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.


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.


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.

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)


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.

Record breaking warmth has dominated much of Florida since 2015, Weather Service says

What’s happening to the climate in Florida? It definitely hasn’t been business as usual, the National Weather Service said in an eye-opening new report published on Saturday by forecasters in Melbourne.

“The annual weather summaries for east central Florida over the past several years have ended up sounding like a broken record, especially in terms of temperatures,” meteorologist Derrick Weitlich said. “Pronounced warmer than normal conditions have largely continued to dominate the weather pattern across the region since 2015, with annual average temperatures from that year onward for many sites ranking in the top 5 warmest.”

The NWS in Miami said Saturday that all four major observation sites in South Florida — Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Naples — had their warmest year on record in 2020.

Melbourne reports that in East-Central Florida, Leesburg and Sanford tied for their warmest year on record with the note that, “if not for the colder than normal weather that moved into the region in December, it likely would have been the warmest year on record for the majority of climate sites” across the area.

December came in 2-3 degrees below average from Daytona Beach down to Stuart, including Orlando — something that has not occurred in East-Central Florida since March of 2018.

“It is also interesting to note that while it was cold in December, no freezing temperatures occurred at the primary climate
sites, continuing a long stretch of temperatures remaining above 32 degrees since January of 2018 . . . Outside of December, all other months and seasons during 2020 had average temperatures that were either near or above normal, with many ranking within the top 10 warmest.”

Orlando posted 10 high temperature records in 2020, with zero low temperature records. The city had one record cool high temperature — but a whopping 43 warm minimum temperature records. Orlando also had 177 days last year in which the low was at least 70 degrees or warmer, the highest number for any year on record. Notably, the previous record — 171 days — was sset in 2019.

The number of days when the temperature didn’t dip below 70 also set records in Leesburg (172); Sanford (165); and Vero Beach (204). All these cities beat records set in 2019. One exception: Fort Pierce, with 201 days over 70 degrees, remained in second place behind 1929, which had 207.

The NWS Miami office reported last week that areas of East-Central Broward County had rainfall totals in excess of 100 inches in 2020. Thanks to some wet tropical storms during the blockbuster hurricane season, 70-90 inches of rain hammered the Treasure Coast.

“There were even some localized spots in the Stuart and Hobe Sound area that reached up to 95 to 100 inches in 2020,” Weitlich said. “Fort Pierce and Stuart both had annual precipitation totals that ranked as 4th wettest on record for each site. In contrast there were some spots that ended drier than normal, such as Leesburg and Sanford airports that had totals that were 11 to 12 inches below normal for the year.”

Access the full report by clicking here.

West-Central Florida, also despite a cooler than normal December, ended 2020 with “all sites likely ending up with a Top Ten Warmest year,” the National Weather Service in Tampa reported.

2020 was warmest year on record in South Florida cities

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

It’s official — 2020 was the hottest year on record around South Florida. Despite a chilly December, annual temperature records were set in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Naples.

In the case of Miami and Naples, last year edged out 2019 as the warmest year on record.

In Central Florida, Leesburg tied 2017 as the warmest year on record.

Note that in some Florida cities, records only go back to the 1940s or 1950s, but in West Palm Beach they date back to 1888, and in Miami to 1895. So these records are nothing to sniff at, especially when you consider that they beat previous annual temperature records set in 2015, 2017 and 2019.

AND THE HEAT GOES ON: Sanford tied a daily record high on Friday with 85, matching the mark set in 1991. Another day of near-record highs were in the forecast for Saturday: Daytona Beach’s record high for January 2 is 82, set in 2006; Saturday’s forecast high is 84.

Record warm lows were set or tied Friday in Jacksonville (66); Daytona Beach (67); Melbourne (71); and Vero Beach (70).

The stalled cold front that’s been soaking North Florida and the panhandle — Apalachicola picked up 1.29 inches of rain Friday and the Tallahassee area was under a Flash Flood Watch — is forecast to get kicked down the Florida peninsula on Sunday night. The National Weather Service said it would lose much of its convective punch as it moves south, but much cooler temperatures are expected to take hold early next week.

So far, we aren’t looking at the kind of cold temps we saw on Christmas weekend, but they’ll feel chilly after highs in the 80s and balmy overnight lows in the upper 60s and 70s.

In South Florida, lows in coastal areas should be in the 50s on Tuesday and Wednesday, with lows in the 40s in the interior.

A warming trend brings temps to more seasonal levels by the end of the week.

First look at holiday weather; climate change already impacting home values

Above: Storms accompanying a cold front were entering North Florida Wednesday morning, and were expected to arrive in Central Florida late afternoon and evening. Below: the Storm Prediction Center said North Florida and parts of the West Coast were at Marginal, or Level 1, risk for severe weather. (Image credits: NWS-Melbourne/ NOAA-SPC)

A cold front was moving across the Florida panhandle and North Florida Wednesday with a possibility of strong storms ahead of it. The threat (Marginal, or Level 1) was mostly in the north and down the West Coast.

