Colorado State calls for busy hurricane season, higher chances of Florida landfall

Panhandle tornado

FRIDAY UPDATE: The National Weather Service in Tallahassee confirmed that three tornadoes tore through Madison County in North Florida on Tuesday, uprooting trees, snapping off a utility poll and causing roof and window damage to a business. The longest duration tornado was on the ground for almost 12 miles and for a duration of 10 minutes. Earlier, an EF-0 tornado touched down in Walton County, east of Pensacola. In all, four tornadoes were reported in Florida.



The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season turned out to be a doozy after a slow start. There were 18 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, including Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas and swiped Florida’s East Coast with its outer bands. (Image credit: NOAA via Wikimedia Commons)

ORIGINAL POST: As if we don’t have enough to worry about as we head into a very uncertain spring and summer: The first 2020 hurricane season forecast was issued today, calling for another busy year.

Colorado State University is calling for 16 named storms, eight hurricanes and four majors, Category 3 or stronger. Probabilities for a U.S. landfall are also above average, according to the team of CSU researchers — Philip Klotzbach, Michael Bell, Jhordanne Jones.

“Current warm neutral ENSO conditions appear likely to transition to cool neutral ENSO or potentially even weak La Niña conditions by this summer/fall,” they said in the analysis.

“Sea surface temperatures averaged across the tropical Atlantic are somewhat above normal. Our Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation index is below its long-term average; however, most of the tropical Atlantic is warmer than normal. We anticipate an above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean.”

Floridians like to practice social distancing with hurricanes, keeping them at least 600 miles away, but we’ve had several close calls over the past several years with Dorian in 2019 and Matthew in 2016, along with a direct hit from Hurricane Irma in 2017.

We could see more nail-biters this year, the report suggests.

The CSU forecast kicks off the pre-season analyses, with more forecasts to come this month from the United Kingdom’s Tropical Storm Risk, AccuWeather and The Weather Channel. NOAA’s forecast is released at the end of the May, right before hurricane season starts on June 1.

The next CSU updated hurricane season forecast will be issued on Thursday, June 4.


Florida drought

DRY EVERYWHERE:  Most of Florida is now under Moderate Drought. (Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor)

DROUGHT TAKES HOLD: Nearly the entire State of Florida is now dealing with Moderate Drought, with a few pockets of Abnormally Dry conditions, a new analysis by the U.S. Drought Monitor revealed this morning.

Moderate Drought stretches from around the Nature Coast on the Gulf of Mexico northeast to around St. Augustine on the Atlantic side. That includes all of South Florida with the exception of southeastern Palm Beach, eastern Broward and northeastern Miami-Dade, areas that have been designated Abnormally Dry.

Moderate Drought and a pocket of Severe Drought affect the central panhandle south of Tallahassee, and Escambia County in the far western panhandle is also under Moderate Drought.

“In Florida, a number of observing stations around the state recorded their driest March on record including Lakeland Linder Regional Airport (0.00”), St. Petersburg Albert Whitted Airport (0.00”), and Vero Beach International Airport (0.02”),” said David Simeral of the Western Regional Climate Center.

“According to the March 30 USDA Crop Progress and Condition Report, pasture conditions in Florida were steadily deteriorating around the state because of the abnormally warm temperatures and decreasing soil moisture levels.”

More dry weather is in the forecast for the next 10 days or so; below normal precipitation is called for over most of the Florida peninsula through at least April 11.

Dry weather Keys

It was the third driest March in Marathon, the National Weather Service reported today. The threat of wildfires around the state has increased due to unusually dry air following Wednesday’s cold front, forecasters said. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

Hottest March ever in Orlando knocks out 113-year-old record

ECFL March report

MARCH (WEATHER) MADNESS: Four cities in East-Central Florida had a record warm March, while overall the state racked up big precipitation deficits. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

Orlando had its hottest March on record, finishing the month with an average temperature — considering all of the daily highs and lows — of 73.9 degrees. That beat the previous March record of 73.7 set 113 years ago in 1907.

The city had nine days with temperatures of 90 or above, capped off with a high of 93 last Saturday, March 28. Seven of the last eight days of the month were 90 or better.

