Cold blast snaps 4-year no-freeze streak for Florida East Coast cities

No freeze streak

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

The longest stretch without a freeze ended for Melbourne and Fort Pierce Thursday when temperatures plunged to 30 and 32 degrees, respectively, in the two East Coast cities. The stretch covered four years — 1,459 days, according to the National Weather Service in Melbourne.

Also, Orlando-Sanford International Airport set a new record low for January 18 with 25 degrees.

In West-Central Florida, 10 cities tied record lows or set new records Thursday. Tampa tied a record low at 29. Other cities that tied record lows were Brooksville (23) and Bushnell (22).

New all-time record lows for the date were set at Fort Myers Southwest International Airport (33); Inverness (21); Lakeland (25); Ruskin (27); Plant City (22); and St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (31).

Lows on Friday morning were 5-10 degrees warmer thanks to modification of the Arctic air mass. And winds were forecast to swing around from the north to the east, bringing in warmer and more moist air from the Atlantic. By Sunday, temperatures are expected to be back near normal across the Florida peninsula, forecasters say.

Thursday snow cover
Snow cover in the U.S. as of Thursday. (Credit: NOAA/ NCEI)

A second “January thaw” is set to begin next week across the eastern U.S., according to AccuWeather. And NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information snow cover map shows there’s plenty of snow to melt across the U.S., from the Northern Plains east to the Midwest and New England as well as the Mid-Atlantic States.

Snow even covers parts of the Deep South, from Tennessee and North Carolina into Mississippi and Alabama, where snow cover approached the northwestern Florida panhandle.

anoma.1.18.2018 Caribbean

(Image credit: NOAA/ NESDIS)

January’s cold snaps have also taken a toll on sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and the western Caribbean, which are now mostly below normal. Waters off Florida — both in the Gulf and the Atlantic — are significantly below average, according to satellite analyses.

The central and eastern Caribbean, however, are still above normal, as are water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic east to the West Coast of Africa.

Water temperatures will have a big effect on the hurricane season come June, but areas that are below normal now can warm rapidly in the spring.

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Tampa ties record low at 29 as Arctic blast ices Florida peninsula

Tampa area lows
Thursday morning lows in the Tampa area. (Image credit: NWS-Tampabay)

It was 29 degrees Thursday morning in Tampa — cold enough to tie a record low for the date set back in 1981.

Wednesday night’s cold front delivered a blast of Arctic air all over Florida. Early morning temperatures in the panhandle were about the same as those in the Upper-Midwest — in the teens.

According to Weather Underground, It was in the mid-30s on the Treasure Coast, low 30s to upper 20s north and west of Lake Okeechobee, the low 30s on the West Coast and mid- to upper-20s northwest of Tampa.

North Florida and the panhandle were in the low to mid-20s and there were a few upper teens in the northwestern panhandle, including a low of 17 in DeFuniak Springs, Florida.

In South Florida, freezing temperatures hit Glades County, west of Lake Okeechobee. Palmdale was 30, and one South Florida Water Management District observation station reported 29. It was 36 in Belle Glade.

In inland Collier County, Immokalee reported 32 degrees.

On the coast, it was 39 in West Palm Beach; 45 in Miami; 42 in Fort Lauderdale; and 36 in Naples.

Lows were well off records in South Florida. The West Palm Beach record low on Thursday was 32 in 1977, and three consecutive cold weather records were set that year with 29 degrees on the 19th and 27 on the 20th.

That was the cold snap that brought Palm Beach County measurable snow — Friday is the 41st anniversary of that event with snow falling as far south as Miami.

Feb forecast

FEBRUARY PATTERN CHANGE? Fresh long-range forecasts were issued Thursday by NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center. They continue to show above-normal temperatures for Florida in February and continuing on through April. The main factor in these long-range forecasts is the La Niña in the tropical Pacific. La Niña usually results in warm and dry conditions in the southern U.S., although that certainly wasn’t the case this month. The pattern of warm temps in the West and cold weather in the East, in place since the first of the year, may begin to reverse itself next week, forecasters say. (Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

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NASA said Thursday that global temperatures in 2017 were the second-hottest on record. The warmest year on record was 2016, the agency said. Global records date back to 1880.

