As the year and the decade draw to a close, the question is: What happened to winter?
December is the heart of the dry season on the Florida peninsula, and this month has been anything but. Precipitation patterns have been acting more like June, or September, with record rains first slamming the Fort Lauderdale area last weekend, and the Palm Beach area this weekend.
On Saturday, West Palm Beach picked up 2.23 inches of rain, a new record that easily washed away the old mark of 1.85 inches set 70 years ago on December 28, 1949.
All four major observation centers in South Florida — Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm and Naples — are all way ahead on rainfall for the month, and not just by a little. Average rainfall in September in Fort Lauderdale is 8.59 inches; the city already has racked up 9.71 inches for December.
Rainfall on the West Coast is running 2-4 inches above average for the month.
While the heavy rains that soaked parts of South Florida Saturday were expected to taper off on Sunday, more rain was forecast for the East-Central peninsula. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)
High temperatures haven’t been wildly out of whack due to the rain and cloud cover, but overall temps across Florida have nevertheless been above normal thanks to anomalously warm lows. This has extended well into Central Florida as well, with Orlando tying a record warm low on Saturday at 70 degrees. Fort Pierce set a record warm low Friday with 72.
Dew point temperatures have been hovering around the soupy 70 degree mark in Central Florida as well as South Florida.
That’s in Florida, but what about the rest of the country? Sunday’s forecast high in Chicago is 61. Rain and snow are set to close out the month, but by Thursday the forecast high is back up to 46.
(Image credit: NWS-Chicago)
National Weather Service forecasters in Chicago said in a special report: “What is Noteworthy About This? While 50s and even 60s certainly do happen in December, this prolonged duration was particularly noteworthy because it was accompanied with a great deal of sunshine and occurred late in the month (more rare) and overlapped the Christmas holiday.
“The weather pattern for several weeks had generally been a mild one. In fact December 2019 has only had five days with below normal temperatures in Chicago.
“The pattern has also been notably drier than much of the autumn was. The drier pattern has resulted in well below normal snowfall for December, and without snow on the ground locking in colder air, any cold surge has been temporary. Finally, southerly winds were dominant for days, resulting in inching up temperatures, and the sunny pattern (helped by lack of snow cover in the region), further resulted in warming.”
St. Louis is expected to hit 60 on Sunday, and after a brief mid-week cool-down the forecast high for next Saturday is 55.
On the East Coast, New York is forecast to be in the mid- to upper-40s all week, although New Year’s Eve is expected to be typically chilly, with a low around 33.
The only wintry game in town: A winter storm was bringing heavy snow to the Dakotas, Minnesota and northern Wisconsin; and it was forecast to drop freezing rain in parts of New England.
Back in South Florida: “Overnight low temperatures New Years Eve into New Years day are forecast to drop into the upper 50s to low 60s, with high temperatures New Years Day in the mid-70s [accompanied by] widespread sunshine and brisk northerly to northeasterly winds,” the National Weather Service in Miami said Sunday.
“Temperatures then jump aboard the all to familiar warming trend train for the remainder of the forecast period with overnight low temperatures running about 10 to 15 degrees above seasonal norms.”