What’s all the fuss over the latest Florida front?

SFL 5 day forecast

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

Florida started the work week Monday with a cold front knocking on its back door.

The heralded “back-door” front was edging into the Melbourne area from the Atlantic early Monday morning, according to National Weather Service forecasters, with a few “spotty sprinkles” behind it and not much cool air.

Back-door front is a term you don’t hear too often, but it’s something that happens occasionally in the spring, the American Meteorological Society says.  The organization defines it as “A cold front that leads a cold air mass toward the south and southwest along the Atlantic seaboard of the United States.

“This is one of the occurrences to which New Englanders give the name sea turn, or the cold wind following a backdoor cold front blows from the northeast quadrant.”

In the case of Florida’s East Coast, the front should keep things a bit blustery for a day or so, and maybe deliver a much-needed shower. Winds blowing in off the water will knock highs back into the mid-70s and set up strong rip currents — and possibly some beach erosion — by midweek.

Warm temperatures are back in control for the end of the week, forecasters said.


Volunteers needed

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

HOW MUCH DID YOU GET? Rainfall amounts can be extremely localized, which is why the National Weather Service likes to line up as many precipitation observers as possible.  You can contribute to the data mix with a low-cost rain gauge and by signing up with the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS).

The organization calls this month’s sign-up drive “March Madness” (everybody’s got to get into the act). Florida NWS offices in Melbourne and Tampa are actively fishing for volunteers. A rain gauge costs around $31.  Here’s the sign-up page.



HAS SPRING FINALLY SPRUNG? It’s getting there. Most the nation, with the exception of the Northeast, the Upper Midwest and the Rocky Mountain States, are snow-free as we had into the final week of March. Mild air is expected to sweep into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast toward the end of the week, according to AccuWeather and the National Weather Service, finishing off the snow left by the recent storm. (Image credit: NOAA/ National Snow Analysis)


Ultra-dry Florida weather likely to continue well into April, NOAA says


NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for more abnormally low rainfall in Florida through most of April, which would aggravate already worsening drought conditions. This long-range forecast was issued Friday. (Credit: NOAA/ CPC)

Skimpy rainfall totals around the Florida peninsula this cold weather season are already taking a toll, with wildfires springing up from north to south — and the rainy season is still about eight weeks away.

Miami is more than 2 inches behind on precipitation in March — 5.89 inches since December 1.

Tampa, where only about a quarter of an inch has fallen this month, is running just shy of normal for the four-month period thanks to some heavy rain that fell in January. But Fort Myers will be carrying a deficit of more than 4 inches into April.

Orlando has had a 6.56-inch rainfall deficit since December 1.

Jacksonville is doing a bit better with a rainfall shortage of 2.76 inches over the past four months.

A “backdoor cold front” — one that sweeps in from the Atlantic side of the peninsula instead of the usual approach from the northwest — is forecast to bring a few showers to Florida’s East Coast, the National Weather Service said.

NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center is forecasting around a quarter of an inch in southeastern Florida through next week, with perhaps just a few sprinkles on the West Coast.

But it appears March will go out Saturday with hefty rainfall deficits everywhere, along with significantly cooler than normal temperatures.

Wildfire risk ‘Extreme’ in Southwest Florida; forecasters see warm start to April

(Image credit: Florida Fire Service)

Wildfire danger remained high Saturday in most counties throughout the Florida peninsula, and conditions were “Extreme” in four counties in Southwest Florida and Central Florida.

Relative humidity dipped as low as 20 percent Friday in Miami; 22 percent in Orlando and Tampa. Very dry conditions across most of the state — and developing drought in parts of South and Central Florida — combined to increase the risk of wildfires.

Below, A GOES East satellite image showed smoke plumes extending from western Collier County out to the Dry Tortugas. The satellite (bottom image) also picked up hot spots from the fires. National Weather Service forecasters in Tampa called it, “An example of how new satellite technology is helping the NWS quickly detect and track developing wildfires.”

Wildfires satellite

(Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)


10 day outlook

APRIL SNEAK PEEK: After a much-below normal March in Florida, a warmer start to April is taking shape, according to long-range forecasts. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)


HOT CLIMATE TOPIC: Arctic sea ice reached its annual maximum extent last weekend — but it was the second-lowest ice coverage on record, NASA reported Friday.

The lowest coverage on record was just last year, on March 7, 2017.

In addition, the four years with the skimpiest Arctic ice coverage were the last four — 2015-2018.

“The Arctic sea ice cover continues to be in a decreasing trend and this is connected to the ongoing warming of the Arctic,” said Claire Parkinson, senior climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“It’s a two-way street: the warming means less ice is going to form and more ice is going to melt, but also, because there’s less ice, less of the sun’s incident solar radiation is reflected off, and this contributes to the warming.”

It was a relatively warm winter in the Arctic — again — with temperatures up to 40 degrees above average, NASA said. For a few notable days in February — the heart of winter — temperatures at the North Pole were above freezing.

Now, researchers will be watching to see what happens when the annual minimum ice coverage occurs, usually in September.