Separately, NOAA declared 2017 the third-warmest on record.

“The minor difference in rankings is due to the different methods used by the two agencies to analyze global temperatures, although over the long-term the agencies’ records remain in strong agreement,” NOAA said. “Both analyses show that the five warmest years on record all have taken place since 2010.”

 

More Florida snow: wintry conditions hit panhandle

Another round of snow — the second event of the month — was expected in the Florida panhandle, with up to an inch accumulating northwest of Tallahassee on Wednesday. Freezing rain and sleet was in the forecast before turning into all snow.

A Winter Weather Advisory was in effect for central portions of the panhandle. Only a light mix of rain and sleet was expected to the east, and no advisories were posted for Jacksonville.

Tallahassee got its first measurable snowfall in 28 years on January 3, but only flurries may fall in the city this time, forecasters said.

Elsewhere in the South, the cold front — which slides through Central and South Florida Wednesday night — delivered 2.5 inches of snow to parts of Mississippi, and more than 8 inches in Kentucky.

The National Weather Service in Tallahassee said Wednesday morning: “It`s been an interesting winter so far, and today is no exception.”

That has been true nationwide, as Weather Underground’s Bob Henson posted on his blog Tuesday: “Extreme Temperature Workout: The Gyrations of January 2018.”

Record cold in the Northeast have gotten most of the attention, he says, but in fact there’s been a temperature roller coaster that has led to thaws, and then ice jams in rivers when more freezing weather strikes.

“Ice jams develop when a rapid warm-up triggers sudden fragmentation of the ice atop a frozen river,” Henson writes. “Huge chunks of ice can pile up downstream, especially where the ice has yet to give way.

“Conditions last week were tailor-made for ice-jam formation.”

Burlington, Vermont was 20 below zero on January 7 — but then the city logged a record high on January 11 of 61. Two days later it was back to 5 below zero.

Thanks to the jet stream setup, western North America has been abnormally warm this month with a high temperature of 66 at Annette, Alaska on Sunday.

A pattern change seems to be suggested by forecast models and Henson says: “It wouldn’t be too shocking if the western and eastern U.S. were to trade places later this winter.

“A weak but distinct La Niña continues to hold sway across the tropical Pacific Ocean. As we discussed back in November, colder-than-usual weather associated with La Niña tends to migrate from the Northeast toward the Northwest U.S. as winter unfolds, while warmer-than-usual weather becomes more likely across the southeastern half of the country.

“We’ll see if next week’s trial-balloon pattern change turns out to herald something more substantial and long-lived.”

Mid-winter check-in: warm and dry, despite cool January

We hit the halfway point for January on Tuesday — and we have also reached the mid-point for the 2017-2018 meteorological winter, the National Weather Service in Miami notes.

How do things stack up?

Meteorological winter runs on a calendar basis from December 1 to February 28, so all of December is represented in the calculations. As a result, the winter is running slightly warmer than normal with below average rainfall — with one major exception.

Despite the cool January (Miami is running 2 degrees below average), it’s 0.6 degrees on the plus side for the winter. West Palm Beach and Naples are also running slightly warmer than average, although Fort Lauderdale is an outlier, coming in 0.9 degrees below average since December 1.

Miami Beach is 2.05 inches above average for precipitation, but most other locations around South Florida have rainfall deficits, including a 1.13-inch shortfall in Miami (Miami International Airport) and a hefty 1.54-inch shortfall in LaBelle.

The astronomical winter — which runs from December 21 to March 20 — is traditionally thought to reach its mid-point on Groundhog Day, February 2. But actually the mid-point is February 4, Space.com notes.

February 4 marks the start of a rapid increase in daylight, the NASA website says, a trend that lasts through early May.