Leesburg, Sanford and Daytona Beach also had their warmest March, the National Weather Service in Melbourne said on Facebook today. Melbourne had its sixth warmest March, and its second driest, with just a tenth of an inch falling all month. The driest March in Melbourne was in 1974.

Naples also had its warmest March with an average temperature of 75.6 degrees, the National Weather Service in Miami announced this morning. That beat the previous record of 75.5 set in 2003.

West Palm Beach and Miami had their second-warmest March, and Fort Lauderdale had its third-warmest March.

But the lack of rain was actually a bigger story than the unusual warmth last month. Several cities around the peninsula had no rain at all, or just a trace — not enough to measure.

Lakeland, for example, had no precipitation — not even enough to smudge your car’s windshield — for a rainfall deficit of 3.89 inches

Tampa reported just a trace of precip, leaving the city 3.03 inches short for March rainfall. Temperatures in Tampa, however, were 7 degrees above average.

Naples also recorded a trace of rain, for a March precipitation deficit of 2.38 inches.

Unusually dry weather took hold in Southeast Florida as well, and in the panhandle, Tallahassee turned in a precipitation shortfall of 3.72 inches, even though the city picked up 2.22 inches of rain in March. More surprising, Tallahassee ended the month 8.9 degrees above average, the largest temperature anomaly at a major reporting site in the state.

Also of note: Vero Beach set a daily record Tuesday with a 93 degree high, which also happened to tie the warmest temperature ever recorded in Vero Beach for the month of March. The record was previously set on March 20 2003.

And Fort Pierce’s high Tuesday of 93 broke a record for the date and tied the record for the warmest temperature ever recorded in March — set 112 years ago on March 24, 1908.

ELSEWHERE, MARCH WENT OUT WITH SOME SIZZLE: Miami set a record high with 92, beating the old record of 91 set in 2011. Jacksonville set a new record high with 89, beating the old mark of 88 set in 2016. Daytona Beach hit 90 on Tuesday, which tied a record high set back in 1954.

Sanford set a record high with 93, and a record warm low with 68.

Record warm minimum temps were set or tied at Orlando (70); Key West (79); Marathon (78); West Palm Beach (75); and Naples (73).

RAINFALL REPORT: Some of the rain associated with this week’s cold front fell before midnight, which added to March’s meager totals, but precipitation totals in South and Central Florida occurred after midnight so will go into the April column.

Rainfall totals were mostly in the quarter to third-of-an-inch range around the peninsula, but a CoCoRaHS observer in northwestern Collier County reported a 24-hour total of 3.07 inches. In North-Central Florida, an observer in Alachua County near Gainesville reported 1.07 inches.

Officially, the highest 24-hour rainfall total through 7 p.m. Tuesday was 0.78 of an inch in Tallahassee.

THE NEW APRIL FORECAST, released Tuesday by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, calls for above normal precipitation in the Florida panhandle, but equal chances for above, below, or normal rainfall around the Florida peninsula.

Above average temperatures continue to be the rule.

Early March temperature forecast: Swing high, swing low

Feb temps Marathon

TOASTY IN THE KEYS: February was the eighth warmest on record in Marathon and the 18th warmest in Key West, the National Weather Service said Sunday.  Although there were three cold snaps during the month, a long stretch of above normal temperatures in mid-February was enough to put the entire month in the much-above-normal category. Marathon topped out at 87 on February 19 — which tied a record high for the date. The February high in Key West was 85 on the 14th and 19th. It’s interesting that the warmest and second-warmest Februaries were in 2019 and 2018, respectively. The only top eight February out of the 21st century was 1959, which is still the fourth-warmest on record.(Image credit: NWS-Key West)

MARCH MADNESS: Crazy temperature swings, that is. Highs on Wednesday around South Florida, and especially inland, will be close to 90, according to the National Weather Service. It should be in the mid- to upper-80s in Central Florida.

But on Thursday, another potent cold front crashes the party, dragging lows into the 40s in Central Florida and interior areas of South Florida. Weekend highs will only be in the low 70s in the south, upper 60s in the Orlando area.

