In Florida, the winter that wasn’t; NOAA braces for big budget cuts

The National Weather Service made it official in its seasonal analysis released last week, although it was something everyone had already guessed: “It wasn’t much of a winter in South Florida.”

As I mentioned in my Friday post, winter 2016-2017 was the warmest on the record books in Miami, and it was the first winter on record in which the temperature failed to drop below 50 degrees for even one night.

Highs hit 80 or above on 69 days, which was also a record.


Cool winter days were scarce around South Florida this winter — and almost non-existent in Miami. (Credit: NWS-Miami)

Very cool winter days — defined as a high that fails to reach 70 or a minimum temperature below 50 — were far and few between at South Florida’s four main reporting sites. Miami had only one such day (when the high failed to hit 70); Fort Lauderdale had two, and Palm Beach International had eight. Naples had six.

A normal winter has 10, 12, 18 and 20, respectively.

It was also an unusually dry winter throughout the Florida peninsula, with one exception: Miami International Airport picked up 7.94 inches of rain, 1.13 inches above normal for the three-month period.

Four other sites had top-20 driest winters on record, including LaBelle, Moore Haven, Naples and Ortona.

“The dry recently-concluded winter combined with normal spring dryness means that drought conditions are likely to develop over all of South Florida during the coming weeks,” NWS forecasters warned in their report.

With warming temperatures and dry conditions continuing, a very active fire season may be on the horizon for South Florida.



Products issued by the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) include updated maps of global sea surface temperatures. (Credit: NOAA/ NESDIS)

ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK: NOAA — the federal umbrella agency that oversees the National Weather Service and other climate-related components — is facing a 17 percent budget cut proposed by the new administration in Washington, The Washington Post reported Friday.

The bulk of the cuts would come from the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS), which among other things provides regularly updated analyses of global sea surface temperatures.

Ocean temperatures — especially those in The Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and the tropical Atlantic — are essential to hurricane forecasts and especially pre-season forecasts, since warm water temperatures provide the fuel for tropical storms and hurricanes.

The Commerce Department, of which NOAA is a part, should be managed “like a business,” according to proposals obtained by the Post.

The department will look into greater use of privately owned satellites.


Author: jnelander

Freelance writer and editor

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