By the time it gets to South Florida on Thursday, it may be running out of gas, at least in terms of stronger storms.

However, the cold air behind the front is expected to pack a punch, even in South Florida. Friday morning lows are expected to be in the 50s in coastal areas and 40s in the interior. The cool air will be short-lived, according to the National Weather Service, since winds will swing around to the northeast later on Friday, moderating temperatures for the weekend.

Note that this is part of the same storm system that is forecast to bring blizzard conditions to parts of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.


CHILLING OUT ON CHRISTMAS: The first forecast for the holiday was issued by Weather Underground Wednesday. Looks like it may be a continuation of the coolish weather we’ve had this month, with below normal temps. The National Weather Service Christmas forecast will be issued on Saturday. For now: Key West, morning showers and high of 70 and low of 64; Miami, sunny and 74 and 58; Orlando, showers and 65 and 46; Tampa, partly cloudy and 64 and 46; Jacksonville, partly cloudy and 59 and 40; Tallahassee, partly cloudy and 57 and 35.


CLIMATE CHANGE is already affecting housing prices. Homes in high risk flood areas appreciated 5 percent less than homes in low-risk areas over the past five years, a new study by shows.

Homes in areas at risk for damage from wild fires appreciated 3 percent less than those not at risk. The culprit is falling demand, a trend that is expected to gain momentum.

Not surprisingly, properties most affected were in areas that had been recently hit by a natural disaster. When researchers looked at 78 coastal counties that had experienced hurricane disaster declarations, They found that price growth per square foot was 25 percent over the past five years, compared with growth of 30 percent for homes at lower risk.

The study notes: “The impact of flood risk on home prices appears to be getting more pronounced over time. In 2014, 33 of the 78 counties studied saw high-risk properties appreciate slower than those with less risk, while in 2019, this was true of 40 counties. The trend was most pronounced in Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts and Maryland.”

Forecasters see stormy end to weekend, more cool temps

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

For now, forget about the La Niña storyline calling for a warm, dry winter. Here comes Florida’s cool and blustery December, Part Deux.

The festivities are set to begin Sunday afternoon and night, when a low develops in the Gulf of Mexico and then slides east across the peninsula. It has the potential for producing heavy rain and thunderstorms — although that’s not a lock at this point — and National Weather Service forecasters in Miami are even talking about “at least mentionable flooding concerns.”

They said the end-of-weekend scenario will be “closely monitored as we enter the weekend and this rather complex scenario becomes more clear.”

NWS Melbourne: “There is some potential for heavy rainfall as the [forecast models] GFS, ECM, and NAM all indicate around 1-3 inches of rain” in East-Central Florida.

After that, another punch of unseaonably cold air is expected to drive overnight lows down into the 40s, even in South Florida.

NWS forecasters in Miami are calling for “a rather long period of chilly and dry air” in Florida.

“Low temperatures in the 40s are looking increasingly likely over most of South Florida by the middle of the week, with high temperatures probably not getting out of the 60s Tuesday and Wednesday. As is often the case with cold air masses in Florida, temperatures can trend downward as we get closer in time to the event, so we will continue to closely monitor the potential for significant temperature impacts next week.” (Emphasis mine.)

Considering that only a month ago we were sweltering with heat index readings close to 90 degrees — interspersed with periods of heavy rain — this switch over to a winter weather pattern is a bit jarring. I’d like to place my order for more normal December weather: highs in the upper 70s and lows in the low 60s.

When Nature is the server, however, you take whatever is dished out. The Climate Prediction Center is still sticking with its long-range forecast for below normal temperatures in South Florida through at least December 17.


CLIMATE CHANGE PRICE TAG: Planting and protecting trees in the tropics can help mitigate global warming, but the price tag of this approach is steep, Ohio State University researchers said Tuesday. Carbon dioxide could be reduced by as much as 6 gigatons per year from 2025 through 2055 using this approach, with a cost per year of $393 billion, the researchers said.

But that would only be about 10 percent of the CO2 reduction needed to keep warming from going beyond 1.5-2 degrees celsius.

Even at that level, the climate change problem would not be solved. With a 2-degree increase, for example, “extreme heatwaves will become widespread, droughts would plague many urban environments around the world, and heavy rainfalls – including those from tropical storms or hurricanes – would become more commonplace,” according to the Ohio State news release.

“The researchers found that protecting existing forests is cheaper than planting new ones, and that forest management, including changing how and when trees are harvested, provides low-cost options to store carbon in regions where timber management is an important economic activity.”

