John Bartus

You’re never ready for it. After a wonderful cool winter and a beautiful spring — the kind of weather that makes us one of the most popular destinations in the world (and is one of the main reasons I moved here) — someone flipped the summer switch.

It’s like the past five months didn’t exist. The good weather was snuffed out quickly, like a candle in a hurricane. The constellation Orion is becoming harder to see in the night sky — a true harbinger of the brutal days ahead. We have entered the season of steamy sweat, extra shirts and multiple showers each day.

Last week, as I was breaking my equipment down at a gig, the air temperature was 85 degrees at 10:30 p.m. The humidity was a rather sticky 82%. And there was very little breeze blowing through the establishment. I know I must resign myself to certain undeniable facts. I have to prepare for the steam bath we all must endure for the next five to six months.

The all-day, all-night sweat fest known as Independence Day at Sombrero Beach is coming fast, like an overheated locomotive belching smoke and steam in a tunnel in the middle of summer. That being said, the event is still an incredibly fun day, filled with all the things we celebrate about our nation on our beautiful Sombrero Beach.

Maybe I’m just getting older, but summers didn’t seem so bad down here just a few short decades ago. We always had a breeze from the east, and it didn’t seem as … brutal as it does right now.

Last summer seemed particularly warmer and more humid than any I remember in my 40 years of living here. And this summer is shaping up to be more of the same. Last year, the Atlantic Ocean sea surface temperatures broke records for heat as El Niño helped inhibit storm formation. Even with El Niño, there were still 20 named storms. This year, sea surface temperatures are already higher than they were last year at this time and so far have continued the upward trend. With the fading of El Niño and the predicted arrival of La Niña, predictions for this year’s hurricane season are troubling.

The National Hurricane Center and other research institutes predict 23 named cyclones in the tropical North Atlantic for the 2024 season. Roughly 11 of these could develop into hurricanes, of which five might become major hurricanes with wind speeds of over 110 mph.

Even more frightening, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania’s Mann Research Group has published 2024 hurricane season predictions featuring even bigger numbers: they predict somewhere between 27 and 39 storms, with their estimated total at 33 storms. And since high sea surface temperatures, heat and humidity are the fuels that hurricanes need, this year may shape up to be a pretty scary storm season.

The implications of these high ocean temperatures aren’t a good thing where our coral reefs are concerned. After last year’s heat-induced die-off, our poor corals don’t have much left to give.

Given the fact that our coral reefs were in far better shape in the 1980s and 1990s, I don’t think that our summer heat being more oppressive is just a figment of my advancing years. And given that this year’s storm season may be a doozy, thankfully, our elected leaders in Tallahassee are doing all they can to help Floridians cope. I made that up. Instead of doing things like actual reform for Citizens, windstorm insurance or funding clean energy and preventive measures, the Legislature passed a bill that ensures that climate change will be a “lesser priority” and that those two words largely disappear from state statutes.

Prepare yourself for a sweat fest over the next six months, and pray that we’re not sweating with fear as we dodge storm after storm. I can’t wait for December.

Catch John live Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing, Friday and Saturday at Isla Bella Resort, and Sundays at Skipjack Tiki Bar. Find his music anywhere you download or stream your music. •

John Bartus
Very few towns or cities could ever claim that their Mayor was a smokin' hot guitar player. The island city of Marathon in the Florida Keys is one of those towns. While politics is a temporary call to service, music is a life sentence. John Bartus, a more-than-four-decade full-time professional musician, singer, and songwriter, continues to raise the bar with his groundbreaking solo acoustic show. It’s easy to catch John on one of his more than 200 shows a year throughout the Keys on his Perpetual Island Tour. His CD releases include After The Storm, Keys Disease 10th Anniversary Remaster, and Live From the Florida Keys Vol. 2. John’s music is available wherever you download or stream your music.