Monday cold snap will be short-lived, forecasters say

long range forecast

(Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

The polar vortex is coming! The polar vortex is coming!

So says The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang, which published a story Tuesday about an upcoming “severe and punishing winter weather pattern” that will likely result in snow and bitter cold for the eastern U.S. starting as early as next week and continuing into the middle of February.

Meteorologists are saying that the vortex “broke apart” around the first of the year, and that tends to send temperatures tumbling in the lower latitudes as the atmospheric flow adjusts.

The first blast of Arctic air is due to hit the Southeastern U.S. on Sunday and Monday, and some freezing temperatures are possible in North Florida and even on the Nature Coast north of Tampa.

However, National Weather Service forecasters said Wednesday that the cold snap will be “short-lived,” since the high pressure system responsible for the frigid outbreak will move quickly to the east, pulling mild air off the Atlantic and moderating temperatures around the Florida peninsula by Tuesday.

The upcoming weekend looks seasonably warm, ditto for the final weekend of the month, and it remains to be seen how cold temps will get in Florida after the next front rolls through after that.

Wednesday morning temperatures were nippy, but generally less than 10 degrees below normal. Apparent lows: West Palm Beach and Naples, 48; Miami, 53; Fort Lauderale, 51; 60 in Key West but in the 50s in the Middle and Upper Keys.

It was in the low 50s in Miami-Dade County; mid-40s on the southwest coast; low- to mid-40s in Central Florida; and 30s in North Florida and the panhandle.

Highs Saturday should be in the upper 70s in South Florida, the mid-70s in Central Florida and the low- to mid-70s in North Florida, forecasters said.

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SPACE: THE FINAL (WINE MAKING) FRONTIER: The country of Georgia, which lays claim to being the oldest wine making region on Earth, is making plans to open up shop on another planet — Mars. Scientists are trying to figure out which grapes would grow best in a controlled environment that would still involve harsh weather conditions and radiation bombardment.

The goal is to have a wine making system in place if SpaceX founder Elon Musk follows through on a plan to undertake a manned mission to the planet in 2024.

The early conclusion is that white wine would work best on Mars. “Whites tend to be more resistant to viruses,” Levan Ujmajuridze, director of Georgia’s vineyard Laboratory, told The Washington Post. “So, I’d imagine they’ll do well against radiation, too. Their skin could reflect it.”

Which means that the first Martian settlers will have to live on chicken and fish in order to avoid committing a dining faux pas.

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Holiday weekend cold front will be ‘particularly intense,’ forecasters say

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TANGLED UP IN BLUE: Most of the nation, from the Rocky Mountain States to the East Coast, is forecast to get socked by the winter’s coldest temperatures this weekend. (Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

The upcoming holiday weekend will be capped off by some of the coldest air of the season in Florida, according to the National Weather Service and commercial forecasting services.

Monday morning lows could plunge into the 20s in North Florida, with freezing temperatures possible on the Nature Coast and inland Central Florida, forecasters said, and even coastal areas of South Florida will likely see early morning lows in the 40s.

The worst of the cold-snap looks short-lived, but another blast of Arctic air may be on the horizon for the last weekend of the month and the beginning of February.

This is the scenario that the long-range forecast models have been predicting for the last 10 days or so, and forecasters note that the outlooks will be further refined as we close in on the weekend.

While Florida gets a shot of no-fooling-around winter weather, the Upper Midwest will be in the deep freeze, with below zero temperatures in the forecast for the northern Plains States, and even the Great Lakes States.

Here are the Tuesday morning forecast discussions from the National Weather Service concerning Sunday’s cold front around Florida:

Miami: “Colder temperatures and a dry air mass arrive behind the front as a strong high pressure builds over the eastern half of the US. How low temperatures drop will become more clear as we approach next week.”

Melbourne: Maximum temperatures expected on Sunday have been trending down, with lows below 40 for northern areas of East-Central Florida lower- to mid-40s farther south, “with low wind chill readings likely throughout.”

Tampa: “… will need to monitor model temperature trends closely in the coming days, but if current model solutions hold then some near freezing temperatures will be possible across portions of the Nature Coast by early Monday morning and again Tuesday morning with some upper 30 degree readings extending south into central interior zones, so stay tuned to later forecasts.”

