La Niña on its way out; Mid-Atlantic basks in winter warmth


The holiday weekend forecast looks almost picture-perfect for South Florida. (Credit: NWS-Miami)

The quasi-winter of 2016-17 continues with some summer-type temps in Washington, Baltimore and other locations in the Mid-Atlantic, and an uncharacteristic warm front on its way to the Upper Midwest.

Florida, meanwhile, is revelling in a true Chamber of Commerce streak, with highs in the upper 70s to near 80 while East Coast overnight lows remain around 10 degrees above normal.

It was 71 in Baltimore on Thursday and 65 on Friday. A cool and gloomy weekend is in store for the Mid-Atlantic, but highs are due to rebound into the mid- to upper-50s next week.

It was 66 in New York Thursday and 62 on Friday.

While it has been blustery in Chicago over the last couple of days, with lows in the teens, a warm front is on the way over the weekend (preceded, unfortunately, by a dangerous ice storm) that will drive temps up into the mid-40s next week, and around 50 by week’s end.

In Washington, Friday could be the warmest Inauguration Day on record, according to Bob Henson at Weather Underground.

The storminess in the West — which was anticipated during last winter’s El Niño but has instead taken hold during this winter’s La Niña — has put a big dent in California’s drought and more precipitation is on the way.

The latest El Niño analysis, issued Thursday by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, says the cooler-than-normal tropical Pacific water temperatures that are the hallmark of La Niña will be on their way out starting next month.

“Even as the tropical Pacific Ocean returns to ENSO-neutral conditions, the atmospheric impacts from La Niña could persist during the upcoming months,” the CPC said.

Neutral conditions are expected through the coming fall. How might that impact the 2017 hurricane season?

Colorado State University’s Philip Klotzbach said in his 2017 projection last month that we could have another robust hurricane season if no El Niño develops by autumn, which now looks to be the case.

He assigned a 60 percent chance of an above average season if a strong Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) phenomenon develops and no El Niño forms. The AMO affects sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic, and El Niño produces high wind shear unfavorable to tropical storm development.

By the numbers, that would be 12-17 named storms, six to 11 hurricanes and two to five majors.

Sea surface temperature anomalies on Jan. 12. (Credit: NOAA/ NESDIS)

Speaking of Atlantic water temperatures, the tropical Atlantic is very warm for the time being, with above average temps stretching all the way from the coast of Africa into the Caribbean and to the coast of Central America.

Even the Gulf of Mexico is toasty, with a few spots of below normal water temperatures in the vicinity of the Bahamas — but they are still warm off the Florida coast.

Water temperatures off South Florida’s East Coast are in the mid- to upper-70s.

While local ocean temperatures have been stubbornly above normal all winter — they are largely responsible for the season’s long strings of unusually balmy nights — it’s worth noting that we are four days away from winter’s average temperature turnaround, when normal lows and highs begin creeping back up.

The average high in West Palm Beach ticks up from 74 to 75 on Wednesday, and the normal low rises from 57 to 58 on Jan. 31. There’s no looking back from there with normal highs and lows of 78 and 61 by the end of February.

NOAA issues its new long-range forecast for February — and the February-April period — on Thursday.


Author: jnelander

Freelance writer and editor

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