Brent Sohngen, co-author of the study and a professor of environmental economics at the school, said: “What we see is that you should devote about a third of your effort to this stuff and two-thirds to the other stuff – to reducing coal, to investing in solar, to switching to electric,” Sohngen said. “If you want your total mitigation to be as cheap as possible, that’s what you would do.”

Early hurricanes play role in making later storms stronger; tropics turn quiet

Hurricane Laura became the first major hurricane of the 2020 season on August 26 as it neared the northern Gulf Coast. (Image credit: NOAA)

A “marine heat wave” likely contributed to the rapid intensification of hurricanes Laura and Sally before they slammed ashore in August and September as Category 4 and 2 storms. The same is true with Category 5 Hurricane Michael in 2018.

That’s the conclusion of a new study by researchers at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. They believe that the storms, which hit Louisiana and
Alabama, respectively, were aided in their intensification by previous storms (this year’s Hanna and Marco) that pulled cooler water from the depths. Once that water rewarms at the surface, that area is “primed” for a rapid intensification event, researchers say.

“This work shows that understanding the preceding weather conditions in a region where a storm is going to make landfall can improve interpretation of hurricane model forecasts and what the storm is likely to do prior to landfall,” said Brian Dzwonkowski, a physical oceanographer with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Associate Professor at the University of South Alabama in the Department of Marine Sciences.

Dzwonkowski and his team collected heat data from a a mooring site off Dauphin Island’s coastline. They found that the period prior to the landfall of Hurricane Michael turned out to be the warmest ocean conditions during this time period in the 13-year record.

“Turns out hurricanes and atmospheric heatwaves will be getting stronger in a warming world which would indicate the identified sequence of events that generate these extreme conditions may become more frequent,” he said.

“The occurrence of extreme heat content events, like marine heatwaves has significant implications for a broad range of scientific management interests beyond hurricane intensity.”

Mechanisms that generated these marine heat waves are forecast to become more common and intense due to climate change.


RAINFALL REPORT: Thursday’s heaviest rains fell in Miami-Dade County. A CoCoRaHS observer in Aventura, northeastern Miami-Dade County, reported 3.56 inches. An an observer near Homestead reported 2.53 inches.

This weekend’s rain event is still on track, with a warm front cruising up the peninsula from Cuba, but October may have a cooler and drier start, according to the Climate Prediction Center.

TROPICS WATCH: Outside of the remnants of Beta in the southeastern U.S., there are no tropical systems on the National Hurricane Center’s Tropical Weather Outlook map. Forecast models are suggesting that a quiet period is coming up.

HAVEN’T SEEN THIS IN A WHILE: The Tropical Weather Outlook map Friday afternoon was clear for the first time since we entered the peak of the hurricane season back in August. (Image credit: NHC)

Heavy rain swamps Tampa area; concern shifts to Miami as work week begins


(Image credit: NHC)

PM TROPICS WATCH: The National Hurricane Center began watching an area of interest off the coast of northeast Florida on Monday afternoon, giving it a 10 percent chance of developing over the next day or two. “Although environmental conditions are forecast to be unfavorable for any significant development, this system could briefly acquire some subtropical characteristics before it moves inland Tuesday afternoon or evening,” the NHC said at 2 p.m.


Monday SFL forecast

Highest rain chances Monday are in the southeastern corner of the peninsula. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

The Tampa area was hit with more than 3 inches of rain Sunday through early Monday morning, the citizen observation network CoCoRaHS reported. An observer in the Kissimmee area of Osceola County reported 1.93 inches.

Officially, Tampa reported 1.46 inches to the National Weather Service on Sunday, with a four-day total of 2.18 inches. Tampa has measured 6.32 inches of rain so far this month, which is 3.86 inches above normal for the first half of June.

On the East Coast, Miami had 0.17 of an inch Sunday for a monthly total of 3.96 inches. That’s about a third of an inch below normal for the first half of June.

However, thunderstorms and potentially heavy rain are in the forecast for Miami-Dade and Broward counties today, the National Weather Service said. Drier air, meanwhile, is filtering into northern and central parts of the state, where sunny and dry conditions are most likely.


May temp record

(Image credit: NOAA/ NCEI)

RECORD WATCH: May temperatures worldwide tied May 2016 as the warmest in the 141-year record, NOAA said Friday.

In a separate analysis, NASA put last month ahead of May 2016 by 0.06 C, making it the warmest on record.

The 10 warmest Mays have all occurred since 1998, the National Centers for Environmental Information said, and last month represented the 425th month in a row in which global temps were at least nominally above the 20th century average.

“Warmer-than-average temperatures were present across much of the globe during May 2020, with the most notable temperatures departures across parts of northern and southeastern Asia, northern Africa, Alaska, the southwest contiguous U.S., and the northern Pacific Ocean, where temperatures were 1.5°C (2.7°F) above the 1981–2010 average or higher,” the agency reported.