“The increasing altitude of the midday sun and its corresponding lengthening of the daylight hours will become more and more apparent; for at no other time of the year do these two values rise so markedly,” says Joe Rao, Space.com’s Skywatching columnist.

This Friday is the final day of the latest sunrise of the year in Palm Beach — the farthest east point on the South Florida Coast. It’s been rising at 7:10 a.m. for most of this month, but on Saturday it will rise at 7:09 a.m.

In fact, January 20 marks a sort of turning point in South Florida, with sunrises getting earlier and sunsets getting later — and normal highs and lows beginning to edge up.

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SFL forecast lows

Thursday morning wind chills could fall into the 20s west of Lake Okeechobee, and freezing temperatures are forecast for areas northeast of Tampa. (Image credits: NWS-Miami, above; NWS-TampaBay, below)

Thursday lows

 

A weekend warm-up is in the forecast for the Florida peninsula following the anticipated cold front on Wednesday. But it’s still uncertain how warm temperatures will get next week, the National Weather Service says.

The Climate Prediction Center says to expect above normal temperatures in Florida through the end of the month. And Tuesday morning runs of the GFS were still showing highs in the low 80s, from around Orlando south, to round out the month.

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UPGRADE: Radar is being updated in major National Weather Service sites around the state this month. The radar in Melbourne — serving East-Central Florida — was revamped earlier in January, and this week Miami is working on its system. It’ll be down through Friday.

“Old breakers and cables original to the radar will be replaced with modern fuses and new cables. This will help keep the 20-year-old radar operating smoothly for another 20 years,” the NWS office in Miami said Monday.

In the meantime, if you want to check radar in South Florida, you’ll have to look at Melbourne or Key West.

Skywarn spotters

You can become a Skywarn Spotter for the National Weather Service with some basic training. To sign up for a session in East-Central Florida, click here. The NWS has about 20,000 spotters nationwide.

Winter’s wrath reflected in daily records data; scientist takes to stratosphere

Rip currents

BRAVING IT AT THE BEACH: Northeast winds gusting over 30 mph will whip up rip currents at South Florida beaches, the National Weather Service in Miami says. And yes, there are people at the beach these days — despite the cool and breezy weather.  Palm Beach County beaches were busy on Sunday with people soaking up sunshine and using cabanas to keep the worst of the wind out. Swimmers were told to use caution, and those who ventured into the surf had to get accustomed to 73-degree water. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

As the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang put it on Monday, “Winter is firmly in control” as we hit mid-January — not only in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast but much of the country.

Over the last 30 days, there have been nearly twice as many low temperature records reported nationwide as record highs — 2,832 compared with 1,576, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

In January to date, there have been 2,013 low temperature records set compared with 517 record highs.

Florida temps have been hovering above record lows, and there were even a few record highs on the East Coast on Friday before the weekend’s cold front brought in a fresh round of chilly weather.

But the big exception to national trends this month has been in California, where record hot temperatures continued over the weekend. It was 88 degrees at Long Beach Airport Saturday, breaking the old record of 86 set in 2009, and 86 at Los Angeles International, breaking the previous mark of 83 set in 2014.

San Diego tied a record high Sunday with 80 degrees.

CFL forecast temps

After a brief warm-up early this week, temperatures tank again Wednesday following yet another Arctic punch. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

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FINAL FRONTIER: A scientist who always dreamed of going into space finally did it — posthumously.

Geologist Lee Allison, director of the Arizona Geological Survey, died on August 16, 2016.  A few weeks ago on New Year’s Eve, students at Earth to Sky Calculus flew his ashes to the stratosphere and released them using a robotic ash scatterer.

It was sponsored by Allison’s wife, Ann Becker , to honor him and “mark the sky-high impact he had on colleagues, students, friends and family,” according to NASA writer Tony Phillips at Spaceweather.com.

“Lee was always interested in space,” Becker told Spaceweather. “And like a lot of us who grew up with the space program, he always wanted to go into space. Funding a balloon flight and spreading his ashes in the stratosphere are definitely things he would have appreciated.”

The flight also collected data on atmospheric radiation.