In fact, the long-range GFS forecast model shows more fronts set to keep temps down through the middle of the month. That could change for the second half of March, so stay tuned.



GET YOUR OWN BACKYARD BUCKET: And speaking of March Madness, the National Weather Service borrowed the term for the college basketball tournament to describe efforts to get citizen observers signed up for CoCoRaHS — the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network. Rain totals, especially in Florida, tend to be very localized. So what falls at the airport may not be the same as what falls at your house, or elsewhere in town. Hence CoCoRaHS, in which observers take measurements every day and report them to a central database. March is the big recruitment effort for the program. Sign up here. (Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)


Top-five warmest winter for West-Central Florida cities; new March forecast issued

March forecast

Above normal temperatures are in the March forecast for the eastern and central U.S., including Florida. The state is expected to have a much drier than usual March, according to this forecast released by the Climate Prediction Center on Saturday. (Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

Say goodbye to meteorological winter and hello to meteorological spring. Enjoy one final week of living on standard time; next Sunday it will stay light until around 7:30.

Astronomical spring begins on Thursday, March 19 (two weeks from this coming Thursday) at 11:49 p.m. EDT.

It was an above-normal winter (December 1-February 29) around the state; expect details to trickle in on specific areas over the next week or so.

For now, we can say that Miami ended the winter around 3 degrees above average and it was even warmer elsewhere. Key West was closer to 4 degrees above average. Orlando will come in close to 5 degrees above average for the three-month period. Tampa was plus-4.4 degrees.

For February, Miami was plus-2.9 degrees with an average high of 80 and an average low of 66. Plus-0.65 of an inch on rainfall; Orlando, plus-4.9 degrees, average high of 79, average low of 57, minus-0.81 of an inch precip; Tampa, plus-3.3 degrees, average high 76, average low 58, minus-0.98 of an inch precip.

The National Weather Service in Tampa issued a preliminary winter 2019-2020 report showing that Tampa’s winter tied for the fifth warmest on record with an average temperature (daily highs and lows averaged) of 66.8 degrees, which puts it behind 1931-32 (70.3); 2016-17 and 1948-49 (68.4); and 1949-50 (67.0).

Most observation sites in West-Central Florida had a top five-warmest winter, but Plant City had its second-warmest winter on record behind 1948-49.

The caveat for the West Coast report is that February temperatures were only calculated through February 23.

“As for rainfall we have seen varying amounts this February and Winter with parts of the Nature Coast below normal while southwest Florida has been above normal,” forecasters said in the Tampa-area report.

March begins with an early- to mid-week warm-up, with another cold front scheduled to roll through at the end of the week, bringing yet another shot of cooler air. Strong storms are forecast for North Florida as the front goes through on Thursday.

Thursday storms

North Florida and parts of the panhandle are expected to be under a Level 2 (Slight Risk) of severe storms late in the week as another cold front approaches the state. (Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

Nice week on tap for Florida peninsula; January was record warm worldwide;

With strong easterly winds and a cold front stalled out over the Keys, some decent rainfall totals were occurring over southeastern Florida and the Keys. A CoCoRaHS observer for the national precipitation network reported 1.54 inches in Key Largo from Saturday through early Sunday morning.

An observer in North Miami Beach reported 1.24 inches; and an observer in Fort Lauderdale reported 1.45 inches.

Palm Beach County reported around a quarter of an inch. Lighter amounts fell along the Treasure Coast.

Another nice warm-up is scheduled for the coming work week, but then a cold front knocks temperatures back to below normal next weekend, just in time for the start of the exhibition baseball season.

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

The Climate Prediction Center is calling for February to go out on a slightly cooler note, especially the southern tier of states from New Mexico all the way to the Carolinas and the Mid-Atlantic States on the East Coast.


Global temps

(Image credit: NOAA/ NCEI)

ANOTHER JANUARY, ANOTHER RECORD: Earth had its warmest January in the 141-year-old record, the National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI) said on Thursday.

Temperatures worldwide were 2.05 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, which beat the previous record for the warmest January by 0.04 of a degree. That occurred in January 2016.