The eastern U.S. was unseasonably cool in May, although Florida was the exception. We should find out exactly where the state ranked this week.

Global land temperatures were the highest on record, while ocean temperatures were near-record warm but fell short of 2016.

Spring (March 1 to May 31) were the second warmest on record behind spring 2016, and the year-to-date global temperatures were second warmest behind 2016.

More than 5 inches of rain swamps North Florida; tropical islands battle sea level rise

NEFL rainfall

Another 1.5 inches or more could slam North Florida this weekend and into Monday, forecasters at the National Weather Service in Jacksonville said. (Image credit: NWS-Jacksonville)

RAINFALL REPORT: A stalled front over North Florida brought yet another round of flooding rainfall Friday, with parts of Marion County in the North-Central peninsula picking up more than 5 inches.

The Gainesville area reported as much as 5 inches over a 24-hour period through Saturday morning. Officially, Gainesville reported 3.13 inches to the National Weather Service in Jacksonville.

In Baker County, west of Jacksonville, observers for CoCoRaHS checked in with more than 4 inches. Jacksonville itself reported 1.93 inches.

An area from around Ocala northeast to Jacksonville was under a Flood Watch until 10 p.m. Saturday, the National Weather Service said.


ISLANDS FIGHT BACK: Coral reef islands may be able to rebuild themselves in the face of sea level rise, a new British study concludes.

In a natural process, wave action takes sediment off the beaches and deposits the sediment on the interior of the island, researchers at the University of Plymouth in the UK. That could increase habitability of those islands.

“It is important to realize that these coral reef islands have developed over hundreds to thousands of years as a result of energetic wave conditions removing material from the reef structure and depositing the material towards the back of reef platforms, thereby creating islands,” said lead researcher Gerd Masselink, Professor of Coastal Geomorphology at Plymouth.

“The height of their surface is actually determined by the most energetic wave conditions, therefore overtopping, flooding and island inundation are necessary, albeit inconvenient and sometime hazardous, processes required for island maintenance.”

The crest of the island rises as the sea level rises, but inundation is necessary to deposit the sediment, so any occupation of the island still requires “flood proof” housing.

Coral islands occur in tropical and subtropical climates among coral reefs. Most of the world’s coral reef islands are in the Pacific Ocean.

Florida braces for up to 6 inches of rain as tropical wave eyes peninsula

Excessive rainfall

(Image credit: NOAA/ WPC)

The holiday weekend is set to end with a bang across South and Central Florida as “a vigorous tropical wave” combines with other factors to soak the peninsula with up to 6 inches of rain, the National Weather Service says.

Southern counties — including Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Collier — were under a Flood Watch already on Sunday morning, as heavy rain was driving up from the Keys.

“The amount of moisture potentially coming into the area is astounding,” National Weather Service forecasters in Melbourne said in their Sunday morning discussion. “Deep-layer south/southeast flow [is advecting] tropical moisture over much of the peninsula.”

Forecast models are showing moisture in the atmosphere on Monday that would be in “record territory” for this time of the year, forecasters said.

NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center has extreme southern Florida under a “Slight Risk” for excessive rainfall and flooding on Sunday, and the watch could be extended north on Monday as the WPC extends the Excessive Rainfall warning north of Lake Okeechobee and into the Treasure Coast.

Here are the rainfall amounts forecast through early Tuesday morning by the NWS offices in Miami and Melbourne:

SFL rainfall

(Image credits: NWS-Miami, above; NWS-Melbourne, below)

ECFL rainfall

Once this system moves out, the peninsula is expected to settle back into a summer pattern with hot temperatures and a chance of afternoon showers and thunderstorms.

TROPICS WATCH: The GFS forecast model continues to insist on development in the Caribbean the first week in June. It’s suspect, since the GFS has been infamous for indicating storms in the two-week time frame that keep getting pushed back and eventually dropped. And since the GFS goes out 16 days and other models only go out 10, there’s no corroboration.

Sunday morning’s model run takes the system from the northwestern Caribbean into the Gulf of Mexico and then across the Florida peninsula into the Atlantic the first weekend of June.

Tropical development June

(Image credit: NOAA/ NHC)

As you can see from the climatology map above, the western Caribbean and eastern Gulf of Mexico are hot spots for tropical development early in the season. But we’ll have to see as the new week unfolds whether some other models begin picking up on this idea or if it’s just another GFS false alarm.

By the way, speaking of tropical storms, here’s a cheery story from the University of Wisconsin about how hurricanes around the planet are getting stronger due to global warming.

“In almost every region of the world where hurricanes form, their maximum sustained winds are getting stronger,” the university said in a news release posted last week.

Storms are also slowing down and have more of a tendency to stall, researchers note. As examples, see hurricanes Harvey (stalled over Texas), Florence (North Carolina), and last year’s Dorian, which stalled over the northwestern Bahamas.