Record rains continue in South Florida; surge of winter warmth in Midwest

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.

ECFL rainfall

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.

Chicago warmth

(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.”

New NOAA forecast calls for warm, dry Florida winter

three month forecast

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

NOAA’s new three-month forecast for January through March was released last Thursday, and from the look of it, you’d think we are headed for a La Niña winter.

When sea surface temps are anomalously cool in the tropical Pacific, as is the case with La Niña, Florida generally has above normal winter temperatures and below normal precipitation.

And that’s the 90-day forecast from NOAA, but with neutral conditions hanging on the Pacific. Nevertheless, the agency’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for warmer temps from California to Texas and into the U.S. Southeast, including all of Florida. The CPC is most confident about warm temperatures in the Florida peninsula, with anomalously dry weather from North-Central Florida down into the Keys.

Even so, expect the usual winter ups and downs over the next three months, CPC forecasters said: “Although the seasonal mean temperature is favored to be above normal in these areas, a variable temperature pattern is likely during this three-month period given the ENSO-neutral conditions.”

They also favor “a slightly warmer solution along the East Coast ….”

Rainfall: “Despite an active southern stream through late December 2019 and potentially into early January 2020, precipitation tools during JFM 2020 favor near or below-normal precipitation across the southern tier of the CONUS [Contintental U.S.].

In South Florida, December is bound to go into the books with much above precipitation thanks to the wild storm that ripped across the area on Sunday.

CHRISTMAS DAY FORECASTS (National Weather Service): Miami, mostly sunny and breezy with a high of 77; Orlando, partly sunny with a 20 percent chance of showers, high 76; Tampa, mostly sunny and breezy with a high of 77; Jacksonville, increasing clouds and breezy with a high of 65.

Above normal temps and dry conditions are in the forecast well into next week for Central and South Florida, as well as the Keys. Highs are expected to dip into the low 70s in Central Florida early next week, but South Florida stays in the upper 70s, according to Weather Underground.

I’ll have a new post on Friday. Merry Christmas, etc.

Three words to describe weekend forecast: wet, wet and wet

Melbourne breaks rainfall record

Weekend forecast SFL

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

This is supposed to be the dry season on the Florida peninsula, and it’s not too often you see forecasts this time of the year calling for clouds and rain every day for the next week. But that is indeed the case for South Florida, and East-Central Florida is bracing for a weekend pummeling with as much as 3-4 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service in Melbourne.

Minus severe weather, the pattern is beneficial since drought conditions have been building all over the state, and a prolonged wet period may be just what the weather doctor ordered.

However, the potential for severe weather late in the weekend remains unclear with a deep low pressure system forming in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and forecast to spin across the peninsula sometime on Sunday or Monday.

While folks in the North may be dreaming of a white Christmas, Florida visitors are usually looking for a pleasant holiday and that may pan out, with a “notable drying on Christmas Day,” according to National Weather Forecasters in Miami. But that’s a week down the road.

The first rainmaker was rolling down the peninsula on Tuesday morning. It’s supposed to stall out in the Florida Straits, and high pressure to the north is forecast to create blustery east-northeast winds thanks to a strong pressure gradient, drawing showers off the Atlantic.

Then, over the weekend, the low begins to ramp up in the Gulf, drawing the front back to the north and adding to the moisture that will be set to stream in from the Gulf.

Forecasters at the NWS office in Melbourne are calling for “a very wet 2-3 day rain event” with rainfall chances likely spiraling up to 100 percent, “or very close to it as the event onset nears.” They predict 1-2 inches of rain in southern areas of East-Central Florida while North-Central areas get hammered with 3-4 inches, “and locally higher amounts are pretty much a given.”

As for thunderstorms and tornadoes, it’s too early to say yea or nay, but forecasters suggest — at least for now — there may be insufficient instability to trigger severe weather … but in fact it’s wait and see until we get a little closer to the weekend.

Meanwhile, parts of the peninsula have already gotten a soaking. Melbourne busted a rainfall record for the date on Tuesday, picking up 1.02 inches of rain. That beat the old record of 0.99 set back in 1974.

Observers for CoCoRaHS reported just under 3 inches of rain fell in the Fort Myers area through 7 a.m. Wednesday; 1-2-plus inches from Okeechobee County north and east into the Treasure Coast and in the Orlando area. Ditto for the Tampa area.

RECORD WATCH: Pre-cold front, Tuesday was another toasty day up and down the peninsula. Fort Pierce broke a record high with 86 degrees, beating the old record of 85 set in 2015. Fort Myers tied a record high with 86; and Daytona Beach tied a record high with 84. Vero Beach also tied a record high with 87.