 

80-degree weather by next weekend after one more shot of cold air

WK34temp

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

If you’re getting a little tired of the cool weather — and I realize that many people actually like it — set your sites on next weekend. A month-ending warm-up appears to be in the works.

Looking at the Sunday morning run of the GFS, it looks like January will indeed go out quite toasty around Florida, with highs close to 80 in the south and the mid- to upper-70s in Central Florida. Other forecast models seem to agree, and National Weather Service forecasters in Miami are predicting highs near 80 next weekend.

Floridians look forward to the winter cool-down, but I wouldn’t count temperatures in the 40s  as open-window weather. That’s what is in the forecast for the coming work week.

By Thursday morning, it’s going to be in the upper 40s in coastal South Florida and the upper 30s in Central Florida.

It was in the low 50s on the southeast coast Sunday morning, but 44 in Naples and to the east, 39 in Immokalee. It was in the 40s out in the Glades, the low 40s in Central Florida and the low 30s in North Florida and the panhandle.

It was in the mid-50s in the Keys.

Here’s what early morning temps looked like in Central Florida:

CFL AM Temps

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

 

The warm-up begins Friday.

Noteworthy: The last week in January is when normal highs and lows in South Florida begin ticking up after the long (but very gradual) slide since last September.

Days are getting longer and by the end of next week, the sun will set in Miami at 6 p.m., with civil twilight lasting until 6:24 p.m.

 

 

East Coast cities hit record highs; warming climate puts sea turtles at risk

Three of Florida’s East Coast cities set or tied record highs Friday, a day before a cold front rolled through to set up a cool and dry weekend.

It was 84 in Miami, which broke the old record high for the date of 83 set in 1994.

Record highs were tied in Melbourne and Vero Beach, were the temperatures topped out at 85 degrees. In Melbourne, that tied the record set in 1993 while the Vero Beach high tied the mark set in 1975.

CFL am temps

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

Saturday morning temperatures were up to 15 degrees cooler in Central Florida than they were on Friday morning, the National Weather Service in Melbourne reported.

A slight warm-up is expected through Tuesday, but by Wednesday another strong cold front should kick temperatures back down again. Thursday’s highs may be 15 degrees below normal, forecasters said.

A change in weather patterns may launch a longer-term warm-up next weekend, according to the Climate Prediction Center. During the first half of January, the West has been toasty while much of the eastern U.S. has been in the deep freeze. That pattern may flip for the last 10 days of the month, with cooler air in the West and above-normal temperatures in Florida and other eastern states.

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SEA TURTLE ALERT: A warming climate is producing many more female sea turtles than males, putting future colonies at risk, a new study says.

The sex of a turtle isn’t determined by genetics, as it is in humans — it’s dependent on the temperature of the sand in which the eggs are incubated. Sand temperatures of around 85 degrees produce an equal number of males and females; warmer sand produces more females and cooler sand produces more males.

Researchers from the U.S. and Australia assessed the sex of sea turtle colonies on islands in Australia’s northern Great Barrier Reef and found that temperature increases over the past two decades had taken a toll.

“Virtually no male turtles are now being produced from these nesting beaches,” scientists reported in the journal Current Biology.

During the course of their research, they found that 99.1 percent of the juveniles were turning out to be female.

“This has given us an important new window into demographic changes in these populations over the last several decades, which have gone undetected until now,” Michael Jensen, a biologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California, said. “The disconcerting thing is that we can now see how changes in the climate could affect the longevity of this and other sea turtle populations around the world.”

Determining the sex of a sea turtle is a complicated process, and there’s only scattered information about what’s happening in other populations around the world. The NOAA researchers did find that populations nesting in cooler southern regions were slightly less out of balance, with 65-69 percent female.

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Record low Key West

HISTORIC TEMPERATURE TUMBLE: Friday and Saturday marked the anniversary of the coldest temperatures ever recorded in Key West — 41 degrees. It occurred on two dates, the first 132 years ago on January 12, 1886; and the second 37 years ago on January 13, 1981.