Forecasters weigh La Niña chances for fall; 1993 Superstorm remembered

Superstorm

SUPERSTORM ANNIVERSARY: A late-winter low pressure system that formed in the Gulf of Mexico wreaked havoc on 26 states after it moved over North Florida on March 13, 1993. The system produced a wind gust of 96 mph in Tampa Bay along with a 12-foot storm surge in the Big Bend area. Multiple tornadoes were produced from the system, which also brought heavy snow to the Deep South. (Image credit: NWS-Wilmington NC)

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PICTURE PERFECT WEATHER: High pressure parked over Florida will keep cold fronts at bay over the next week or so, the National Weather Service says.

“A series of weak cold fronts and troughs traverse the eastern portion of the [U.S.] throughout the forecast period, but again, high pressure over Florida will keep the fronts to the north of the CWA,” forecasters said in their Friday morning discussion from Miami. “By Tuesday into Wednesday, one of the fronts makes a run for South Florida, however it stalls over central Florida.”

Despite that, Orlando stays in the mid-80s through most of next week, NWS forecasters in Melbourne say.

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There’s a 65 percent chance that the tropical Pacific will see ENSO neurtral conditions — around average water temperatures, in other words — through summer, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said in an El Niño/ La Niña update on Thursday.

But things get a little murkier toward the end of summer, with La Niña chances growing from the July-September period through the end of the year.

Still, “The majority of [forecast] models favor ENSO-neutral … through the Northern Hemisphere fall,” forecasters said.

It’s a crucial question for the hurricane season since El Niño (warmer than normal water) and La Niña (cooler than normal water) have big effects on how many storms develop and how intense they might become. El Niño creates high wind shear in the tropical Atlantic and keeps a lid on development, while La Niña leads to more accommodating conditions.

If we are indeed trending toward La Niña by the end of summer, it could mean another busy peak of the season.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology releases its new ENSO forecast next Tuesday.

In its March 3 update, forecasters said neutral conditions were likely through mid-year. “ENSO predictions made during autumn [NOTE: the northern hemisphere spring] tend to have lower accuracy than predictions made at other times of the year. This means that current ENSO forecasts beyond May should be used with some caution.”

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The World Meteorological Association issued its annual State of the Global Climate Report on Tuesday.

Josh Petri, who writes the Week in Green column for Bloomberg, summed the report up this way: “It’s not good. The organization projects 22 million people were displaced by extreme weather last year, up from 17.2 million the year before. Temperatures in 2019 were on average 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, making it the second-warmest year on record.”

Goals established in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate — which the U.S. has dropped out of — are far from being reached, the report says.

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Heat warnings

HOT TIP: The National Weather Service in Key West reminded spring breakers Friday that springtime heat in Florida needs to be taken seriously. “Your body’s ability to cool itself is challenged,” forecasters said on Facebook. “When your body heats too rapidly to cool itself properly, or when too much fluid or salt is lost through dehydration or sweating, you may experience a heat-related illness. Make sure to learn the symptoms of excessive heat exposure and the appropriate responses.” (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

Jacksonville sets all-time February high temperature record

Everglades fogCLEARLY, NOT A GOOD MORNING COMMUTE: Dense fog covered the Everglades, and parts of the West Coast up into Central Florida, on Friday morning. A Dense Fog Advisory was in place through 9 a.m. This image was from a Florida Department of Transportation camera on I-75 in the Everglades at 7:30 a.m. (Image credit: FDOT/ NWS-Miami)
Lots of temperature records were set or tied around the Florida peninsula on Thursday — the last full day before a cold front was poised to knock temps back a bit closer to normal for this time of the year.

Particularly noteworthy was Jacksonville’s high of 89, which shattered the previous record high for the date of 85 set 61 years ago in 1959. It was also the warmest February day ever recorded. The previous record high for February was 88 set on February 26, 1962.

In South Florida, the record warm minimum in West Palm Beach was 77. It was the kind of sultry night you normally don’t see until July. This beat the old record by a remarkable 4 degrees — and that record low of 73 was just set two years ago in 2018.

Record highs were set or tied in Miami (86); Daytona Beach (86); Orlando (89); Sanford (88); Fort Pierce (88); Vero Beach (87); Gainesville (85); and Leesburg (88).

Palmdale, in Glades County, reached 90; as did Weston and Plantation, in Broward County.

