I’m a bit of a weather freak.  Ever since moving to Florida in 1982, I’ve been fascinated with the weather patterns we experience on this finger-like peninsula surrounded by the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and in a degree of separation — the Caribbean. It’s particularly interesting living here on this stretch of barrier island, part of a 72-mile-long, 15-mile wide strip that runs north and south on the Atlantic side. It’s where the temperate climate of the north meets the sub-tropical climate of the south, making for some interesting “micro-climates”.

We’re split down the middle by the Indian and Banana rivers (lagoons, really) which create some amazing micro-climates on Merritt Island’s Tropical Trail.  There growers raised pineapples, avocados, guava, along with oranges, grapefruit (hence the world renowned “Indian River Citrus”), palms and peacocks!

The cold fronts begin cycling through in December and continue through March, and sometimes April, bringing clear blue skies, sunny days, and sparkling waters.

At night the Big Dipper and other constellations are easily visible to the naked eye, especially gorgeous when paired with a full moon rising over the Atlantic or a night launch from nearby Kennedy Space Center or Canaveral Air Force Station launch pads.

This year we had one cold front after another, keeping our winter here on the Space Coast mighty chilly and giving us the coldest winter we’ve had in 40 years, according to one long-timer who’s been here since 1967.  I spent most of it in sweatshirts, bundled up in a knit hat, scarf and gloves for brisk walks on the beach. That northerly blow is cold!

A February cold front blows across the Indian River

Right now we’re enjoying beautiful spring weather, with welcome northern breezes still keeping us cool as the sun rises higher in the sky and browns our skin.  Very soon the prevailing breeze will be out of the southeast, bringing with it the muggy Caribbean humidity Florida is famous for during the summer months and the ever constant threat of hurricanes caroming toward us off Africa’s coast.

This year, there’s another reason we’re closely watching the weather — the oil spill in the Gulf.

Florida’s west coast (Tampa, Naples, etc) and the Keys could be affected by the spreading oil, except for one thing:  the Loop Current Eddy.  This is a natural flow of seawater, an ocean current that transports warm Caribbean water through the Yucatan Channel between Cuba and Mexico. The current flows northward into the Gulf of Mexico, then loops southeastward just south of the Florida Keys (where it is called the Florida Current), and past the western Bahamas. Here, the waters of the Loop Current flow northward along the U.S. coast and become the Gulf Stream, as you can see by this diagram I grabbed from the Weather Underground website.

I keep the Weather Underground website bookmarked, and refer to it often when I want to look at radar charts, satellite maps, current conditions, weather forecasts and other meteorology info. Weather Underground founder Dr. Jeff Masters has added a new page to the site that details what’s happening in the Gulf.  Interest in this oil spill is high, and we’re watching this closely.

Masters has expanded his reach with a new radio program on Tuesdays at 4p ET.  This will be very helpful as we move into hurricane season.  Excerpted below:

Join the “Hurricane Haven” with Dr. Jeff Masters: a new Internet radio show
Beginning next week, I’ll be experimenting with a live 1-hour Internet radio show called “Hurricane Haven.” The show will be aired at 4pm EDT on Tuesdays, with the first show June 1. Listeners will be able to call in and ask questions. Some topics I’ll cover on the first show:

1) What’s going on in the tropics right now
2) Preview of the coming hurricane season
3) How a hurricane might affect the oil spill
4) How the oil spill might affect a hurricane
5) New advancements in hurricane science presented at this month’s AMS Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology
6) Haiti’s vulnerability to a hurricane this season

I hope you can tune in to the broadcast, which will be at http://www.wunderground.com/wxradio/wubroadcast.html. If not, the show will be recorded and stored as a podcast.

I’ll be back with at least one update over the coming 3-day Memorial Day weekend. Have a great holiday!

Jeff Masters

We’ll be tuning in, and might even call with a question or two.  Meanwhile, we’re watching the weather conditions in the Gulf of Mexico to our west and off the coast of Africa to our east.  Hurricane Season begins Tuesday, June 1st.  It’s going to be an interesting summer.