El Niño likely to stretch into peak of the hurricane season, forecasters say

The weak El Niño in the tropical Pacific is likely to continue through the fall, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday in a forecast that has implications for the 2019 hurricane season.

Forecasters put summer El Niño chances at 65 percent, up from 60 percent in last month’s assessment, and 50-55 percent for fall, the agency’s first El Niño forecast for autumn. Since El Niño conditions have the effect of increasing wind shear in the Atlantic, it could keep tropical storm formation down into the peak of the season, which is August through October.

The Australia Bureau of Meteorology issues its updated El Niño outlook on Tuesday, but an analysis earlier this month predicted that warmer than average Pacific temperatures will “remain at El Niño levels at least to mid-year.”

Hurricane forecasters have been predicting a slightly below average hurricane season for 2019.


RECORD WATCH: The high in Marathon Thursday was 88, tying a record for the date, originally set in 2008.


Sunday panhandle storms

(Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

Strong storms are possible in the Florida panhandle on Sunday, NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center says.

Most of the western and central portions of the panhandle are under a “Slight” risk for severe weather — one step up from Marginal. But an “Enhanced” risk was posted for parts of Alabama and Georgia just north of the panhandle.

Most of the northern and central Florida peninsula are at risk for garden variety thunderstorms. South Florida was left out of the risk area completely on Friday, although forecasters said a thunderstorm or two “can’t be ruled out.”

The front that’s poised to bring the severe weather risk may deliver some slightly cooler air to the peninsula early next week, but it won’t last long, according to the National Weather Service.

“Any cooling and drying will be modest and short-lived as southeasterly flow will return by Wednesday,” NWS forecasters in Miami said Friday.


DOOMED ON THE MOON: Israel’s SpaceIL mission to the moon — a private company’s effort to land a spacecraft on the surface — ended in disappointment Thursday when the ship crash-landed. The lunar lander, called Beresheet, had been tasked with carrying out scientific measurements.

“As the spacecraft approached the moon, SpaceIL lost contact with Beresheet several times,” The Jerusalem Post reported Friday. “The scientists kept hope as the connection was restored, but just minutes before the spacecraft was supposed to touch down, contact was lost once again and it crashed on the moon.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Israel would keep trying.


New El Niño forecast could put brakes on hurricane season


There were 15 named storms during the 2018 hurricane season, above average for the third year in a row. We haven’t had a below average hurricane season since 2015. Will El Niño make a difference this year? (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

There was some potentially good news Thursday from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center — El Niño is expected to continue through the summer months, and there’s a 50 percent chance it may roll right into fall.

That could knock down tropical storm development in the Atlantic, although there are obviously other factors at work during the hurricane season, one of them being sea surface temperatures.

Hurricane researcher Philip Klotzbach immediately posted on Twitter: “NOAA has increased its chances of #ElNino for peak of the Atlantic #hurricane season (August-October). Now at 51%, up from 39% with the February outlook. El Niño typically reduces Atlantic hurricane activity due to increases in vertical wind shear, especially in the Caribbean.”

Klotzbach’s first pre-season forecast for Colorado State University — one of the most watched in the weather biz — will be released two weeks from next Thursday, and you can bet that El Niño will be prominently discussed.


BLUSTERY WEEK? Forecasters have backed off — a bit — on the amount of rain over the peninsula late this weekend into early next week. But we’re hardly talking about Chamber of Commerce weather, with cloudy skies and highs of only around 70 in Orlando from Sunday through Thursday, and chilly lows in the 50s.

Even in Miami, forecast highs for Monday through Thursday are only in the mid-70s, under mostly cloudy skies and showery conditions, according to the National Weather Service. Ditto for the Keys.

Tampa is looking at highs in the low 70s, cloudy skies, and lows in the 50s next week. Rain chances are a little lower on the West Coast at 20-40 percent through Tuesday.

AccuWeather is predicting temperatures will be closer to normal starting next Friday, March 22. But no major warm-ups are on the horizon so far in Florida, which is good — when the hot weather finally does hit, it’ll be around until folks start putting up their Halloween decorations.


AND SPEAKING OF RAIN: National Weather Service offices are looking for more precipitation observers. So they’re trying to expand CoCoRaHS, the national rainfall monitoring system that has a membership drive every March. “We need as many as we can get!” forecasters in Tampa said on their Facebook page Friday. Florida has had 43 signups so far this month. Click here for more information.