Jacksonville: “This cold front seems to be particularly intense, with temperatures dropping down to freezing levels on Monday, with apparent temperatures dropping down into the 20s due to winds 10 to 15 mph and gusty blowing through the forecast area early Monday morning.”

The National Weather Service is predicting Sunday night/ Monday morning lows around 50 on South Florida’s East Coast, but Weather Underground forecast temperatures are about 5 degrees colder, not only in South Florida but across the peninsula. Ditto for AccuWeather.

Weather Underground forecast temps for Monday: Orlando: low 35, high 51; Jacksonville and Gainesville, 27 and 47; Lake City, 26 and 46; Tampa, 36 and 52; Miami, 47 and 63; West Palm Beach, 43 and 55; and Key West, 57 and 63.

lightning awareness

SEVERE WEATHER AWARENESS WEEK: Monday’s posts by the National Weather Service discussed lightning hazards Florida, and Tuesday’s looks marine hazards, including rip currents. (Image credits: NWS-Key West, above; NWS-Melbourne, below)

marine hazards day

2018 takes its final bow in Florida with starry skies and mild temps

Three words cover the forecast for New Year’s Eve in Florida: Nice, nice and nice! (Image credits: NWS-Key West; NWS-Miami; NWS-Melbourne)

Unless you’re headed out to a black-tie event for New Year’s Eve, here is the appropriate gear for your midnight celebration: Shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops. You’ll be able to say goodbye to 2018 with near-perfect weather conditions around the peninsula.

The National Weather Service in Miami: “As South Florida rings in the new year tonight, temperatures around midnight will be in the upper 60s across the Lake Okeechobee region to the low 70s over the Gulf coast and mid 70s for the east coast metro. Skies will be mostly clear over the Gulf Coast and interior, with a few clouds over the east coast metro with a southeasterly breeze.”

The Keys: “Spectacular weather expected for your New Year’s celebrations in the Florida Keys. Partly cloudy skies tonight with lows in the mid 70s. Mostly sunny with a slight chance of showers for New Year’s Day. Highs in the lower 80s. Happy New Year!”

Central Florida: Midnight temperatures will be right around 70 from Orlando and Daytona Beach down to Stuart and the Lake Okeechobee area, according to the National Weather Service in Melbourne. “Warmer than average temperatures and no rainfall expected for the first several days of the new year before the next cold front moves through at the end of the week.”

Tampa: Partly cloudy, temperatures around 65. Jacksonville will be mostly cloudy with a low around 62.

Elsewhere around the U.S., revelers won’t be quite as lucky.

  • Chicago: Drizzle with temperatures around 32.
  • Denver: A low around 2 degrees after 3 inches of snow.
  • Los Angeles: Temps around 42 with gusty winds.
  • Cleveland: Temperatures around 37 with gusty winds of up to 48 mph.
  • Boston: Rain with temperatures around 35.
  • New York: Heavy rain with rising temperatures reading into the mid-50s by morning.

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RECORD WATCH: Sunday’s high in Key West was 83, which tied a record for December 30. The record was previously set in 1951, 1953 and 2015.

It was the eighth warm temperature record set or tied at Key West this month. Key West is ending the month 3.8 degrees above normal for December, after finishing November 4.0 degrees above average, the third-warmest November on record. Key West also had its warmest meteorological fall — September through November — on record.

Orlando broke a record warm low temperature Sunday with 69. The previous record was 67 set in 2007.

Longer-range, temperatures should be closer to normal for the first weekend of 2019, the National Weather Service says. The GFS shows temps fairly close to average through the middle of the month.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for above normal temperatures throughout the entire U.S. — with the exception of New England and the Mid-Atlantic States — through January 13.

NOAA should issue an updated complete January forecast later in the day.

Florida temps are nation’s warmest; 90s reported in Collier County

Dense Fog Advisory Sunday

Dense fog covered most of the Florida peninsula on Sunday morning. It lifted around 9 a.m. and another unusually warm day began. (Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

Florida was the nation’s hot spot on Saturday, with Fort Myers and Marathon reporting highs of 87, the warmest anywhere in the U.S., according to NOAA.

Saturday’s coldest weather was in Gunnison, Colorado, where it was – 20 degrees.

There were some warmer unofficial temperatures in Florida. Immokalee in inland Collier County reached 90, and a weather station at Big Cypress National Preserve, also in Collier County, checked in with 92 degrees.

