning can travel up to 10 miles from its parent cloud.... & wait at least 30 minutes since the last clap of thunder before going outdoors.  6 people - including 3 in Florida (one last weekend) - have been killed by lightning so far this year. As move into July, it's typically the hottest time of the year for NE Fl./SE Ga.  Averages at JIA for the month: Low / High.... 1st: 72 / 91, 31st: 73 / 92 degrees Rainfall: 6.34' Sunrise / Sunset... 1st - 6:28am / 8:32pm; 31st - 6:44am / 8:21pm - lose(!) 27 min. of daylight. The map below from NOAA shows the dates for the earliest sunrise / latest sunset of summer at different latitudes. And with the heat, comes plenty of sun & the danger of sunburn.  Our peak burn times are generally between 10am & 4pm.  From the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center: Too many people think that they can just apply sunscreen at the start of their day outside and then they’re good to go all day. That’s untrue. You should really be reapplying every two hours. Apply more than once: says chemical blockers wear off quicker than physical blockers, plus people are more likely to be allergic to chemical blockers. For that reason, she prefers to use physical blockers - plus, they are often cheaper!PootrakulDid you know that there are two different kinds of sunscreen? There are chemical blockers and physical blockers. The two types are not made equally. Dr. Know your options: recommends buying higher SPF 50 sunscreen because of the way SPF ratings are assigned. In the lab, when SPF ratings are determined, subjects are slathered with sunscreen. In reality, we don’t apply as much as we should. So by the time we’re done applying, our SPF 50 is actually only about as strong as an SPF 30 sunscreen.PootrakulDr. Buy higher SPF than you think you need: If you’re going to use spray sunscreen, rub it in: Again, in the lab when scientists are testing sunscreens, they’re spraying extensively before testing for sun protection. In reality, most folks spray a light mist and think they’re good. Spray more, and rub it in. NOAA has officially issued an 'El Nino Watch'.  If the El Nino comes to fruition, the biggest potential local impact would be: (1) lower seasonal hurricane numbers (BUT not necessarily an 'easy' season!) (2) wetter winter with an increased tornado potential. EARTH GAUGE (NEEF), by Rhea Thompson: Planning to hit the sands this summer? Beach pollution could jeopardize many Americans’ vacation plans—there were more than 12,000 closings and swimming advisories at the nation’s oceans, bays, Great Lakes, and some freshwater beaches in 2012. Though usually uncommon or confined to local areas, beach pollution is a problem in every coastal state, and is hazardous to the environment and human health. It also impacts local economies reliant on tourism, and results in cities, towns, and taxpayers shouldering significant costs to stop pollution. Though beach pollution is a persistent problem, the solution to clean beaches starts with you. Here’s why: Bathers are a localized source of contamination, especially with diaper-age children when care isn’t taken to make sure their waste doesn’t enter the water. The same threat to water quality occurs when pet waste is deposited on or near the beach. To help avoid contaminating the water when swimming with a little one, consult this guide from CDC, and always make sure to pick up after Fido when he’s outside—even in your own yard! Much of the waste we generate, particularly plastic items, ends up on our shores and in oceans, where it kills wildlife, poses navigational hazards, and impacts local economies and potentially human health. The most effective way to stop plastic pollution in our oceans is to make sure it never reaches the ocean in the first place—consider reducing, reusing, and recycling and incorporating practices like carrying reusable bags into your daily routine to reduce waste. Recreational boats at sea sometimes intentionally or accidentally dump trash directly into the ocean—keep your trash aboard until you come to a proper waste receptacle to dispose of it. Prevent oil and fuel spills with proper boat maintenance. Click here for additional boating maintenance tips. In addition to these tips, you can make an impact even when you’re not at the beach, since 80% of marine pollution comes from the land. Rain water or snow melt rushes across impervious surfaces (such as paved streets, driveways, and rooftops) as stormwater runoff. Instead of soaking the ground as it would prior to development, storm water picks up trash, chemicals, and other pollutants like gasoline, antifreeze, fertilizers, and pet waste. Polluted stormwater then flows directly into storm drains, rivers, lakes, streams, and the ocean—see these 10 tips for preventing pollution from stormwater runoff. Sources: ABC News/Washington Post. 2012. “Summer Vacation Perennial: The Mountains or the Beach?”. Danovaro, Roberto, Lucia Bongiorni, Cinzia Corinaldesi, Donato Giovannelli, Elisabetta Damiani, Paola Astolfi, Lucedio Greci, and Antonio Pusceddu. 2008. “Sunscreens Cause Coral Bleaching by Promoting Viral Infections.” Environmental Health Perspectives 116 (4): 441–47. doi:10.1289/ehp.10966. Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. 2015. “Pollution.” Accessed May 10, 2016. Natural Resources Defense Council. 2014. “Sources of Beach Water Pollution.” Testing the Waters. NOAA. 2016. “What is the Biggest Source of Pollution in the Ocean?” Accessed May 10. US EPA. 2016. “LEARN: Human Health at the Beach.” Accessed May 10. US EPA. 2016. “Sources of Beach Pollution.” Accessed May 10. https://www.epa.gov/beach-tech/sources-beach-pollution. Washington State Department of Ecology. 2016. “What Boaters And Marina Managers Can Do To Keep Our Waters CLEAN.” Accessed May 10.