Record warm minimum temperatures were set or tied in Fort Lauderdale (76); Naples (72); Daytona Beach (69); Orlando (69); Vero Beach (72); and Leesburg (72).

ECFL records

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

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EYES ON THE PACIFIC: In an update that will surely influence early hurricane season forecasts, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center on Thursday said ENSO Neutral conditions are favored in the tropical Pacific through spring and into summer. That means water temperatures near normal.

During El Niño — warmer than average Pacific temps — hurricane/ tropical storm formation is undercut by strong wind shear in the Atlantic. During La Niña — cooler than normal temperatures — wind shear eases up in the Atlantic and a busy hurricane season generally ensues.

Hurricane experts, like Colorado State University’s Philip Klotzbach, say that during neutral conditions other factors in the Atlantic become more important. These include water temperatures, the amount of dry air and atmospheric pressure and the presence — or lack of presence — of Saharan dust.

Note that neutral conditions were in place for the peak of the hurricane season last year, and September hurricane activity was robust.

CSU will issue its first hurricane season forecast on April 2.

Gusty winds hammer Keys, Florida’s East Coast

Keys wind gusts

Winds were gusting up to 39 mph in the Keys on Thursday due to a tight pressure gradient between high pressure to the north and low pressure to the south. Windy weather was in the forecast through Sunday. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

Top wind gusts along South Florida’s East Coast (and inland) as of Friday morning: Fowey Rocks, Biscayne Bay, 39 mph; Sunrise, 38 mph; Tamiami Executive Airport, Kendall, 38 mph; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Aiprort, 37 mph; Miami International Airport, 36 mph; Palm Beach International Airport, 35 mph; Immokalee, 35 mph;

East-Central: Melbourne, 32 mph; and Fort Pierce, 31 mph. Winds were calmer on Florida’s West Coast and in North Florida.

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MORE ON 2019: Annual average temperatures in East-Central Florida for each year since 2015 have been among the top 10 warmest on record for cities from Daytona Beach to Fort Pierce, the National Weather Service in Melbourne said in a report posted Thursday.

“Extreme warmth [occurred] at times, especially into February and the fall season,” meteorologists said. “Most notably, Vero Beach had their warmest September and October on record. It was also the warmest October on record for Daytona Beach and Orlando.”

Check out the full report for complete details.

Separately, Weather Underground discussed a NOAA report that said Florida had its second-hottest year and the U.S. had its second-wettest year on record in 2019.

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PONDERING THE PACIFIC: ENSO neutral conditions are expected in the Tropical Pacific through spring and perhaps through summer as well, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said in an analysis released Thursday.

The gave neutral conditions — neither El Niño, abnormally warm waters, nor La Niña, abnormally cool waters — a 60 percent chance of lasting through spring and a 50 percent chance of lasting through summer. Neutral conditions currently prevail.

It’s an important forecast in terms of the 2020 hurricane season. Under El Niño, tropical activity in the Atlantic is suppressed due to increased upper-level wind shear, while La Niña is usually accompanied by above-normal hurricane activity in the Atlantic.

When El Niño conditions ended last summer, hurricane activity spiked, producing such storms as the deadly Hurricane Dorian.

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FLORIDA DROUGHT UPDATE: Drought conditions faded throughout Florida after a wet December, the U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday. Moderate Drought lingered, though, in the Central Panhandle and Moderate Drought was reduced to Abnormally Dry conditions in the Everglades.

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.

Colorado State unveils first look at 2020 hurricane season

1280px-2019_Atlantic_hurricane_season_summary_map

The 2019 hurricane season was a busy one, but it mostly spared Florida. Will we be as lucky in 2020? (Image credit: NOAA/ NHC/ NASA)

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2020: Another active Atlantic hurricane season may be on the horizon for the Atlantic Basin in 2020, Colorado State University researchers said in an analysis released Thursday. But the El Niño forecast for next summer and fall is a huge unknown, and could swing next year’s tropical storm season in the other direction.

The projection, by CSU’s Philip Klotzbach, Michael Bell and Jhordanne Jones, calls for a 45 percent chance of total Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE — a measure of the strength and duration of all storms combined) of between 130-170. They put chances of an 80 ACE season at 45 percent; and a 50 ACE season at 10 percent.

