Another weekend, another cold snap

SUNDAY UPDATE: No breakfasting on the patio by the pool this morning — temps were just too chilly. North Palm Beach County temperatures sank to 43 degrees and it was only nine degrees warmer in Miami at 52. A warming trend starts Tuesday and temperatures are forecast to be near 80 by the end of the week. In fact, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting above normal temperatures for the entire state well into next week. But the final week of the month is expected to bring more chilly weather to the Florida peninsula. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

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Projected lows for the next seven days in West-Central Florida will be stuck in the 40s, with some lows in the mid-30s in Brooksville. (Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

ORIGINAL POST: Bundle up for a cool weekend and a cool upcoming week with lows mostly dipping into the 40s in South Florida and only rising into the mid-60s for highs.

Normal highs are in the mid- to upper-70s this time of the year but we won’t see weather that warm until late in the week, according to the National Weather Service.

“The primary short-term weather concern is focused on low temperatures for late tonight into Sunday morning,” forecasters in Miami said Saturday morning. “Trends have been holding steady over the past few days, and while it will be cool, tonight’s lows don’t appear to be quite on par with some of the colder nights we`ve had so far this winter. That said, readings will be on the cool side.”

Forecast lows:

Lake Okeechobee/northern inland areas: lower to mid 40s;
Gulf Coast/coastal Collier County: around 50;
Palm Beach metro: upper 40s;
Miami/Broward metro: around 50;
Southern inland areas/far western Miami/Broward metro: upper 40s.

Forecast lows in Orlando and parts of Central Florida will be stuck in the 40s through Thursday morning.

Parts of North Florida were under a Freeze Watch for Sunday morning, and lows will linger in the 30s through at least Wednesday morning.

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CALAMITY IN CALIFORNIA? Santee, California, northeast of San Diego, had the nation’s high on Friday with 96. It was 92 in Anaheim, 94 in Vista and 88 in San Diego itself, an all-time high for January.

Punishing Santa Ana winds were gusting as high as 87 mph on Friday, an unusual January occurrence that has prompted wild fire concerns during what is normally the area’s wet season.

The last major rainfall in Southern California was just after Christmas, and it’s been drying out since then. Some brush fires have already popped up, and more strong and dry winds forecast for next week are expected to increase fire threats.

“It’s been so incredibly dry through the fall and winter that fuels are still incredibly dry,” Joe Sirard, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, told The Washington Post on Friday. “If we’d had lots of rain in December and everything was all green now, I don’t think we’d think much about fire weather.”

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Hot topic: 2020 had near-record warmth worldwide

(Image credit: NOAA)

Last year tied 2016 for the warmest on record since such records began in 1880, according to NASA. Separately, NOAA said 2020 was the second-warmest on the books, coming in just behind 2016.

The seven year period from 2014 to 2020 were the warmest seven consecutive years in the record books, an analysis echoed by a recent report from the National Weather Service in Melbourne announcing that “pronounced warmer than normal conditions have largely continued to dominate the weather pattern across the region since 2015 . . . .”

Annual temperatures since 2015 have been within the top five warmest for East-Central Florida.

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NEW ENSO FORECAST: La Niña conditions are pretty much a lock (95 percent) in the tropical Pacific through the rest of the winter and into spring, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday. But after March, forecasters expect a transition to ENSO neutral conditions through June.

CPC forecasters say the La Niña influence will likely be reflected in the new three-month outlook to be issued next Thursday. La Niña generally means warm and dry weather for Florida, but that hasn’t been the case so far this winter. Although it has been dry, December had below normal temperatures across the state and after this weekend’s chilly temps, January overall temperatures will slide into negative territory as well.

As for the upcoming hurricane season, a fading La Niña may help keep storm numbers from soaring like they did in 2020. Very long-range forecasts issued last December favored another above-average year in the Atlantic, but we’ll have a little better idea when the April forecasts come out.

Ideally, if we transitioned to an El Niño in fall we could see a dramatic decrease in the number of storms, since those conditions — warmer than normal waters in the tropical Pacific — tends to increase wind shear in the tropical Atlantic.

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TEMP TURN AROUND: The normal high in West Palm Beach ticks up a degree — from 74 to 75 — on Monday. The average high as has been on a downward slide since August 8. Miami and Fort Lauderdale’s high rises from 76 to 77 a week from Saturday.

Keys, South Florida report up to an inch or more of rain

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

THURSDAY UPDATE: Significant rainfall soaked the Keys overnight Wednesday and into Thursday morning, according to the citizen observation network CoCoRaHS.