Winter Haven checks in with warmest February on record; tracking Sunday’s sunrise

Feb FL temps

February temperatures in Florida, left; temperature anomalies, right. (Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

RECORD WATCH: Winter Haven had its warmest February on record, the National Weather Service in Tampa announced Wednesday as analyses of the historically warm month and the winter season continue to trickle in. The average February temperature in Winter Haven was 72.8 degrees — an astounding 9.3 degrees above the historic average.

Fort Myers, Plant City, Sarasota, Tampa, Venice, and Chiefland had their second warmest February.

Plant City also had its sixth-warmest winter on record, taking into account temperatures from December 1 to February 28. Plant City, Sarasota, Winter Haven, Lakeland and Tampa had winters that were in the top 15 warmest.

“As is typical during an El Niño winter the storm track was further south and during December and January this led to numerous cold fronts moving across the region bringing widespread rainfall,” analysts at the National Weather Service in Tampa said. “Temperatures varied greatly with these frontal passages as warm and humid air would overspread the region ahead of them followed by much cooler drier air for a few days.

“Then for a second February in a row a ridge of high pressure setup over the Florida peninsula for much of the month leading to numerous days with well above normal temperatures. For February most locations ended up in the Top Ten Warmest.”


JANUARY FLASHBACK: Thursday morning temperatures were similar to Wednesday morning’s across Florida, with 50s in South Florida, a few 40s around Lake Okeechobee, upper 40s to near 50 in Central Florida and 30s in North Florida. The warm-up begins Thursday afternoon when winds swing around to the east, bring in warmer and moister air.

The NWS state temperature summary for Wednesday really looked like January: The only cities that made it to 70 or higher were Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Marathon (which had the state’s high of 76) and Key West, Naples, and Pembroke Pines.

By Saturday, highs should be back in the 80s around most of the peninsula, according to the National Weather Service, with another stretch of above normal lows. A cold front that rolls down the peninsula Monday won’t be packing much cool air, forecasters said.


DWINDLING DROUGHT: Abnormally Dry conditions tracked by the U.S. Drought Monitor continued to shrink this week and all drought designations were wiped away in most of Palm Beach County.  Coastal parts of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Martin County north to Brevard County were still designated as Abnormally Dry.


D MINUS THREE: Daylight Saving Time starts Sunday at 2 a.m. Sunrise on Sunday in Palm Beach, the eastern-most point in the peninsula, will be at 7:35 p.m. with sunset at 7:26 p.m. Tampa won’t see sunrise until 7:45 a.m. with sunset at 7:36 p.m. And in Tallahassee, the farthest west site in Florida Eastern time zone, sunrise will be at 7:53 a.m. with sunset at 7:42 p.m.

Rain, cool-down coming; forecasters recall Florida’s deadly tornado outbreak

Weather history CFL

WEATHER HISTORY: The deadliest tornado outbreak in Florida’s history occurred 21 years ago on the night of February 22-23. During what turned out to be a very stormy El Niño winter in Florida, seven strong tornadoes swept across the central peninsula, killing 42 and injuring 260. More than 3,000 buildings were damaged and 700 destroyed, according to a NOAA report on the event. The tornado outbreak stands as the ninth-deadliest weather event in the state. The deadliest storm was the 1928 hurricane that killed 1.842 people near Lake Okeechobee. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

WCFL cool down

MONTH-ENDING COOL-DOWN: February temperatures have been dramatically above average, and more records may be set or challenged this weekend. But the month will wind down with cooler temperatures and wetter conditions, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures won’t be unseasonably cold, just closer to normal. Meanwhile, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for above normal temperatures to resume in March, with warmer than average temps stretching right into May. (Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

Spring precip

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

A “deluge of moisture” is headed into the southeastern U.S. over the next several weeks, CPC forecasters said Saturday. “Wet conditions (are) favored through mid- to late-March.” The first round of rain is expected to spread over the peninsula Sunday and Monday, although a washout is not in the forecast.


RECORD WATCH: Jacksonville posted a record high of 87 on Friday, easily beating the previous record for the date of 85 set in 1962. Gainesville’s high of 88 beat the old record of 86 set in 2013.

Naples tied a record high with 87 — matching the mark set a year ago. Fort Lauderale’s low of 75 Friday beat the old record warm low for the date of 75 set in 2008.