There were numerous upper 80s south and west of Lake Okeechobee.

The National Weather Service in Melbourne said highs in Vero Beach and Fort Pierce reached 85, which tied records in both cities.

The warm weather is expected to continue through Thursday, when a cold front is forecast to approach the state. Next weekend’s temperatures should be closer to normal for this time of the year, the National Weather Service says.

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Tampa rainfall December
(Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

RAINFALL REPORT: Tallahassee reported another 0.14 of an inch Saturday following a 1.71-inch deluge on Friday. Friday’s heavy rain was the seventh of the month in excess of 1 inch.

Tallahassee has had two rain events in December over 3 inches. The city currently has a December rainfall total of 15.77 inches — 12.12 inches over normal.

Apalachicola has racked up 12.08 inches, 8.99 inches over average. Panama City has had almost 12 inches in December.

Rain was scant to non-existent over most of Florida on Saturday, but a CoCoRaHS observer in Panama City Beach reported 2.83 inches.

To the west in Okaloosa County, an observer in Niceville reported 2.34 inches.

Tampa is on track for the third-wettest December on record (see graph above).  Through Saturday, the city has had 8.69 inches of rain. Much of Florida’s East Coast, meanwhile, is in Moderate Drought.

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SKY SHOW: Nature has scheduled an astronomical extravaganza in January, and the media is out doing itself this time with another superlative handle: “Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse.”

This one will have all of the worth staying up late to see — a full moon at perigee, which is the closest the moon ever gets to Earth, and a total lunar eclipse, which will be visible in North and South America at 12:12 a.m. EST on January 21. It’s called a “Wolf Moon” because that’s what the full moon is called in January.

It’s called a blood moon because during a lunar eclipse, the moon takes on a reddish glow.

The year will also feature a total solar eclipse on July 2, but it will only be visible from parts of South America and the Pacific.

Sarasota, Vero Beach notch record highs to kick off holiday weekend

Six warm temperature records were set or tied Friday as Florida’s summer-style holiday weekend began.

Sarasota-Bradenton hit 85 degrees, which set a new record high for December 28. The previous record was 84 set in 2015.

On the other side of the peninsula, Vero Beach tied a record high with 84, matching the mark set in 2015.

Four cities set record warm low temperatures:

  • Friday’s low was 71 in Daytona Beach, which obliterated the old record warm low for the date of 66 set in 2015.
  • Orlando International Airport broke a record warm low with 70, beating the previous mark of 69 set in 2015.
  • Sanford set a new record warm low with 68, which beat the old record of 67 set in 2015.
  • Gainesville also set a new record warm low with 67, beating the 2015 record of 66 degrees.

The unusually warm weather was forecast to continue into late next week, according to the National Weather Service, when a cold front approaches the state. “This will bring increased rain chances to the area and some relief from the warmer temperatures,” forecasters in Miami said Saturday.

However, forecast temps in South Florida are still expected to be in the 70s.

WK34temp

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

The crystal ball gets a little blurry long-term. NOAA’s new three- to four-week forecast, issued Friday, indicates below normal temperatures in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River through January 25 — including all of Florida.

At the same time, NOAA’s January forecast released a week earlier showed that while much of the U.S. Southeast would be below normal, temperatures would remain above normal in South Florida.

If we’re going to get some cold temperatures in Florida, mid-January to early-February is a likely time. Miami has seen lows in the upper 20s during that time period, although those January records were set back in 1940 and the February 3 low of 27 — the coldest temperature ever recorded in Miami — occurred in 1917.

Looking at the list of record lows in Miami over the 59-day period from January 1 to February 28, only five record lows were recorded in this century, and only one in February.

Only 12 record lows were recorded in January after 1950 and 11 in February.

On the other side of the ledger, 17 record warm lows were set in January after 1950; 24 were set in February.

Florida ready to power up the AC; shutdown impacts extend to edge of the solar system

CFL highs

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

West Palm Beach recorded a wind gust of 39 mph Thursday — and Palm Beach reported a gust of 37 mph — while parts of Palm Beach County were socked with more than a half-inch of rain by storms that blew in off the Atlantic.

The heaviest rains remained well north of the state — parts of Georgia picked up more than 4 inches, according to CoCoRaHS.