An observer in Key West reported 1.60 inches; an observer in Lower Sugarloaf Key checked in with 1.18 inches; and a CoCoRaHS member in Islamorada found 0.98 of an inch in the backyard bucket.

Peninsula rainfall totals from the National Weather Service (24 hours): Miami Shores, 1.09; North Miami, 0.78; Hollywood, 0..56; Lantana, 0.50; Miami, 0.49; Fort Lauderdale, 0.45; West Palm Beach, 0.20; and Naples, 0.06.

Up to a quarter of an inch fell in parts of inland Collier County, with up to a third of an inch falling in southern Palm Beach County.

A few hundredths of an inch fell in Central Florida and as far north as Lake City. The panhandle remained dry.

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WEDNESDAY POST: West Palm Beach and Naples managed to squeeze 0.02 and 0.05 of an inch of rain, respectively, out of Tuesday’s somber skies, the first rainfall of the year. But Miami and Fort Lauderdale remained dry, with just a trace of rain wetting windshields as a frontal system lingered over the area.

Actually, there was some measurable rainfall on the West Coast from Marco Island up to Port Charlotte; and on the East Coast from around Hollywood up to southeastern Brevard County.

The winner of Tuesday’s precip sweepstakes was East Naples, where 0.28 of an inch fell, according to the citizens observation network, CoCoRaHS.

The new forecast issued Wednesday by the National Weather Service in Miami called for as much as 0.65 of an inch falling from the central Everglades up to Boca Raton — and much of that will likely fall late tonight and during the wee hours of Thursday morning.

Another cold front is forecast to push all the precip out of the way by the weekend, after which highs will only be in the mid-60s in South Florida, low 60s in Central Florida, and upper 50s in North Florida.

Sunny or partly sunny conditions should be the rule over the weekend, but the Weather Service is calling for cloudy skies late Sunday into Monday. In fact, Monday’s forecast for Martin Luther King Day — which caps a three-day weekend for many people — is for clouds and highs struggling to hit 70.

A day that probably will not make it into the state’s tourism brochures.

Umbrella alert: Front set to deliver first precip of new year

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

Hooray! The first measurable rainfall of 2021 is headed into South Florida by mid-week, the National Weather Service says.

HOW DRY WE WERE: Through Monday, none of the four major observation sites in South Florida — Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Naples — have had any measurable rain.

In Miami, you have to go back to December 28 to find 0.01 of an inch of precipitation; 0.09 of an inch fell on Christmas Eve before the major cold front crashed South Florida’s holiday party.

Even so, Miami ended December with just 1.60 inches in the bucket, a monthly rainfall shortage of nearly half an inch.

Wednesday’s rain chances increase to around 50 percent by Wednesday, with a cold front moving into the area and then washing out.

“There will not be a noticeable difference in cooler temperatures behind this frontal passage,” forecasters in Miami said in their Tuesday morning forecast discussion.

Rainfall totals of around a half-inch are expected through the end of the week. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

And . . . there’s this from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center: Florida may see a return to above normal temperatures at the end of the month. This is supported by the GFS forecast model, which suggests highs in the 80s for at least several days as January enters its final week.

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

Snow cover approaches Gulf Coast in latest analysis

A WINTRY LANDSCAPE: Snow coverage has reached deep into the south this month. (Image credit: NOAA)

Almost half of the U.S. was under snow cover as of Monday, according to the National Weather Service’s National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center.

Snow cover stands at 44.7 percent, compared with 12.4 percent a month ago and 34.7 percent on January 11, 2020; and 27.7 percent on January 11, 2019. In fact, you have to go back to January 11, 2016 to find a greater percentage of snow cover on this date — 58.3 percent.

And this year’s snow cover has penetrated unsually far south, through Central Texas and into Central and Northern Louisiana. Snow cover nears the Gulf Coast in Eastern Texas.

The last time it snowed in Florida was in December 2017, when a dusting was reported in the western panhandle, according to the Miami Herald. In January 2014, an inch was reported at the Pensacola Regional Airport. South Florida hasn’t officially reported snow since 1977.

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(Image credit: Betty Nelander)

The low in West Palm Beach Sunday was 42 degrees, enough to send stunned iguanas crashing down from trees. I found this iguana in my backyard Sunday morning, and at first I thought it was dead. On closer inspection, though, it was barely moving and I saw its eyes blink.

I left it alone while I went for a bike ride and by the time I got back, it had sufficiently warmed up to get its slushy blood circulating, and it was gone.

During a previous cold snap, I did see one definitely dead iguana on Flagler Drive.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been cold enough to make much of a dent in the population of this invasive species in South Florida, But iguanas that sought to further expand their territory into Central Florida no doubt discovered this year that the environment was a little more hostile than South Florida and the Keys.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, green iguanas have been spotted as far north as the Gainesville area, but there’s no way they’re going to make it through this winter up there.