Key West tied a record high with 85, which was previously set in 1989. The city busted a record warm low with a sultry 79 degrees, crushing the old record of 76 set last in 2008. The 79 degree low Friday also set a new record warm minimum for the month of February.

Marathon hit 87, which tied a record high set in 2008. The low of 79 set a new record warm minimum for the date, and tied a record for February set earlier this month.

NOAA backs off on El Niño; Florida drought severity at issue

El Niño, where hast thou gone?

NOAA Meteorologists had El Niño chances jacked up to 90 percent in December. But the latest outlook released Thursday knocks chances all the way back to 65 percent.

In addition, although there was some warming of the tropical Pacific in November and December, the areas that affect El Niño have since cooled, and experts said the atmosphere has not responded to the warmer water and is acting as if there are neutral conditions in the Pacific — which there are.

Nonetheless, they still expect a weak El Niño to form by spring and possibly continue into fall, which would potentially help mediate the Atlantic tropical storm season. But with probabilities on the decline, it makes you wonder if this is going to happen at all.

The storminess that usually affects Central Florida during El Niño winters hasn’t developed this season, although there has been a few early winter severe weather threats in both Central and South Florida.

In Thursday’s report, NOAA said: “Regardless of the above-average SSTs, the atmospheric circulation over the tropical Pacific has not yet shown clear evidence of coupling to the ocean. The late winter and early spring tend to be the most favorable months for coupling, so forecasters still believe weak El Niño conditions will emerge shortly. However, given the timing and that a weak event is favored, significant global impacts are not anticipated during the remainder of winter, even if conditions were to form.

In Australia, where they also keep pretty close track of these things, the Bureau of Meteorology said in a January 8 report explained:

“While waters at and beneath the surface of the tropical Pacific have been warmer than average since mid-2018, atmospheric indicators of ENSO such as cloudiness, trade winds and the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) have not responded and have mostly remained neutral. For an El Niño to become established, the atmosphere needs to reinforce and respond to the warmer waters at the ocean’s surface. This reinforcement is what allows the widespread global effects on weather and climate to occur.

“The recent cooling of tropical Pacific waters may partly reflect the movement of the Madden–Julian Oscillation (MJO), which has recently encouraged stronger trade winds over the tropical Pacific. However, the MJO is moving east, weakening the trade winds once again, which may allow the ocean surface to warm again.”

14 day temps

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

Long story short, you have to wonder what impact Pacific water temperatures are causing in the U.S., since the outlook for the upper Midwest and Great Lakes area is for below normal temperatures for the second half of January, with above normal temperatures in the Southeast. That’s kind of a flip-flop from what you’d see in an El Niño.

It will be very interesting to see what the February reports have to say. Whatever happens will likely have a big impact on the 2019 hurricane season.


SEVERE DROUGHT ON THE WAY? Another impact of an El Niño is increased rainfall in the Southeast, including Florida. Instead, drought conditions are expanding in the peninsula and unless patterns change, we shouldn’t be terribly surprised to see Severe Drought start to edge into areas that are now under Moderate Drought.

The U.S. Drought Monitor addressed this issue Thursday: “90-day rainfall deficits ranged from 4 to 8 inches from West Palm Beach south to Miami. As of January 7, water levels in Lake Okeechobee were approximately 2 feet below normal. Since it is typically dry this time of year, there are no impacts apparent at this time to support the introduction of severe drought (D2). This area will be closely monitored for future degradation.”

Through the first 10 days of January, major South Florida locations — Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Naples — have reported just a trace of rain to 0.01 of an inch. Key West has had 0.06 of an inch.

Even Orlando is down 0.13 of an inch and Jacksonville, 0.38.

Tampa had 0.84 of an inch which results in a 0.15 surplus through January 10, but most West-Central cities from Fort Myers up to Brooksville have up to a half-inch rainfall deficit.

Keep those irrigation systems cranked up and ready to go.

NOAA ups El Niño chances to 80 percent; Gainesville, Key West notch record highs

ENSO forecast

LATEST ANALYSIS: Probabilities of El Niño, La Niña and neutral conditions in the tropical Pacific through next summer. (Image credit: NOAA/ CPC/International Research Institute for Climate and society/ Columbia University)

Chances of an El Niño event this winter were bumped up to 80 percent Thursday by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, from 70-75 percent in October. There’s also a 55-60 percent chance it will continue into spring, forecasters said.