Record warm lows were set or tied in Miami (77); Fort Lauderdale (77); and Naples (73). In addition to its record high, Vero Beach also tied a record warm low with 70 degrees.

Miami ties record high; first peek at holiday weather

814temp.new

HOLIDAY WARM-UP: Above normal temperatures and dry conditions are expected Christmas week throughout the southeastern U.S., according to the NOAA forecast issued Saturday. If you’re traveling, most of the country is expected to be above normal with the exception of the far-western states. Christmas Eve (Weather Underground): Miami, mostly sunny, 75 and 62; Key West, mostly sunny, 74 and 69; Orlando, mostly sunny, 71 and 53; Tampa, mostly sunny, 72 and 53; and Jacksonville, sunny, 67 and 49. Christmas Day (AccuWeather): Miami, mostly sunny, 76 and 64; Key West, mostly sunny, 78 and 69; Orlando, mostly sunny, 75 and 54; Tampa, mostly sunny, 73 and 55; and Jacksonville, mostly sunny, 70 and 49. (Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

*

SUNDAY’S (SORT OF) CHILLY START: The Keys were in the upper 60s to around 70 while the peninsula woke up to some cooler temps — although nothing wildly out of the ordinary for mid-December.

The southeast coast was near 60 with mostly mid-50s in interior areas and mid- to upper 50s on the Gulf Coast. Quite a few mid- to upper-40s popped up north and west of Lake Okeechobee, with low 50s in the Tampa area and also on the Treasure Coast.

It was around 50 in Orlando and the 7 a.m. temperature in Gainesville was 48.

The Jacksonville area was in the mid-40s, but areas north and west fell into the high 30s, according to Weather Underground; it was in the low- to mid-40s in the panhandle.

The coolest Sunday morning spot on the map was in Bryceville, Florida, west of Jacksonville and north of I-10, where it was 35 degrees.

Despite the cool start, Sunday’s forecast was right out of a Chamber of Commerce brochure, with 70s everywhere, low humidity and bright sunshine. Parts of South Florida and the Keys were expected to make it into the low 80s.

RAINFALL REPORT: Northeast Florida had some severe weather on Saturday in connection with a passing cold front, but rainfall reports up and down the peninsula were actually fairly moderate. The heaviest precip fell in Central Florida from Citrus County on the West Coast over to Brevard County on the East Coast. Several CoCoRaHS observers reported a half-inch, and an observer in Melbourne Beach found 0.70 of an inch in his backyard bucket.

The front seemed to run out of gas by the time in arrived in South Florida on Saturday afternoon. Winds picked up, though — there was a top wind gust of 35 mph in West Palm Beach and at the Florida Atlantic University Stadium in Boca Raton.

RECORD WATCH: Miami posted a high of 87 on Saturday, tying a record high for the date. The record was originally set in 2016.

Forecasters see December warmth after cool start to the month

WK34temp.gif

DECEMBER WARMTH: Most of the country is headed for a run of above normal temperatures for the rest of the month,  the Climate Prediction Center said Friday. (Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

Think the U.S. is headed for a cold winter? Maybe not … at least the first month of meteorological winter is forecast to go out with above normal temperatures everywhere … with the exception of the Desert Southwest and Northern New England.

The four-week outlook, through January 3, was issued Friday.

The ultra-long-range climate forecast models show above normal temperatures hanging on in Florida through most of January as well.

It’s another reminder that just because the cold weather season starts out nasty — with below normal temperatures and snow slamming much of the country in late November — that’s not necessarily a sign of things to come.

Of course winter is winter, and the GFS depicts — for now, at least — a potent snow storm plastering the Upper Midwest and Northeast in the days leading up to Christmas.

The story in Florida for the first week of December: cool and dry, with temperatures ranging 5-6 degrees below normal in South Florida and East-Central Florida; around – 3 degrees in the Tampa area; and – 2 degrees in North Florida and the panhandle.

WCFL forecast temps

NICE: A pleasant week with warm temperatures is coming up for most areas of the Florida peninsula, except that a potentially stalled front toward the middle of the week could bring some (much needed) rain. (Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

Florida forecasters see cool start to December; new climate change alarm

610temp.new

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

HAPPY THANKSGIVING: Florida is enjoying the best weather in the country, with sunshine and warm temperatures. Meanwhile, high winds are pummeling the Northeast and snow is moving into the Central U.S.