Forecasters see slow warming trend through mid-week

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

SUNDAY MORNING LOWS: Miami, 49 (wind chill 46); Fort Lauderdale, 47 (46); Naples, 43 (38); West Palm Beach, 42 (38); Orlando 37 (32); Tampa, 42 (38); Daytona Beach, 39 (33); Gainesville 39 (34); Jacksonville, 33 (33); and Tallahassee, Tallahassee, 38 (33).

Highs bounce back to near 70 in South Florida when winds swing around to the northeast Sunday afternoon; low- to mid-60s in Central Florida and mid- to upper 50s in North Florida.

A warming trend continues through mid-week, followed by yet another cold front in the Wednesday-Thursday timeframe.

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SATURDAY: In West-Central Florida, a Freeze Watch was posted for Saturday night/ Sunday morning for the Nature Coast, with a Frost Advisory issued for the Tampa area. Widespread frost was expected in North Florida.

The National Weather Service in Melbourne predicts “frost developing north of Orlando with patchy frost elsewhere away from the coast. Protect cold sensitive plants tonight and use caution with any space heaters.”

Sunday morning wind chills will be in the low 40s all the way down to southern Miami-Dade and Inland Monroe counties, the National Weather Service says. High temperatures Saturday will only be in the mid- to upper-60s along the southeastern coast; upper 50s and low 60s in East-Central Florida.

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

LONG-RANGE OUTLOOK: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting warmer temperatures for the Florida peninsula as January ends and we get into the first week of February. This is also supported by long-range climate models.

It seems likely that we’re going to have two below normal months in a row — December and January — in Florida, a rare occurrence in these days of warming temperatures.

Sunday wind chills in 40s for South Florida; new hurricane forecasting tool shot down

ANOTHER WINTRY WEEKEND — by Florida standards, that is. The coldest temps will be Sunday morning, when a light freeze is predicted for North Florida and wind chills in the 40s all the way down into South Florida. (Image credits: NWS-Miami, top; NWS-Jacksonville, below)

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HURRICANE FORECASTING SETBACK: Funding for a new type of radar called airborne phased-array radar, or APAR, which could have helped spot hurricanes about to rapidly intensify, was scrapped by the National Science Foundation, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

The $70 million project failed to win approval because of “flaws” in the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) proposal, the Post said. NOAA had been expected to partner with NCAR for the building of the of radar, built into hurricane hunter aircraft that investigate storms.

But NOAA officials said the proposal failed to justify the $70 million cost over five years.

The newspaper said NCAR director Everette Joseph — who is a “leading candidate” to head NOAA under the upcoming Biden Administration — plans to resubmit the proposal.

“Although NOAA can still make use of the radar development work carried out to date, NCAR’s failure to receive this program funding will, at the very least, delay the progress of what is considered a game-changing technology for storm research, monitoring and forecasting,” writes Jason Samenow of the Post’s Capital Weather Gang.

Data collected by the new radar was expected to be fed into existing computer forecast models, providing a big boost to intensity, as well as track forecasts.

Rapidly intensifying storms have become more common during the hurricane season as oceans warm. Several hurricanes during the blockbuster 2020 hurricane season underwent rapid intensification as they neared land, making them even more dangerous for coastal residents.

Key West record: 122 days with 80-plus degree lows

(Image credit: NOAA)

THURSDAY UPDATE: The next cold front was racing across the Gulf of Mexico toward the Florida peninsula Thursday morning. It was forecast to arrive on the peninsula’s southwest coast around 4 a.m. Friday, dragging cold air behind it. Another chilly weekend will follow, according to the National Weather Service.

Sunday morning will see the coldest temperatures. Forecast lows: Miami, 54; West Palm Beach and Naples, 48; Orlando, 40; Tampa, 43; Gainesville, 33 (with widespread frost); Jacksonville, 36 (with areas of frost); Lake City, 32 (widespread frost); and Tallahassee, 33 (ditto).

If it’s any consolation, and I think it is, the same storm system is forecast to dump snow Friday in eastern Tennessee, northern Georgia and into the Carolinas and Virginia. So Florida remains a desired destination, with its relatively palatable weather this weekend.

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2020 weather highlights in the Florida Keys. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

KEYS YEAR IN REVIEW: 2020 was the second-warmest year on record in Key West and the fourth-warmest in Marathon, the National Weather Service said this week.

“Helping to fuel the warmer year was an abundance of warmer low temperatures,” the Weather Service said in a report, with 103 daily warm overnight temperature records set or tied in Marathon and Key West, where records date back to 1872 (1950 in Marathon).

