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.

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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

Marathon, West Palm Beach hit record highs

RECORD WATCH: With southwest winds picking up Sunday afternoon, the temperature in West Palm Beach shot up to 84 degrees — tying a record high for the date. The record was originally set in 1946.

In the Keys, Marathon set a record with 85, beating the previous record for the date of 84, set in 2008.

Several inland locations reached the mid-80s, and Florida had the nation’s high temperature of 86 in Oasis, Florida, according to the National Weather Service.

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A cold snap is in the forecast for next week across the entire eastern U.S., including Florida. (Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

The second half of January is often the coldest part of the winter, and it appears that the time period this year will live up to expectations.

People who live in the eastern U.S. may not be particularly happy with the weather pattern starting next week, as the GFS forecast model shows temperatures in the single digits as far south as Missouri and then a week later, as the month winds down, temperatures well below zero in Iowa and Missouri.

Some 30-degree weather may be coming to Central Florida and interior areas, but the forecast is too far out for specifics.

Here’s the money quote from the National Weather Service Monday morning: “Temperatures tumble by early next week as strong high pressure builds over the eastern [U.S.]. This pattern may bring some of the coldest air of the season to our area by early to mid next week. Confidence is somewhat low at this point (since we`re so far out in the extended period), but the signal is one to watch.

“Those with outdoor and/or agricultural interests will want to keep up with the forecast.”

The other problem is same-old-same-old, since most of the rain associated with these fronts looks to be focused on North Florida and the panhandle. Rain chances next weekend are at 50 percent in South Florida, but NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center is indicating perhaps a tenth to a quarter of an inch in South Florida, and we’d be happy to get that.

There were a few showers over the weekend along the southeast coast, but Naples is still looking for its first measurable rainfall of the month — and we’re almost in mid-January.

One more beach day before new cold front smacks down Florida temps

Florida temperatures were nudged back into the 80s on Saturday by sunshine and warm winds off the Atlantic, and another mild beach day was on tap for Sunday.

Naples reached 81 and Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Pompano Beach and Punta Gorda all reached 80.

It was 82 at Immokalee and 83 at Zoo Miami, but the nation’s high was in McAllen, Texas — 86 degrees. The nation’s low on Saturday was in Berlin, New Hampshire: – 19 degrees.

A cold front was forecast by the National Weather Service to slide down the Florida peninsula Sunday night, bringing slightly below normal temperatures through the work week.

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CLOSE SHAVE: An asteroid came within 9,000 miles of Earth last Tuesday, January 8 — but it wasn’t discovered by scientists until nine hours after it had passed. Luckily, it was a small space rock — up to 6.8 feet in diameter — so it probably wouldn’t have caused damage if it had collided with the atmosphere. It was dubbed Asteroid 2019 AS5.

“The asteroid was closer to our planet than many satellites,” science writer Tony Phillips said on Spaceweather.com.

“If the 1 to 2 meter-wide space rock had hit Earth (and it almost did) it would have caused a brilliant fireball in the atmosphere with sonic booms and scattered meteorites on the ground–but no serious damage.”

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ANOTHER LOOK AT THE CRYSTAL BALL: The Climate Prediction Center releases its long-range forecast for the rest of the winter and early spring on Thursday. Long-range models continue to call for a cold end of January and early February in the eastern U.S., including Florida.

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hurricane irma

Hurricane Irma approaches the Florida Keys on September 10, 2017. (Credit: NOAA)

WEATHER AWARENESS: Florida gets its share of severe weather — not just hurricanes but tornadoes, flooding rains and beach and off-shore hazards such as rip currents. It is also the lightning capital of the world.

All these hazards will be discussed as the week progresses with the National Weather Service’s Florida Severe Weather Awareness Week. It kicks off Monday with information on lightning threats; Tuesday covers marine hazards; Wednesday will look at tornadoes and thunderstorms; Thursday’s topic will be hurricanes and flooding; and Friday will cover heat, cold and wildfires.

“Fortunately, 2018 was a relatively inactive year in South Florida as far as large, high impact weather hazards is concerned,” forecasters noted in a news release. “Nevertheless, even small-scale weather events such as local severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and rip currents occur every year, resulting in deaths, injuries, and property damage. Therefore, weather awareness and safety measure are always good to have in mind and put into practice.”

Kudos to the National Weather Service for sticking to the schedule and putting this out despite the shutdown.

Hot & cold running weather reports

HOT: The world’s oceans have absorbed 40-50 percent more heat than previously thought, the Washington Post said Friday in a story based on a hot-off-the-presses report in Science Magazine.

Media attention is often focused on land temperatures, and global temperatures that include both land and sea. These are in near-record territory every month and every year, but it’s interesting to note that ocean temps have been rising relentlessly. Last year was the warmest on record for the oceans, as was 2017 and 2016, Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and an author of the report, told the newspaper.

Trenberth and other researchers have put the blame on ocean temperatures for historic rainmakers like last year’s Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Warm ocean water is also often reflected in daily data reported by the National Weather Service right here in Florida. Key West, positioned out in the middle of all that warm water, posted eight record warm minimum temperatures in December — and one this month so far.

Exactly how warm are the oceans this winter? We don’t know because this function of the government is shut down. On its Office of Satellite and Product Operations website, NOAA says simply: “This site will not be updated.”

