Four horsemen ride into town

Florida’s four meteorological horsemen of the atmosphere
Rain Or Shine Report for June 17
Turns out the wet season isn’t a one trick pony after all.

Or let me rephrase that:

Water managers hope the wet season isn’t a one trick pony.

And let me add one more correction to the list:

It’s not a pony, not by a far sight.
Or at least don’t let the Florida’s Four Meteorological Horsemen of the Atmosphere hear you calling them ponies.

Who exactly are the Four Horsemen you may ask?

The first is our old faithful of the summer: the Enhanced Sea Breeze. I’m not talking your any day old run of the mill sea breeze. This is the one that, with a little help of upper level atmospheric instability and a Gulf flyover of a deep dipping Jet Stream – two factors that puts extra wind behind the sails of the sea breeze, creates our gargantuan Kilimanjaros rising out of the Everglades and the famed morning showers offshore of Miami.

The second horseman is the Continental Front. The thunderous squadrons of clouds that they bring, often leaving cold air in their wake, are typically a dry season event. But they’re not unheard of in the early summer season. That’s what makes June such a critical rainfall month for south Florida. Lingering springtime instability up on the continent – both in the upper and lower atmosphere – juices the early part of the rainy season, from Memorial Day to Forth of July. Once July roles around, a more homogeneous air mass takes hold across the southern peninsula. Trade winds blowing due east off the Bermuda High become the prevailing wind pattern.

It’s the Bermuda High that paves the path for the third horseman, and the scariest: the Cape Verde. These are the mammoth hurricanes that spawn off the coast of Africa, and head west around the perimeter of the Bermuda High. This one packs the full punch – horizontal rains, instantaneous – if only momentary – sea level rise, and tree-toppling winds. And this is no sucker punch – it broadcasts its potential fury days in advance, but it keeps its exact landfall a secret until the day approaches, and I use the term “day” only in calendar sense, because once the Cape Verde stampedes to shore, it turns daylight into night, other than a brief glimpse of daylight at its eye. That’s its prelude to the second half of its 1-2 punch, more commonly known as its knock out blow.

The fourth horseman is the Tropical Tempest from the Gulf and from the Caribbean. Usually not as scary as the Cape Verde, they play a prominent role in the early and late part of the hurricane season. Don’t be overly concerned with the magnitude of these, because even a disorganized wave of tropical moisture can give us the coveted BRD – Big Rain Day, as coined by the District’s Meteorology team. In technical terms, that’s a sFL-wide daily rainfall total of more than 1 inch. Geoff Shaughnessy tells me we need 6 BRDs to keep the annual water coffers filled.

Florida’s four meteorological horsemen are each ominous in their own way – but also impressive meteorological phenomena: there is no better place in the world to a meteorologist. Just ask a Florida meteorologist, they’ll tell you … and what ever you do, don’t threaten them with a re-assignment to Arizona (Lake Meade only gets 4 inches of rain per year; that’s what we average during the month of May).

Most importantly, the hooves of the meteorological horseman are music to water managers’ ears, at least during a drought.

Come high water, not so much.

That’s the thing about the horsemen: You can tame the landscape upon which they roam, with levees and canals – but there is not taming of the horsemen.

They are a wild breed.
The stampede of their hooves is good to see and hear … from a distance.

But be sure to take cover when they arrive:
and I mean “good cover“.
In 1990 Lely Development Corporation commissioned five 1 1/4 lifesized running horses for the entrance to their luxury country club community in Naples, Florida.

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