A 170 ACE season typically has 14-17 named storms, nine to 11 hurricanes, and four or five major hurricanes. At the bottom end, an 80 ACE season has eight to 11 named storms, three to five hurricanes and one or two major hurricanes.

The 2019 season had an ACE of 130, with 18 named storms. A near-normal season has an ACE less than 103, according to NOAA. The average season has 12 named storms.

In addition to the presence of lack of an El Niño in the Pacific — above normal water temperatures that create wind shear in the Atlantic — forecasters also keep a close eye on the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation, which affects sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic.

“The Atlantic had three quiet hurricane seasons from 2013-2015, followed by a slightly above-average season in 2016, near record-breaking levels of activity in 2017 and slightly above-average seasons in 2018 and 2019,” they said. “Four above-average seasons lends confidence that the AMO remains in a positive phase, although the far North Atlantic has generally been characterized by below-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs).

“Another big question for 2020 is how El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) will trend over the next few months. As is typically the case at this time of year, there is considerable model disagreement as to what the phase of ENSO will look like for the summer and fall of 2020.”

The December analysis is considered a “qualitative discussion” by CSU and only suggests typical season numbers based on ACE. The first “formal forecast” will be released on April 2.

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RAINFALL REPORT: More than 4 inches of rain soaked the Palm City area in northeastern Martin County during a 24-hour period from Wednesday morning to Thursday morning, according to the citizen observation network, CoCoRaHS.

Totals of 2-3 inches were common in the Stuart area and in southern Saint Lucie County.

A couple of observers to the south in eastern Palm Beach County and northeastern Broward County measured around 2 inches, but most areas picked up a third- to around a half-inch. And 1-2 inches fell in the Middle Keys.

Southwest Florida was a little drier and only a few hundredths of an inch fell in the Tampa area.

Still, it was the most significant rainfall of the month so far, and more was in the forecast as the frontal boundary that skidded into South Florida makes a U-turn and heads back to the north.

Drier air moves in for the end of the weekend but then another front on Tuesday increases rain chances again, according to the National Weather Service.

RECORD WATCH: Fort Myers set a record high Wednesday with 87 degrees. That beat the old record high for the date of 86 set in 1961. Miami tied a record high with 85, last set in 2012.

Winter-like weather headed to Florida; record rain in Fort Lauderdale

SFL Sunday am lows

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

Time to pull the sweaters and jackets out of the back of the closet — mid-January-type temperatures are on their way to the Florida peninsula this weekend, the National Weather Service says.

Even Miami, where the normal high on January 15 is 76, is looking at a forecast high on Saturday of 75; 73 on Sunday. The normal mid-January low is 60; the forecast low Sunday is 61, with wind gusts of up to 25 mph.

Orlando’s forecast high Saturday is 68 with a low Sunday morning of 50. January 15 normals: 71 and 49.

Tampa has a forecast high Saturday of 67 with a Sunday morning low of 51. January 15 averages: 70 and 51.

Jacksonville is looking at a high of 58 and a low of 43; Tallahassee 61 and 42.

The Keys will get the cold front as well, but temperatures are still forecast to hit the upper 70s over the weekend with lows in the upper 60s.

Strong northwest winds will drive unusually cold November air down from the continental U.S., and the still-warm ocean temperatures surrounding Florida won’t provide a whole lot of moderation.

Interestingly, the cold front that’s projected to do the job hadn’t even developed yet as of Friday morning. There were a couple of deteriorating cold fronts meandering around the peninsula, but an area of low pressure was brewing in the Gulf of Mexico and headed toward the Tampa area.

Another, stronger low develops off the coast near Jacksonville Friday night and ramps up, creating the strong cold front that’s forecast to whip all of those cold northwest winds into the state.

The state remains in a northwest wind flow through early next week before they swing around to the northeast, the start of a warming trend, forecasters said Friday.

RAINFALL REPORT: With the cold front meandering around, and gusty winds off the Atlantic, South Florida was slammed by more heavy rain on Thursday. Fort Lauderdale reported 2.25 inches, a new record rainfall amount for the date. The previous record was 1.41 set in 1976. That 2.25 inches is on top of the 1.76 on Wednesday — that’s a two-day total of 4.01 inches.

North Florida was hit even harder on Thursday — the Lake City area reported 5.76 inches, according to the citizen observation network CoCoRaHS.