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The four-week outlook released Friday shows the East firmly in the grip of below normal temperatures. (Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

COLD: The medium-range (three- to four-week) forecasts have been flip-flopping recently over whether the eastern U.S. can expect an unusually cold end to January and beginning of February. Friday’s release of the four-week outlook is back at it, predicting a cold snap for the U.S. east of the Mississippi, including Florida.

The Climate Prediction Center is calling for warm weather in the Plains States, The Rocky Mountain States and along the West Coast

This scenario is reflected in the CFS climate model for the period of January 26-February 2 and from February 9-February 16.

The GFS is showing temperatures below zero the weekend of January 26 as far south as Missouri, with freezing temperatures in Florida as far south as Orlando.

keys temps

TOASTY MORNING TEMPS IN THE KEYS: It was up to 15 degrees warmer than Friday morning temperatures, the National Weather Service says. Note the pre-dawn temperature in Duck Key — 75 degrees! (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

Late-week frost possible in North Florida as three cold fronts take aim at peninsula

WHERE’S THE COLD AIR? A trio of cold fronts are expected to roll down the Florida peninsula this week and late in the weekend. But big-picture-wise, it doesn’t look like there’s much Arctic air to work with as we head toward mid-January. At left is the 6-10-day outlook and at right is the 8-14-day outlook for the U.S. A lot of above-normal temperatures are in the forecast except for the East Coast, where close-to-normal temps are expected. There are no below-normal temperatures in these long-range forecasts anywhere — even in Alaska. (Image credits: NOAA/ CPC)

Florida-style winter weather is on the way — get out the long pants, but keep the shorts and flip-flops on standby.

The week should end in typical Florida winter fashion: Mid-week warm-up followed by a cold front, followed by high pressure building in, then once the high pressure slides off the coast, an east wind modifies the air mass and a warming trend begins. Rinse and repeat.

Frost is possible in North Florida on Thursday morning as the second of two cold fronts slides across peninsula late Wednesday, the National Weather Service says. Another slides through late Sunday.

Central Florida and South Florida should be safe, forecasters said, and in fact lows in coastal South Florida should only fall into the 50s. Inland areas may bottom out in the 30s, but breezy conditions should negate any frost potential, even in areas northwest of Lake Okeechobee, according to National Weather Service forecast discussions.

Thursday’s highs in South Florida will be in the upper 60s; the lower 60s in East-Central Florida; near 60 in the Tampa and Orlando areas; and upper 50s in the Gainesville area after a cold start to the day just above freezing.

Although these temperatures are below normal, they’re expected to modify quickly on Friday and a pretty nice weekend is on the horizon with highs in the 70s up and down the peninsula.

Even Key West should see lows near 60 on Thursday morning, with highs back up in the upper 70s on Saturday and Sunday.

In any case, there’s no ultra-cold air anywhere in the country, looking at Tuesday morning’s temperature map from Weather Underground. The only sub-freezing weather was in the Upper Midwest, the Plains States and the Mountain States — and in northern New England.

Tuesday early morning temps were in the 50s as far north as southern Illinois.

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radar outage

NOT TO WORRY: Unscheduled radar maintenance in Key West shouldn’t have much of an effect, since no precipitation is in the forecast through at least Thursday in the Keys. If you need to check things out, use the Miami long-range radar. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

Melbourne, Fort Pierce notch record high temps

Toasty temps were the rule again on Friday before the latest cold front moved through the peninsula. Melbourne set a record high with 86, beating the old record of 85 set in 2015; and Fort Pierce checked in with 85, which tied the record for the date, also set in 2015.

The warmest temperature in the National Weather Service’s state summary was 87 at the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport and in Marathon.

The cold front lost some steam as it moved down the peninsula Friday, but the line of showers ahead of it packed enough punch to give Gainesville a record wind gust for the date — 39 mph. That beat the previous record gust of 36 mph set in 1985.

Rain mostly stayed to the north. More than an inch fell in the panhandle — Tallahassee reported a 24-hour total of 1.19 inches — but there was also some decent rain in Central Florida, including Vero Beach, where 0.41 of an inch fell. Tampa picked up 0.84 of an inch.

But as the front rolled through South Florida Saturday morning, most of the moisture had apparently been squeezed out. Miami and Fort Lauderdale reported a measly 0.01; West Palm Beach and Naples posted goose eggs.

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(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

MID-WINTER MUDDLE: While Florida weather looks seasonally warm through the middle of the month, longer-term forecasts have waffled back and forth about the outlook for late January and early February. Models seemed to settle on some colder weather in Florida, and the East Coast in general, but the Climate Prediction Center’s latest three-to-four-week outlook backed off on that a bit, at least in Florida.

The GFS, which goes out 16 days, shows some off and on cooler temperatures through January 21, but nothing that should make you run out and cover up sensitive plants. The seasonal forecast model CFS is calling for some below normal temperatures in the Southeast the first week in February, but the ultra-cold air doesn’t make into the Florida peninsula under that scenario.

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(Image credit: NHC)

TROPICS WATCH: The National Hurricane Center said the system southwest of the southern tip of Baja California became “a little better organized” on Friday, but forecasters said environmental conditions would become hostile by Saturday afternoon as the low drifts toward the north.

Development chances were set at 30 percent.