Winds were forecast to wind down over the weekend as sunny and warm conditions take hold over most of Florida. You’ll likely be flipping the AC back on if you haven’t already — a South Florida Water Management District observation station near the Picayune Strand State Forest Campground east of Naples reported a high on Thursday of 87.

Highs are forecast to be well into the mid-80s in South Florida over the weekend; the low- to mid-80s in Central Florida; the low 80s in West-Central Florida and the mid- to upper-70s in North Florida. Even the panhandle is expected to be in the mid-70s through New Year’s Day.

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ANALYSIS, MR. SPOCK: There will be some fireworks on New Year’s Eve as 2019 dawns — astronomically speaking.

NASA’s New Horizons space craft will be flying past the most distant object in the known solar system: Minor planet number 485968, nicknamed Ultima Thule, a name it was given by the public that means “beyond the known world.” It is 4 billion miles from the sun and gets only about 0.05 percent of the light from the sun that the Earth receives.

Ultimate Thule is 24 miles wide, a little less than the distance from downtown Miami to Fort Lauderdale.

New Horizons will make its closest pass, at around 2200 miles, at 12:33 a.m. EST on New Year’s Day.

“On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, New Horizons will map Ultima, determine how many moons it has and find out if it has rings or even an atmosphere,” New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern tells Tony Phillips at Spaceweather.com.

“It will make other studies, too, such as measuring Ultima’s temperature and perhaps even its mass. In the space of one 72-hour period, Ultima will be transformed from a pinpoint of light — a dot in the distance — to a fully explored world. It should be breathtaking!”

Ultima Thule formed 4.6 billion years ago and is considered a “primitive planetary object,” which means it’s basically unchanged from when the solar system was formed. Phillips calls it “a time capsule, waiting to share its secrets about the genesis of Earth.” Craters are expected to give NASA a window into the composition of the mini-planet.

It’s interesting to note that the impacts of the government shutdown extend far beyond the U.S. to the very edge of the solar system.

The New Horizons website advises: “Should the federal government shutdown continue through New Horizons’ Ultima Thule flyby – and NASA TV, nasa.gov and other agency digital and social channels remain offline – the New Horizons mission will provide coverage of live mission activities on this website and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory YouTube channel.

Rain forecast for panhandle while peninsula enjoys warming temps

SFL forecast highs

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

The New Year’s weekend warm-up has begun in South and Central Florida, with highs running 3-5 degrees above normal — and overnight lows coming in more than 10 degrees above average for this time of the year.

From the Keys to Miami and up into Orlando and Tampa, highs are expected to top 80 through New Year’s Day with winds calming by the weekend under a dome of high pressure, the National Weather Service says.

It looks like forecast highs and lows may be short of record temps, however.

Panhandle rainfall

(Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

The situation is a little different in North Florida and the panhandle, where rain associated with a cold front is forecast to dump up to 2 inches of rain in the Central Panhandle with lighter amounts going down into the Big Bend area and Cross City, forecasters in Tallahassee said Thursday.

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DROUGHT UPDATE: Moderate Drought edged farther west into interior counties this week, according to the latest analysis by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Florida’s East Coast, from Brevard County south to southern Miami-Dade County remained under Moderate Drought, but the designation swallowed more inland areas west of Lake Okeechobee and to the north in Osecola County.

Last week’s rains didn’t quite make it into the areas where it’s much-needed. All of Mainland Monroe and most of Collier County remain Abnormally Dry.

Moderate precipitation kept most of the region free of dryness and drought, with the exception of southeastern Florida,” NOAA’s Richard Tinker said. “Three to locally over six inches of precipitation doused the northwestern tier of the D0-D1 areas, eliminating the former D0 areas from approximately Volusia southwestward to parts of Hardee and Polk Counties, but the rain cutoff sharply on its southeastern side, leaving the remaining D0 and most of last week’s D1 intact.”

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NASTY WEATHER NATIONWIDE: While Central and South Florida look forward to some late-December beach weather, the northern plains are getting whacked with a blizzard. Much of the eastern U.S. will be hit with rain this weekend, according to NOAA forecasts, although temperatures are forecast to warm into the 50s as far north as Albany, NY.

But a cooler-than-normal first half of January is in the forecast for most of the South and Eastern U.S., from the Mid-Atlantic States south to the Florida panhandle and west to Texas. Above normal precipitation is also in the forecast for those areas.