“The four warmest Januaries on record have occurred since 2016, while the 10 warmest Januaries have occurred since 2002,” NCEI, a NOAA agency, reported. “The only Januaries with a global land and ocean surface temperature departure from average above 1.0°C (1.8°F) occurred in 2016 and 2019.”

The contiguous U.S. had its fifth warmest January, with records in that category going back 126 years. Hawaii had its second warmest January but Alaska had its coldest January since 2012. In fact, it tied 1970 as the 13th coldest January on record.

Every state in the Lower 48 had above normal temperatures, including Florida, which was above average but not record warm. Highest temperature anomalies were found in Texas and Oklahoma, the Great Lakes States, and the Northeast.

The Caribbean had its second warmest January, also behind 2016.

So I figured it was a good time to take a peek at sea surface temperatures in the Caribbean and the Main Development Region of the tropical Atlantic. It’s early, of course, but very warm water temperatures seem to be setting up shop from the coast of Africa all the way west into the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

Particularly high temperature anomalies are in place off the U.S. East Coast, with the highest being in the Mid-Atlantic.


(Image credit: NOAA/ NESDIS)

2019 wrap, decade wrap, and what Mark Twain (reportedly) said …

WEEKEND COLD FRONT UPDATE: Three days out, Sunday morning forecast temperatures are on track to be the coolest since early December, as per the National Weather Service.

This is the time of the year to keep a look out for those Polar Express fronts that leave tourists grumbling and locals searching the far reaches of their back closet to find warmer sweaters or jackets. It doesn’t look like anything too radical at this point, and some people do like a chilly day or two.

But NWS forecasters in Miami posted this caveat: “Sunday afternoon, values could struggle to reach 70. Those with agricultural interests may want to keep a close eye on the forecast as trends could change.”


(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

In any event, temps should bounce back relatively quickly, and the new January forecast from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, released Tuesday, calls for overall above normal temperatures in Florida.


DECEMBER WRAP: The month goes into the books wet and warm across most of the peninsula, as well as the Keys and North Florida. Miami crossed the finish line with temperatures 3 degrees above normal — there were 22 days with highs in the 80s and the high only failed to reach 70 once, on December 3 (68). Precipitation was 4.39 inches above average.

Key West was 3.9 degrees above average and finished December with a 5.49-inch rainfall surplus.

Orlando was 4.9 degrees above average with a rainfall surplus of 2.37 inches.

Tampa was 4.5 degrees above normal with precipitation 2.02 inches on the plus side.

Jacksonville topped out 5.4 degrees above normal with a 2.06-inch rainfall surplus.

Tallahassee was an exception to the precipitation trend in Florida — it was a bone-dry fall with the exception of October — by turning in a rainfall shortfall of 0.44 of an inch. Temperatures were still 4.6 degrees above normal, however.


2019 WRAP: In Miami, every month of the year ended with above normal temperatures with the exception of January, which were down 0.2 of a degree.

In Orlando, every single month of 2019 had temperatures above the 30-year average, and February was wildly out of whack, with temps 7.1 degrees above normal.

Ditto for Tampa, except November temperatures came in dead-on normal.


DECADE WRAP: Floridians spent some of the 2010s dodging catastrophe, managing to side-step the brunt of hurricanes Sandy (2012), Matthew (2016), and Dorian (2019). The Keys weren’t as lucky with Irma (2017) and the panhandle was clobbered by Michael (2018).


DECADE LOOK-AHEAD: Lots of people want to compare the new decade to The Roaring Twenties of the last century. It has a catchy ring to it and portends excitement. But history doesn’t repeat, it only rhymes, according to Mark Twain.

Besides, the 1920s had some horrific hurricanes, including the 1926 Miami Hurricane, the 1928 hurricane that killed thousands in the Glades, and the last major hurricane to slam Tampa in 1921 (also known as the 1921 Tarpon Springs Hurricane).

I have a feeling that the big story of the new decade in Florida will be accelerating climate change and the accompanying sea level rise that’s already forcing government officials to make tough decisions in the Keys.

Of course, as always, expected the unexpected.

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.”