James Spann: Isolated showers possible for Alabama, but no drought relief

DROUGHT CONDITIONS: I hear it all the time: Why has it stopped raining in Alabama? Well, actually, parts of Alabama had three-quarters of an inch of rain last Thursday, up in the Tennessee Valley, but some of the larger cities have gone now without measurable rain for more than 30 days. The streak of consecutive days with no measurable rain at Birmingham now stands at 38, counting today.

The late, great J.B. Elliott, long time National Weather Service meteorologist and my mentor, had a saying: “Droughts beget droughts.” We have been under an upper ridge since summer, deflecting the major rain-producing systems away, and as the soil moisture vanishes and plants and vegetation begin to die, there is less water available for evaporation from the soil surface, meaning less water available for transpiration. Basically a nasty feedback loop, meaning no moisture available for waves and boundaries that pass through. It makes it very hard to break out of these things.

And the lack of soil moisture sets the stage for very warm afternoons; the sun’s energy doesn’t have to work on evaporation, so it all goes into heating the ground, which in turn heats the air. If this were August, we would be dealing with nasty, triple-digit heat. We will be close to record highs Friday and over the weekend; droughts and heat waves go together.

WILL IT END? Yep, droughts always end, and often, in Alabama, they end with a bang. We are shifting from ENSO neutral to a La Nina phase; there is not a very well defined correlation between La Nina and precipitation in an Alabama winter. The main encouragement is that November and December, climatologically speaking, tend to be wet and stormy. This is when the mid-latitude westerly winds aloft grow stronger and can finally break down the nasty ridge. Just a matter of time.

Unfortunately, however, prospects for rain don’t look good for the next seven to 10 days, and drought conditions will worsen. October 2016, for Birmingham, will most likely go down with only a trace of rain on the books — joining 1901 and 1924, when no rain was measured during October.

TONIGHT/TOMORROW: A few isolated showers are possible from midnight tonight thorough noon tomorrow with a weak boundary passing through, but with little moisture and weak dynamic support, meaningful rain just won’t happen. Tomorrow will feature a mix of sun and clouds with a high close to 80 degrees.

FRIDAY AND THE WEEKEND: We will be close to record highs on these three days; temperatures will reach the mid 80s with a sunny sky each day.

FOOTBALL WEATHER: A clear sky for the high school games Friday night, with temperatures falling through the 70s.

For Saturday’s Magic City Classic in Birmingham (Alabama State vs. Alabama A&M, 3 p.m. kickoff), the sky will be sunny, with temperatures falling from near 85 degrees at kickoff into the 70s by the fourth quarter.

Auburn is on the road this weekend, playing at Ole Miss in Oxford (6:15 p.m. kickoff). The sky will be clear, with temperatures falling from near 74 at kickoff into the mid 60s by the fourth quarter.

Alabama has the weekend off.

NEXT WEEK: We should turn cooler during the latter half of the week, but unfortunately global models are trending drier, and the idea of a rain event at the end of the week for now seems to be off the table. The European model (ECMWF) offers no real hope for significant rain here for the next 10 days.

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AT THE BEACH: Sunny days, fair nights on the Gulf Coast from Panama City Beach to Gulf Shores through the weekend, with highs in the low 80s. See a detailed Gulf Coast forecast here.

TROPICS: The Atlantic basin is quiet; over in the eastern Pacific, Hurricane Seymore is still a category four system, but will weaken quickly later this week as it gains latitude and encounters colder water.

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