But hold on — December is about to start out on an unusually cold note from the northern part of the state all the way down to the Keys.

The cold air won’t begin pushing in until Sunday, so the rest of the holiday weekend looks pretty nice. But after that:

“Some of the coldest air this season will move into the region,” the National Weather Service in Miami said Thursday. “Highs on Tuesday may remain in the 60s across most of the area, with the coastal areas and far southern interior areas possibly making it into the lower 70s.

“Tuesday and Wednesday morning seems to be the coldest as low temperature during this time frame could dip into the lower 40s across the northwestern interior sections and into the 50s for the east coast metro areas.”

North Florida, away from the coasts, will bottom out in the mid-30s on Tuesday morning with some parts of the panhandle nearing the freezing mark.

Tuesday morning forecast lows: Jacksonville, 39; Orlando, 44; Tampa, 47; Vero Beach, 45; Fort Myers, 50; West Palm Beach, 55; Miami Beach, 57; Marathon, 65; and Key West, 67.

A warming trend will begin around mid-week, forecasters said.

Looking at Thursday morning temps, as folks get ready for the ride over the river and through the woods, it was in the teens in Montana, the upper 20s to mid-30s in the Midwest and Northeast, the 40s in Texas and California, and the 50s and 60s in Florida.

Key West was the warm spot (no surprise) at 76 and it was 74 in the Middle Keys.

*

“TIPPING POINT” APPROACHES: A cascade of environmental changes — like a domino effect — are on the horizon with nine inter-related climate areas already deteriorating.

That’s the gist of a new climate change report, released Wednesday, by the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

Researchers believe that a “planetary emergency” should be declared to prevent further deterioration. The collapse of major ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica would trigger an “irreversible” sea level rise of 10 meters (33 feet), they said.

“A decade ago we identified a suite of potential tipping points in the Earth system, now we see evidence that over half of them have been activated,” said lead author Tim Lenton, a professor and director of the Global Systems Institute at the Exeter.

“The growing threat of rapid, irreversible changes means it is no longer responsible to wait and see. The situation is urgent and we need an emergency response.”

The nine deteriorating areas approaching the point of no return are: Arctic sea ice; Greenland ice sheet; boreal forests; permafrost; Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation; Amazon rain forests; warm-water corals; the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and parts of East Antarctica.

“If damaging tipping cascades can occur and a global tipping cannot be ruled out, then this is an existential threat to civilization,” Lenton said. “No amount of economic cost–benefit analysis is going to help us. We need to change our approach to the climate problem.”

So long, Sebastien; holiday week warm-up begins on Tuesday

two_atl_5d0

(Image credit: NHC)

CLEAR SAILING: Saturday marks the official end of the 2019 hurricane season, and it looks like it will go out on a quiet note. The National Hurricane Center will issue its final Tropical Weather Outlook on Saturday; outlooks are issued off-season only as necessary.

Sebastien was still packing 60 mph winds near the Azores on Sunday night, but the NHC said it had lost its tropical characteristics. The agency issued its final advisory late Sunday night.

The storm brought gusty winds and rain to the Azores, but didn’t cause any major damage, according to Azorestoday.com.

The remnants of the storm were expected to sweep into Ireland and the United Kingdom with rain and gale-force winds on Tuesday and Wednesday.

*

SWEATER WEATHER: It was a chilly Monday morning in Florida with mid- to upper-30s in the panhandle and North Florida; 40s in the Orlando area; low 50s in Central Florida and parts of interior South Florida; and upper 50s to near 60 in coastal South Florida. The Keys were mostly in the upper 60s.

Interestingly, there were no bitter cold air anywhere in the U.S., and the temperature in the panhandle inland from the coast was almost the same as temps in the Mid-Atlantic and in New England, where 30s prevailed.

It’s an indication that this cool-snap will be relatively brief, with temperatures climbing back to near 80 degrees around South and Central Florida by Tuesday and Wednesday. And all of Thanksgiving weekend looks pretty nice, according to the National Weather Service, with highs around 80 and lows in the 60s.

BEFORE THE FRONT ROLLED THROUGH: Marathon once again had the state’s high on Sunday with 85, and Miami International wasn’t far behind with 84. (The record high for the date in Miami was 88, set in 2014.)

RAINFALL REPORT: Sunday’s front dropped up to a third of an inch of rain in parts of South Florida, except that a CoCoRaHS observer in Glades County near Palmdale reported 0.60 of an inch.

Observers in Miami-Dade County reported around a tenth of an inch, but Miami International Airport officially checked in with 0.16 of an inch.