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.
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.
Winds turn northeast today and bring in warmer air off the Atlantic. In fact, from Tuesday night through Friday night, forecast lows for South Florida’s East Coast are in the 70s, a far cry from the Christmas cold snap.
A cold front is due to roll down the Florida peninsula Friday night into Saturday, but the National Weather Service says it won’t be packing much of a punch by the time it arrives in South Florida.
RECORD WATCH: Saturday’s high in Naples was only 60 degrees, which set a record for the coolest high for December 26. The previous record was 61, set in 1993.
Winds should swing around to the north-northeast or northeast later today, signaling the end of the surprisingly persistent cold snap.
Three day forecast highs (Thursday through Saturday): Miami, 70, 75 and 77; Orlando, 71, 72 and 77; Tampa, 72, 72 and 76; Jacksonville, 69, 70 and 73; Tallahassee, 70, 70 and 72.
Thursday morning apparent lows: Miami, 48 (the first sub-50-degree temperature in Miami since February 4 and the coldest temperature in the city since January 22); Orlando, 42; Tampa, 49; Jacksonville, 40; Tallahassee, 35.
RECORD WATCH: Vero Beach and Fort Pierce both tied record lows on Wednesday. It was 38 in Vero Beach, tying a record set in 1984; and it was 37 in Fort Pierce, tying a record also set in 1984.
Next week’s forecast is for more seasonal temperatures, but the National Weather Service in Miami said there’s more than the usual amount of uncertainty, with forecast models at odds. The longer-term GFS model is still showing some toastier temps for Christmas week.
Weather news in a nutshell: One more day of cold temps and then a warming trend starts Thursday. Also, forecast models suggest more seasonal temperatures next week and perhaps above normal temperatures for Christmas week. (Maybe even some nice beach weather.)
But back to the cold snap at hand.
The National Weather Service reported a Wednesday morning low of 51 in Miami; 47 in Fort Lauderdale; 44 in West Palm Beach; and 45 in Naples.
The apparent low was 40 in Orlando; 45 in Tampa; 29 in Jacksonville; and 31 in Tallahassee.
Weather Underground observers reported upper 50s to low 60s in Keys; upper 40s to low 50s in South Florida; upper 30s to low 40s in Central Florida; with 30s north of Orlando with some upper 20s in the Gainesville area.
It was 26 in Live Oak but around 40 in the Jacksonville area.
As I mentioned Tuesday, it’s been warmer in the northern Plains States this week than it has been in South Florida.
Tuesday’s high in Rapid City, South Dakota was 68, a record for the date, while the high in Miami was 64, which tied a record cool high for the date. The last time Miami had a high temperature that cool on December 8 was back in 1930.
Melbourne only made it to 61, which tied a record cool high last set in 1968. And in Fort Pierce the high was 62, a new record cool high. That beat the old record of 64 set in 2010.
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.”
SUNDAY UPDATE: The Central Florida panhandle was under a Level 2 “Slight” risk for severe storms on Sunday as a warm front works into the area behind the cold front that will deliver the coldest air of the season to the entire state.
Once the storms associated with the front are completely out of the way on Tuesday, lows should plunge everywhere with temps in the 40s as far south as interior South Florida.
However, NWS forecasters in Miami said the cold snap will be very short-lived around the lower half of the peninsula, since winds should swing around to the northeast, and then east, off the warm Atlantic, on Wednesday.
Nevertheless, North Florida is bracing for a potential freeze.
National Weather Service Tallahassee: “The coldest night since March 1, 2020 is in store Tuesday morning, with low temperatures forecast to range from the upper 20s in [southeast Alabama] to the low-mid 30s in the FL Big Bend. A freeze with temperatures of 24 to 32 degrees is increasingly likely outside of the SE FL Big Bend …”
“Based on the forecast low temperatures, a more widespread freeze compared to Tuesday morning is possible away from the gulf coast.”
It looks like another cold front is slated to impact the state next weekend, but it’s still unclear how much cold air will be behind it, and how much rain we might expect as it’s moving through.
TROPICS WATCH: The disturbance that was being followed by the National Hurricane Center south of Bermuda was yanked off the agency’s Tropical Weather Outlook map on Sunday.
That left just the system east of the Azures in the eastern Atlantic. The non-tropical low was moving south toward the Canary Islands, and forecasters said there was a 40 percent chance it could become a subtropical depression or storm over the next few days.
SATURDAY UPDATE: Strong thunderstorms are in the National Weather Service forecast for North and Central Florida on Monday, but it’s still unclear how much weather South Florida might get out of the system, which will accompany the strongest cold front of the season.
NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center has Central and North Florida under a “Marginal” risk for severe weather, including gusty winds, heavy rain and frequent lightning strikes.
RECORD WATCH: Several temperature records were tied or broken on Thanksgiving Day, according to the National Weather Service. Fort Lauderdale tied a record warm low with 75 degrees, matching a mark set in 2007.
In the panhandle, Tallahassee’s high of 83 tied a record set 93 years ago in 1927. And Apalachicola broke a record high with 81, beating the old record of 80 set in 1985.
TROPICS WATCH: Two disturbances in the Atlantic — one southwest of Bermuda and one northeast of the Azores — had a 30 percent chance of subtropical development over the next five days. For the first low, that’s down from 40 percent on Friday.
Folks with Fauci fatigue may have taken the SUV to grandma’s house, or hopped on a plane to enjoy a round of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and family infighting up close and personal. Others will be celebrating via the less traditional laptop, and perhaps watching a football game or two with piped-in artificial crowd noise.
In fact, many traditions will be on display for all to enjoy, including the fabulous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which takes place as usual in New York — although with an apocalyptic flavor, since no people will be on hand to watch it in person. Even Santa Clause will arrive, but he’ll be doing his ho-ho-hoing in a red and white hazmat suit.
OK, maybe not a full hazmat, but CNN says: “Participants will be required to wear masks and other personal protective equipment.”
Either way, a holiday to remember, right?
We’re looking at some fab weather for the festivities, too. Miami will be sunny and 82, with winds finally calming to a gentle 9-11 mph, a nice change for the entire Florida East Coast which has been battered by beach erosion and rip currents over the past week.
Orlando will also make it to 82 under sunny skies. Actually, the entire state will enjoy near-perfect holiday conditions. Ditto for much of the nation.
Atlanta: A few morning rain showers but then sunny and a high of 71.
Washington: Mostly cloudy with a high near 70.
New York is expecting rain, but at least participants won’t be cold with a foreast high in the city of 62.
Chicago will be mostly cloudy with a high of 47. That may sound chilly, but in Chicago that’s practically backyard barbecue weather.
St. Louis: Sunny by mid-day with a high of 54.
Houston: Partly sunny with a high of 76.
Denver: A high around 44 but with increasing clouds late in the day — and a chance of snow to really get folks in the holiday mood!
IT’S (ALMOST) A WRAP: A record-breaking 30 named storms formed this year, topping the previous record of 28 set in 2005. The season had the second-highest number of hurricanes on record. (Image credit: NOAA)
The 2020 hurricane season, which officially ends Monday, was the fifth consecutive above-normal season, and the 18th above normal season out of the past 26, NOAA said in its season-ending report released late Tuesday.
There were 30 named storms — one or two more could still add to the final total — during the 2020 season, with 13 hurricanes and six major hurricanes.
On Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center was still tracking the disturbance in the Central Atlantic, and gave it a 30 percent chance of becoming a subtropical system over the next five days as it drifts toward the south. It was no expected to impact the U.S.
Meteorological winter starts Tuesday, and right on schedule nature has scheduled a cold front that is expected to pack some wintry weather — at least winter Florida-style.
Considering that heat index readings were still in the 90s last week in parts of South Florida, this blast of unseaonably cold air is going to have people digging into their closets for sweaters and jackets.
The two main foreast models used to predict this kind of weather — NOAA’s GFS and the European (ECMWF) — are still a bit at odds when it comes to the timing of the cold front passage, and the temperatures on the other side of the front, according to forecasters.
National Weather Service, Miami: “… we can confidently say we will see a frontal passage early next week; however, there are a couple questions in play still…(1) how cold will the temps be behind the front, and (2) will there be strong to severe storms ahead of the boundary.”
NWS Melbourne: “A strong cold front is forecast to push across the area on Monday preceded by a band of showers/storms. Wind fields suggest a threat for strong to isolated severe storms as the convection pushes rapidly across the area … much cooler air will overspread the area with low temps Tue in the 50s, except 40s north of Orlando.”
NWS Tampa: “Showers and storms will be possible ahead of this front on Sunday and Sunday night, then a more organized squall line will likely push through the area on Monday, with favorable shear to allow for a few stronger storms. A much cooler and drier airmass will filter into the area behind the front, with lows Tuesday morning ranging from the upper 30s over the Nature Coast, to mid 50s over southwest Florida.”
NWS Jacksonville: “Strong cold air advection will occur behind the cold front as the surface low continues to deepen over the Great Lakes region. This will result in much cooler temperatures and windy conditions Monday and Tuesday with readings much below normal.”
NWS Tallahassee: “North of I-10 in outlying areas and normally colder areas could have lows near or at freezing [Tuesday and Wednesday] mornings.”