“A lot will depend on what the wind and temperature conditions will be in the spring and summer,” Parkinson said.

Weekend warm-up ahead after lows in 30s; NHC names new director

Kenneth Graham, meteorologist-in-charge of the National Weather Service’s New Orleans/Baton Rouge office since 2008, was named director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami on Thursday.

He’ll take over the job on April 1.

PHOTO - Kenneth Graham - 350x475
Kenneth Graham (Credit: NOAA/ NHC)

Graham replaces Rick Knabb, who left the agency in May 2017. Ed Rappaport had been serving as acting director and will resume his duties as the center’s deputy director.

“It’s an honor and privilege to be selected to work alongside the talented and dedicated employees of the National Hurricane Center,” Graham said. “This is an exciting time to work for the National Weather Service, and I look forward to the important work ahead in an effort to keep our communities safe from the various threats posed by hurricanes.”

Graham has a bachelor’s degree in atmospheric science from the University of Arizona and a master’s in geoscience from Mississippi State.

The 2018 hurricane season starts June 1, and the first round of pre-season outlooks will be issued early next month. Colorado State University’s forecast will be released April 5. The official NOAA forecast comes out at the end of May.


BACK TO THE BEACH: A weekend warm-up is in the forecast for the Florida peninsula after another chilly March morning on Friday. Highs could be close to 80 by Sunday, forecasters said.

Friday lows were in the 30s as far south as Immokalee in inland Collier County. It was 36 in Palmdale, west of Lake Okeechobee in Glades County.

Other apparent (not necessarily official) lows: West Palm Beach, 48; Naples, 50; Miami, 54; Fort Lauderdale, 51; Fort Pierce, 44; Vero Beach, 46; Melbourne, 44; Orlando, 47; Daytona Beach, 45; Tampa, 49; Fort Myers, 48; Ocala, 35; Palatka, 32; and Jacksonville, 46.


PLASTIC PERIL IN THE PACIFIC: An area three times the size of France in the Pacific Ocean located halfway between Hawaii and California contains 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic waste weighing 80,000 tons — up to 16 times more plastic than previously thought. The new figures were reported in a Scientific Reports article by a group of scientists from Ocean Cleanup, a team of more than 70 engineers, researchers, and computer experts based in Amsterdam and San Francisco.

“We were surprised by the amount of large plastic objects we encountered”, said Julia Reisser, Chief Scientist of the expeditions sent to analyze what has become known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). “We used to think most of the debris consists of small fragments, but this new analysis shines a new light on the scope of the debris.”

The amount of debris is growing rapidly, according to the study released Thursday.

Boyan Slat, Founder of The Ocean Cleanup and co-author of the study, says the goal is to develop and test cleanup technology. “Since the results indicate that the amount of hazardous microplastics is set to increase more than tenfold if left to fragment, the time to start is now,” he said.

South Florida cities reach temperature milestones

West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale notched their first 90-degree highs of 2018 on Tuesday, and Miami tied a record high with 89 degrees. Hours later, cool and dry air from the latest March cold front began filtering into the Florida peninsula.

The West Palm Beach high was 2 degrees shy of the record high set in 1965; the Fort Lauderdale high was shy by a single degree.

Last year, Miami had its first 90-degree high on April 6; Fort Lauderale, May 13; and West Palm Beach, May 11. Naples had its first 90-degree high on April 30.

Despite the early temperature milestones, all three major reporting sites in southeastern Florida remain 2-3 degrees below normal this year for March. The temperature deficit is sure to grow over the next several days with wintry lows near 50 in the forecast.

Lows are expected to drop into the low 40s in inland South Florida by Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

Storm reports

(Image credit: NOAA/ SPC)

STORM REPORT: No tornadoes were reported with Tuesday’s storm system in Florida, but a few sites in North-Central Florida and Northeast Florida reported hail, according to the Storm Prediction Center. High winds were also reported in Central Florida.

RAINFALL REPORT: The line of convection that looked so impressive rolling down the peninsula on Tuesday ran out of steam as it approached Lake Okeechobee. Most South Florida locations received only a trace of precipitation, although Naples officially picked up 0.18 of an inch and Marco Island reported 0.86 of an inch.

Precipitation was more robust in East-Central Florida. Fort Pierce had 1.10 inches; Vero Beach reported a quarter of an inch and Orlando checked in with 0.37 of an inch. Daytona Beach measured 0.77 of an inch.

On the West Coast, Tampa had 0.12 of an inch and Fort Myers reported 0.02 of an inch.

Observers for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) reported up to an inch-and-a-half in parts of southern Hillsborough County, and a little over an inch in Sarasota County.


SFL 5 day forecast

WEEKEND WARM-UP: Early morning temps in West Palm Beach and Naples could slide into the 40s on Friday, but a pleasant weekend is in the forecast. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)


Tallahassee, Gainesville smash rainfall records as storms sweep into state

Parts of North Florida were smacked with more than 4 inches of rain on Monday as a disturbance moved across the area, a preview of things to come for the entire state as another strong cold front barrels toward the peninsula.