Monthly warm minimum temperature records were set or tied in Key West in March, April, May, June, and September.

Another notable stat: Key West had 122 days in 2020 in which the low failed to drop below 80 degrees, more than double the annual average of 53 days.

“It was also a wet year. Marathon measured 64.55 inches of rainfall last year, putting it at 18.38 inches above normal and the second wettest year on record.

“Key West measured 52.30 inches of rainfall, 12.47 inches above normal,” putting it in the top 10 percent of wettest years in the island’s 150-year history.

Click here for the full report.

The Polar Vortex: It’s ba-a-a-ck!

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

The Polar Vortex is coming! The Polar Vortex is coming!

So says AccuWeather: “Arctic outbreaks, major snowstorms may unfold thanks to polar vortex,” the commercial forecasting service said Tuesday.

The Washington Post Capital Weather Gang announced: “The polar vortex is splitting in two, which may lead to weeks of wild winter weather.”

Cold air bottled up in the Arctic could spill into the eastern U.S. for the second half of the month, triggering not only a plunge in temperatures but setting up a stormy trend that could dump big snowfall totals over the Great Lakes States as frigid air moves over still ice-free water.

AccuWeather: “The upcoming major pattern change for much of the Central and Eastern states could lead to a dramatic increase in heating costs during the second half of the month that could spill over into February. Americans may notice a hit to their wallets after mild weather led to lower heating usage in December to early January.”

The Post says the Arctic outbreak may affect weather in the Northern Hemisphere “for weeks to possibly months . . . increasing the potential for paralyzing snowstorms and punishing blasts of Arctic air.”

Despite this being a La Niña winter — which usually delivers a warm and dry season to the Florida peninsula — we’ve been running about 2 degrees below normal in Florida since December 1.

The first week of January will likely end up with above average temps — Miami had a high of 84 and a low of 68 on Sunday — but look for monthly averages to start plunging with forecasts showing temps running as much as 10 degrees below normal this weekend. Highs won’t get out of the 60s even in the southern peninsula, the National Weather Service says.

Tuesday’s GFS forecast model was showing cool to cold temperatures in the Florida peninsula through at least January 18, and the Canadian (CMC) points to lows in the 30s and 40s late this weekend into early next week.

The Climate Prediction Center shows below normal temps in Florida through at least January 19.

According to the Post, though, big impacts from the Polar Vortex on the U.S. are not a done deal, as there is some indication it could affect Europe more than North America.

In Florida, we’ve been accustomed to unusually mild winters for at least the last five years. Fingers crossed that Central and South Florida can avoid the kinds of damaging freezes we saw during the winter of 2010-11.

‘Brilliant South Florida winter day’ ahead, forecasters say

Below normal temperatures may hang on through at least mid-month in Florida and the Gulf Coast, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. (Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

TUESDAY UPDATE: Another cool but pleasant winter morning around the Florida peninsula, with temps definitely on the chilly side in North Florida and the panhandle.

Low temperatures ranged from 63 in Key West and Marathon to 36 in Jacksonville and Tallahassee.

Other apparent lows: West Palm Beach, 49; Miami, 59; Fort Lauderdale, 56; Naples, 50; Orlando, 45; and Tampa, 47.

Highs head into the low 70s in South Florida over the next couple of days, but the next cold front is forecast to keep temperatures in the mid- to upper-60s to start the weekend.

Long-term temperature trends suggest below normal temperatures will hang around the entire state through at least the middle of the month, but longer-term models suggest a bounce back in February to above normal temps.

It will be interesting to see if these seasonably cool temperatures stick around through the end of the month, because back-to-back below normal monthly temperatures have rarely occurred in Florida since at least 2015, when the current trend toward record warmth began. (We haven’t had a consistently cold winter here since 2010-11.)

It was the third-coldest December in Key West, the National Weather Service said Tuesday. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

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ORIGINAL POST: Looks like the Florida peninsula is in for a run of unusually cool — but not necessarily unpleasant — weather through at least the middle of January.

In South Florida, normal January temps feature highs in the mid- to upper-70s and lows in the mid- to upper-50s, but a series of cold fronts may keep temps slightly below that, according to the National Weather Service.

Tuesday’s forecast, for example: “As temperatures warm up through the morning, it should turn into a brilliant South Florida winter day where some sunscreen and sunglasses could come in handy for any outdoor activities.”

You might call it perfect winter weather although on the cool-ish side.

After a cloudy start to the day in Central and South Florida, sunny skies return, the National Weather Service says. A gradual warm-up is in the forecast through the end of the week before another front arrives for the weekend. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)