  • See 'Talking the Tropics With Mike' - updated every day during the hurricane season - for what's up... or not.... in the tropical world.  Speaking of which..... an interesting link to post hurricane Caribbean travel * here *. Our wet weather pattern is continuing into June which is typically the start of the wet season.  The map below shows much of Fl. & Ga. is at least twice their avg. rainfall since mid May. Along with all the rain has come some outstanding cloud formations & watching.... International SUNday is Father's Day, June 17th & MOSH in Jax is celebrating from noon to 5pm! From MOSH: International SUNday is an annual worldwide outreach event to celebrate the Sun and the Northern Hemisphere Solstice. Activities include: Special guests Randy and Pamela Shivak, International SUNday founders Safe solar telescopes Hands-on participant demonstrations NASA Sun information and more! This event is free with museum admission. Thank you to Florida State College at Jacksonville, the Northeast Florida Astronomical Society and the Ancient City Astronomy Club for organizing this event. GULF OF MEXICO 'DEAD ZONE' UPDATE FOR THE SUMMER, '18: NOAA scientists are forecasting that this summer’s Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone or ‘dead zone’ – an area of low to no oxygen that can kill fish and other marine life – will be approximately 5,780 square miles, approximately the size of Connecticut. The 2018 forecast is similar to the 33-year average Gulf dead zone of 5,460 square miles and is smaller than the 8,776 square mile 2017 Gulf dead zone, which was the largest dead zone measured since mapping began in 1985. Even though NOAA is predicting an average dead zone this summer, the dead zone remains three times larger than the long-term target set by the Interagency Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force, a group charged with reducing the Gulf dead zone. The Gulf’s hypoxic zone is caused by excess nutrient pollution, primarily from human activities in the watershed, such as urbanization and agriculture. The excess nutrients stimulate an overgrowth of algae, which then sinks and decomposes in the water. The resulting low oxygen levels near the bottom are insufficient to support most marine life. 2017 'Dead Zone' map (coastal Louisiana & Texas): EARTH GAUGE (NEEF) - Harmful Algal Blooms by Jake Krauss: A tide of red washes over a lake, dyeing the water a crimson color. While some people may be more familiar with the crimson tide you see at an Alabama football game, this scenario, dubbed the “red tide,” can occur far outside of the Yellowhammer State.  The idea of blood-red water might seem surreal, but this environmental phenomenon occurs in many places across the United States, from Florida to Maine. This happens when algae—plants that live in bodies of water and are generally microscopic—grow rapidly and dominate the water surface. Usually algae plays a vital role in ocean and freshwater habitats, providing food to countless aquatic critters. Blooms—or explosions of algae growth—are often harmless, but large outbreaks of algae can occasionally be catastrophic. As an algae colony grows, dies, and begins to decompose, it uses up lots of oxygen. This depletes the oxygen supply and leaves little left for fish and other marine life, causing many of these animals to die. Some algae, such as the ones that cause the “red tide,” release toxins that are absorbed by shellfish and other creatures. These toxins build up in the ecosystem, harming wildlife that come into contact with the contaminated water. When these algal blooms grow out of control, they can also become a public health hazard. Harmful algal blooms can cause human illness, decimate fisheries, and devastate lakes, beaches, and other recreational areas. The biggest cause of harmful algal blooms is nutrient pollution, or the excess of minerals like nitrogen and phosphorous in the environment. Increased levels of nutrients in the water can feed larger algae colonies, leading to these large-scale blooms. Nutrient pollution can be exacerbated by human activities, ranging from agricultural runoff to pollution from household cleaning products. Here is what you can do to protect your water resources: Use water efficiently, such as by taking shorter showers and turning off faucets when not in use. Limit fertilizer use, which causes the buildup of nitrogen and phosphorous in waterways. Use phosphate-free cleaners, detergents, and soaps to avoid fueling harmful algal blooms. Check out this Safer Choice search engine from EPA to make environmentally friendly shopping easier! Learn more about what people in your community are doing to cut down on nutrient pollution here Sources: NOAA. 2017. “What is a Red Tide?” Accessed March 7.  US EPA. 2017. “Sources and Solutions.” Accessed March 7.  US EPA. 2017. “What You Can Do: In Your Home.” Accessed March 7.  Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. 2007. “Harmful Algae.” Accessed March 7.