Monday’s heftiest totals were in the Tallahassee and Gainesville areas. Tallahassee busted a 67-year-old record for the most rain for the date with 4.21 inches, beating the previous mark of 4.09 inches set in 1951.

Officially, Gainesville measured 2.03 inches of rain, also a record for the date. The previous record was 1.77 inches set in 2001.

But a Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRHaHS) observer south of the city reported 4.43 inches, and another northwest of the city reported 4.4 inches. To the south, Central Marion County reported 2.98 inches and Levy County, to the west, checked in with 3.69 inches.

Inland areas of Volusia County, on the East Coast, reported between 2-3 inches.


Florida and much of the southeast coast were under the threat of strong storms on Tuesday. (Credit: NOAA/ SPC)

More rain and thunderstorms — some potentially severe — were setting up for Tuesday and Tuesday night before the bulk of the cold air arrives on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center shows the heaviest rain falling from the Nature Coast east to Daytona Beach, and the Tampa area inland to around Orlando.


Feb global temps

The Southeastern U.S. had record warm temperatures in February, with unusually warm temperatures in the Middle East, but cooler-than-average weather in Europe. (Credit: NOAA/ NCEI)

GLOBAL TEMPERATURE CHECK: Florida and four other southeastern states — Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina — had their warmest February on record, but worldwide it was the 11th-warmest February since record keeping began in 1880, the National Centers for Environmental Information reported Monday

Temperatures were above average in South America, Australia and parts of the Middle East, but it was the coolest February in Europe since 2012. Spain had its coolest February since 1965.

The U.S. had its wettest February since 1998, and parts of New Zealand had triple their average February rainfall.

Arctic sea ice was 8.8 percent below the 1981-2010 average; while Antarctic sea ice was 25.4 percent below the 1981-2010 average.

Lows in 40s forecast by end of week; Irma goes under the microscope

Severe storm potential

(Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

Consider it an Alice-In-Wonderland forecast: Today is the last full day of winter and it will feel like spring. The first full day of spring is Wednesday and it will feel like winter.

March continues to stutter-step its way across the calendar, with winter-style cold fronts bringing a January chill, alternating with temperature rebounds that remind everyone that the warm weather season is just around the corner — no matter what.

Melbourne tied a record low Friday with 39, matching the mark set just a year ago. It was 33 in Vero Beach, breaking the old record of 35 set in 1988. Fort Pierce’s low of 34 on Friday tied a record set in 1988.

But by Sunday, Melbourne’s high temperature had jumped to 88 degrees.

NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center puts North Florida at an Enhanced risk for severe storms on Tuesday, with a Slight risk in Central Florida and a Marginal risk for areas north of Lake Okeechobee. The SPC is calling for a risk of thunderstorms in South Florida.

Post-cold front, the coolest mornings in South Florida will be Thursday and Friday, according to the National Weather Service, with temperatures bottoming out in the 40s and 50s before bouncing back to closer to normal for the weekend.

Forecast lows are in the upper 40s Friday in Tampa and Orlando; 40 in Gainesville and 42 in Jacksonville.



Hurricane Irma approaches the northern coast of Cuba on September 8. (Credit: NOAA-NASA GOES-16 satellite via Wikimedia Commons)

IRMA UNVEILED: The Hurricane Irma Tropical Cyclone Report, released recently by the National Hurricane Center, shows just how lucky Florida was, even though the Lower Keys were hit hard and Marco Island suffered a big wallop as well.

The storm clipped Cuba’s northern coast on September 9 and plowed through barrier islands at Category 5 strength, the first time Cuba has been slammed with a Category 5 hurricane since 1932.

Just a day or two earlier, the NHC was predicting that Irma would miss the Cuban coast and make its northward turn near Florida’s East Coast, perhaps ramming up through Key Largo and then up the peninsula, just west of the coast. Had that happened, it would have been “a transformative event” for South Florida, as Weather Underground’s Jeff Masters told me in an interview last fall.

Instead, the NHC report notes: “Irma tracked along the Cuban Keys throughout that day, and its interaction with land caused it to weaken significantly, first to a Category 4 storm a few hours after landfall in the Cuban Keys and then down to a Category 2.”

When it made its turn to the northwest, toward the Florida Keys, it did restrengthen and clobbered Cudjoe Key with 132 mph sustained winds as a Category 4 hurricane.

The NHC picks it up: “The convective pattern of the hurricane then became more ragged, likely due to increasing southwesterly vertical wind shear, and in response, Irma weakened to a Category 3 hurricane [on September 10]. Irma made its final landfall near Marco Island … with estimated maximum winds of 100 kt and minimum pressure of 936 mb. Once inland over southwestern Florida, Irma weakened quickly, due to the influences of land and strong wind shear ….”

The key event for Florida was that on September 8, after hammering Little Inagua Island in the Bahamas Irma “turned slightly to the left, due to a building subtropical ridge ….”

That’s what drove it into Cuba and spared the Florida peninsula from the worst of it.