But the CPC still sees a weak El Niño event, and forecasters at the National Weather Service in Miami have picked up on that with their prediction that not all typical El Niño impacts may show up this winter on the Florida peninsula.

They are calling for increased precipitation across the Florida peninsula with temperatures around normal. The typical El Niño tendency toward more severe weather, particularly in Central Florida, may not show up. Also, the forecast for wetter weather is “low confidence,” forecasters said in their dry season forecast.

In another twist, near normal temperatures are anticipated — in a strong El Niño year temperatures across Florida are slightly depressed, mostly because of cloud cover. Forecasters are also calling for average chances of a freeze or two, along with a near-normal wildfire season.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology issued its ENSO forecast on Tuesday, and it’s a little less enthusiastic about an impending El Niño.

Forecasters there give it a 70 percent chance of forming, and added a skeptical note: “Sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean have warmed to El Niño levels over the past fortnight. However, atmospheric indicators of El Niño are largely near normal, suggesting that the ocean and atmosphere are not yet reinforcing each other, or ‘coupled’. This reinforcement is critical in any El Niño developing and becoming self-sustaining.”


RECORD WATCH: Gainesville broke a record high Thursday with 89 degrees, easily beating the previous record high for the date of 86 set in 2003. Key West tied a record high with 87, matching the mark set way back in 1955. Sanford tied a record warm low Thursday with 70, matching the record set in 2015.


FL weather history

WEATHER HISTORY: A pair of power-packed low pressure systems slammed the Florida peninsula 50 years ago this weekend. The first spawned a tornado outbreak that killed two people near Naples on November 9, 1968. Two days later, more tornadoes ripped through Naples and Clewiston. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

A soggy winter forecast; NHC says Atlantic storm ‘likely’

Dry season outlook

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

WET(ISH) WINTER: With a developing El Niño in the tropical Pacific, National Weather Service forecasters are calling for increased precipitation across the Florida peninsula this winter with temperatures around normal. The analysis was released by the National Weather Service in Miami on Thursday.

But there’s a big caveat this winter and that is the El Niño is forecast to be weak, which means that the typical El Niño tendency toward more severe weather, particularly in Central Florida, may not show up this year. Also, the forecast for wetter weather is “low confidence,” forecasters said.

In another twist, near normal temperatures are anticipated — in a strong El Niño year temperatures across Florida are slightly depressed, mostly because of cloud cover. Forecasters are also calling for average chances of a freeze or two, along with a near-normal wildfire season.

Pretty par-for-the-course stuff.

NA Oscillation

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

A bigger issue this season may be the North Atlantic Oscillation pattern. During a positive AO, the jet stream sets up along the northern tier of states while high pressure is perched in the western Atlantic, all of which leads to relatively toasty winter conditions in Florida. The opposite, negative phase dips the jet stream deep into the U.S. Southeast, pushing high pressure away and bringing unusually cold weather to Florida and the Southeast.

Drop this one in the we’ll-see-what-happens category.

Fort Myers precip

The chart shows average dry season rainfall in Fort Myers during various ENSO phases in the tropical Pacific. In a weak El Niño winter, which is in the forecast, rainfall is only slightly above long-term normal. (Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)


CHILLING OUT: A cold front is expected to sweep across the Florida peninsula Friday night and Saturday, with the front crossing the Lake Okeechobee area just before dawn on Saturday. Here’s what the post-cold front temperatures may look like on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service:

Miami, 81 and 66; West Palm Beach, 79 and 69; Naples, 80 and 63; Sebring, 78 and 54; Tampa, 78 and 60; Orlando, 78 and 60; Melbourne, 78 and 55; Daytona Beach, 74 and 55; Gainesville, 74 and 51; Jacksonville, 77 and 58; Lake City, 75 and 55 with a forecast low of 49 on Tuesday morning; and Tallahassee, 71 and 59 with a forecast low of 49 on Tuesday morning.


TROPICS WATCH: Invest 95L east-northeast of the Lesser Antilles “will likely become a tropical or subtropical cyclone later today,” the National Hurricane Center said Friday. If it gets beyond depression status, it would be named Oscar. It’s expected to to move north, then west, but forecast models do not show a threat to the U.S. Coast.