  • For daily updates on the tropics: 'Talking the Tropics With Mike'..... & speaking of the tropics, mark your calendar for Sat., June 9th! - The First Alert Hurricane Expo at the Morocco Shrine.  The First Alert Weather team discusses hurricanes & preparation + you can get a close-up look at the First Alert Storm Tracker.  Come one, come all from 9am - 2pm.  The first 500 guests receive a * FREE * hurricane kit courtesy Lowe's Home Improvement. We're coming off a wet May even though the first 13 days of the month were dry.  More than half our annual rainfall usually falls from June through Sept., but the wet season got off to an early start this year.  Some May rainfall courtesy our Jax N.W.S.: FL MAYPORT NAVAL STATION 6.41 FL JASPER 6.71 FL BEAUCLERC 9.71 FL JACKSONVILLE BEACH 6.69 FL FERNANDINA BEACH M FL LAKE CITY 9.52 FL LAKE CITY 2 E 9.51 FL GLEN ST MARY 1 W M FL SOUTH PONTE VEDRA BEACH SHOP 5.83 FL GUANA RIVER STATE PARK N 5.41 FL PALM COAST 6 NE 10.62 FL CRESCENT CITY 7.44 FL GAINESVILLE RGNL AP 8.38 FL HASTINGS 4NE 10.46 FL STARKE M FL OCALA 12.40 FL WHITE SPRINGS 7N M FL JACKSONVILLE CRAIG MUNI AP 5.01 FL J ACKSONVILLE INTL AP 5.91 FL JACKSONVILLE NAS 6.48 FL BELL 4NW 6.75 FL FEDERAL POINT 12.01 FL BUNNELL EOC 9.06 FL PALM COAST 9.97 FL NE PALM COAST 10.29 FL W PALM BEACH 9.35 FL SE FLAGLER BEACH 9.94 FL PRIDGEN 6.39 GA HOMERVILLE 5 N 7.21 GA ALMA BACON CO AP 4.90 GA NAHUNTA 6 NE 12.05 GA FARGO 17 NE 8.89 GA BRUNSWICK 4.68 GA BRUNSWICK MALCOLM MCKINNON AP 2.99 GA WOODBINE 8.43 From Sky & Telescope: For summer-lovers in the Northern Hemisphere, June is a great month. The solstice, when daylight is longest, comes on the 21st at 6:07 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. But if you love to savor the night sky, this is a minimalist month because the nights are so short. For most of us evening twilight doesn’t end until 9 p.m. or later. Of course, there's always plenty to see in the night sky after the Sun goes down, no matter what the time of year.  Venus and Gemini in mid-June Venus is dazzling and obvious in the west after sunset. Watch how the stars of nearby Gemini drift closer to the horizon during the month. Sky & Telescope Venus still reigns supreme in the west as darkness falls. It sets more than 2 hours after the Sun. You'll see two medium-bright stars nearby. They're quite a pair — as you'll learn during this month's podcast — and they'll slide toward the western horizon and deeper into the evening twilight as the weeks go by. Once twilight fades, turn around and look on the opposite side of the sky to spot Jupiter. It's quite bright and easy to spot. Right now the King of Planets is situated in Libra, which is well known as a constellation in the zodiac but rather small in area with only modestly bright stars. Our astronomy podcast tells you how to use Jupiter to identify Libra's two brightest stars, gives you their fun, lyrical names, and explains why they once were part of a different constellation. Late in June, a third bright planet — Saturn — rises into the evening sky. It reaches opposition this month, so you'll be able to enjoy three brights planets at once. New Moon: June 13th.... Full Moon: June 28th EARTH GAUGE (NEEF): June is National Rivers Month! Need a good reason to celebrate? Here are just a few to choose from, courtesy of American Rivers(link is external)… In the United States, one out of every three people gets their drinking water from a river or stream (though they might not know it!) Rivers are good for our economy: people spend about $97 billion each year on river-related recreation and tourism. Fish and wildlife depend on rivers, especially during breeding and migration. The United States is home to about 2.9 million miles of river to enjoy and protect. Discover your rivers. Find places to boat and fish. Protect water quality where you live. Simple actions at home—picking up after your pet, installing a rain barrel, and using fertilizers sparingly—can reduce water pollution in local rivers and streams. Save water at home. If the entire world’s water fit into a one-gallon jug, fresh water available for our use would equal about one tablespoon! Help maintain the flow in local rivers and streams by reducing your water use at home. Lend a hand. Participate in a river cleanup, monitor water quality in a nearby river or stream, or join a local citizen science project.
  • Hurricane season is here, and right now people in Florida can stock up on storm necessities without paying sales tax. >> Watch the news report here >> Florida’s 10 safest cities in a hurricane Florida’s Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday runs through Thursday, June 7. >> 5 things to know before hurricane season Some of the qualifying items include:  Reusable ice (selling for $10 or less) Candles, flashlights, lanterns, and any portable self-powered light source powered by battery, solar, hand-crank or gas (selling for $20 or less) Any gas or diesel fuel container, including LP gas and kerosene containers (selling for $30 or less) Nonelectrical coolers and ice chests for food storage ($30 or less) Bungee cords ($50 or less) Ground anchor systems ($50 or less) Radios (two-way or weather band) powered by battery, solar, or hand crank ($50 or less) Ratchet straps ($50 or less) Tarps ($50 or less) Tie-down kits ($50 or less) Visqueen, plastic sheeting, plastic drop cloths, and other flexible waterproof sheeting ($50 or less) Portable generators that can be used for light, communications, or to preserve food in the event of a power outage ($750 or less) >> Hurricane evacuation: Helpful apps for finding gas, hotel rooms, traffic routes Food and other canned goods are not included in the tax holiday. >> Read more trending news  Click here to read the complete list of qualifying items and restrictions.