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STUCK IN THE MIDDLE: Near normal ocean temperatures will continue over the winter in the tropical Pacific, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday. That means neither El Niño — warmer than average water temperatures that contribute to a stormy and cooler winter in Florida — nor La Niña — cooler than average temperatures that generally lead to a warm and dry winter.

Pacific Ocean temps have been creeping up in the Central Pacific, but it apparently doesn’t mean much.

“Forecasters believe this recent warmth reflects sub-seasonal variability and is not indicative of an evolution toward El Niño,” forecasters said. “The chances for El Niño are predicted to be near 25 percent during the winter and spring.”

Getting ready for fall … with one eye still on the tropics

MAXIMUM WIND GUSTS FRIDAY: Fowey Rocks, Biscayne Bay, 44 mph; University of Miami, 44 mph; Sunrise, Broward County, 40 mph; North Hollywood, 38 mph; Miami International Airport, 37 mph; Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, 37 mph; south end of Lake Okeechobee, 36 mph; Palm Beach International Airport, 36 mph.

Key West International Airport, and Marathon International Airport, 29 mph.

East-Central Florida: Whitman Field Airport, Stuart, 38 mph; Fort Pierce, 32 mph; Vero Beach, 35 mph; Melbourne, 31 mph; Orlando International Airport, 29 mph.

HURRICANE JERRY UPDATE: A few forecast models shifted west Friday afternoon and evening as Jerry brushed the Lesser Antilles. But National Hurricane Center forecasters said late Friday night that there “is very good agreement” among forecast track guidance on a turn toward the north, and eventually the northeast, so there was little change in the 11 p.m. forecast track. Under the projected scenario, Jerry could threaten Bermuda late Tuesday night.

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ECFL forecast

Breezy weather with fast-moving showers is in the forecast for Florida’s East Coast. Tropical moisture will increase this weekend, the National Weather Service said, but mostly over the Keys and the extreme southern part of the peninsula. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

Cool, crisp days, leaves crunching underfoot when you take a walk, wearing a windbreaker instead of a T-shirt.

None of this, of course, describes fall in the Florida peninsula, particularly South Florida, Central Florida and the Keys. Nevertheless, autumn arrives Monday at 3:50 a.m. EDT, a sure sign that crowded restaurants, clogged roads and lack of parking at the beach are right around the corner.

In Palm Beach, which is the farthest east point on the peninsula, the sun will rise Monday at 7:09 a.m. and set at 7:15 p.m. Due to a number of various complicating factors, the ratio of day/ night doesn’t completely equal out until next Friday and Saturday, the 27th and 28th, when sunrise will be around 7:10 a.m. and sunset at 7:10 p.m.

Last Saturday, September 14, something magical happened in Miami: The normal high dropped from 90 to 89 for the first time since June 14. And by the time the equinox rolls around on Monday, the normal high will be … well, still 89.

The normal low drops to 76, but it doesn’t fall below 70 until November 7.

In Orlando, Monday’s normal high is 89 with a low of 72. In Tampa, the normal high is 88 with a low of 73.

Autumn in Florida isn’t a season, it’s a process. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, we’ll be calling our northern friends and relatives to gloat ….

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WET WINTER FORECAST: With neutral El Niño conditions in the tropical Pacific, it will be interesting to see what NOAA and the National Weather Service come up with in terms of a winter forecast for Florida. El Niño (warmer than normal water in the Pacific) usually means a cooler, wetter winter in Florida, while La Niña (cooler Pacific water) generally produces a dry, warmer winter.

The Farmers Almanac jumped into the fray this week with its first winter forecast for the U.S., calling for a “brisk and wet” winter in Florida and the Southeastern U.S. Editors are in general calling for a “Polar Coaster Winter” — like a pun on a “roller coaster winter,” meaning some unusual cold snaps alternating with a few unusual warm spells.

South Florida hasn’t had a freeze since 2011, so going on eight years. Let’s hope we can make it nine.

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two_atl_5d0

(Image credit: NHC)

TROPICS WATCH: The parade of tropical waves moving across the Atlantic doesn’t show any signs of stopping. A new wave is forecast to move off the coast of Africa this weekend, and already forecasters at the National Hurricane Center were giving a 70 percent chance of development.

But at least for now, forecast models are taking all these systems north into the open Atlantic east of Florida and even the Bahamas.

At some point, the focus for potential development will shift to the western Caribbean, but Florida looks to be in the clear for at least the next week to 10 days.