Hot topic: 2020 had near-record warmth worldwide

(Image credit: NOAA)

Last year tied 2016 for the warmest on record since such records began in 1880, according to NASA. Separately, NOAA said 2020 was the second-warmest on the books, coming in just behind 2016.

The seven year period from 2014 to 2020 were the warmest seven consecutive years in the record books, an analysis echoed by a recent report from the National Weather Service in Melbourne announcing that “pronounced warmer than normal conditions have largely continued to dominate the weather pattern across the region since 2015 . . . .”

Annual temperatures since 2015 have been within the top five warmest for East-Central Florida.

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NEW ENSO FORECAST: La Niña conditions are pretty much a lock (95 percent) in the tropical Pacific through the rest of the winter and into spring, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday. But after March, forecasters expect a transition to ENSO neutral conditions through June.

CPC forecasters say the La Niña influence will likely be reflected in the new three-month outlook to be issued next Thursday. La Niña generally means warm and dry weather for Florida, but that hasn’t been the case so far this winter. Although it has been dry, December had below normal temperatures across the state and after this weekend’s chilly temps, January overall temperatures will slide into negative territory as well.

As for the upcoming hurricane season, a fading La Niña may help keep storm numbers from soaring like they did in 2020. Very long-range forecasts issued last December favored another above-average year in the Atlantic, but we’ll have a little better idea when the April forecasts come out.

Ideally, if we transitioned to an El Niño in fall we could see a dramatic decrease in the number of storms, since those conditions — warmer than normal waters in the tropical Pacific — tends to increase wind shear in the tropical Atlantic.

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TEMP TURN AROUND: The normal high in West Palm Beach ticks up a degree — from 74 to 75 — on Monday. The average high as has been on a downward slide since August 8. Miami and Fort Lauderdale’s high rises from 76 to 77 a week from Saturday.

Sunday wind chills in 40s for South Florida; new hurricane forecasting tool shot down

ANOTHER WINTRY WEEKEND — by Florida standards, that is. The coldest temps will be Sunday morning, when a light freeze is predicted for North Florida and wind chills in the 40s all the way down into South Florida. (Image credits: NWS-Miami, top; NWS-Jacksonville, below)

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HURRICANE FORECASTING SETBACK: Funding for a new type of radar called airborne phased-array radar, or APAR, which could have helped spot hurricanes about to rapidly intensify, was scrapped by the National Science Foundation, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

The $70 million project failed to win approval because of “flaws” in the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) proposal, the Post said. NOAA had been expected to partner with NCAR for the building of the of radar, built into hurricane hunter aircraft that investigate storms.

But NOAA officials said the proposal failed to justify the $70 million cost over five years.

The newspaper said NCAR director Everette Joseph — who is a “leading candidate” to head NOAA under the upcoming Biden Administration — plans to resubmit the proposal.

“Although NOAA can still make use of the radar development work carried out to date, NCAR’s failure to receive this program funding will, at the very least, delay the progress of what is considered a game-changing technology for storm research, monitoring and forecasting,” writes Jason Samenow of the Post’s Capital Weather Gang.

Data collected by the new radar was expected to be fed into existing computer forecast models, providing a big boost to intensity, as well as track forecasts.

Rapidly intensifying storms have become more common during the hurricane season as oceans warm. Several hurricanes during the blockbuster 2020 hurricane season underwent rapid intensification as they neared land, making them even more dangerous for coastal residents.

Record breaking warmth has dominated much of Florida since 2015, Weather Service says

What’s happening to the climate in Florida? It definitely hasn’t been business as usual, the National Weather Service said in an eye-opening new report published on Saturday by forecasters in Melbourne.

“The annual weather summaries for east central Florida over the past several years have ended up sounding like a broken record, especially in terms of temperatures,” meteorologist Derrick Weitlich said. “Pronounced warmer than normal conditions have largely continued to dominate the weather pattern across the region since 2015, with annual average temperatures from that year onward for many sites ranking in the top 5 warmest.”

The NWS in Miami said Saturday that all four major observation sites in South Florida — Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Naples — had their warmest year on record in 2020.

Melbourne reports that in East-Central Florida, Leesburg and Sanford tied for their warmest year on record with the note that, “if not for the colder than normal weather that moved into the region in December, it likely would have been the warmest year on record for the majority of climate sites” across the area.

December came in 2-3 degrees below average from Daytona Beach down to Stuart, including Orlando — something that has not occurred in East-Central Florida since March of 2018.

“It is also interesting to note that while it was cold in December, no freezing temperatures occurred at the primary climate
sites, continuing a long stretch of temperatures remaining above 32 degrees since January of 2018 . . . Outside of December, all other months and seasons during 2020 had average temperatures that were either near or above normal, with many ranking within the top 10 warmest.”

Orlando posted 10 high temperature records in 2020, with zero low temperature records. The city had one record cool high temperature — but a whopping 43 warm minimum temperature records. Orlando also had 177 days last year in which the low was at least 70 degrees or warmer, the highest number for any year on record. Notably, the previous record — 171 days — was sset in 2019.

The number of days when the temperature didn’t dip below 70 also set records in Leesburg (172); Sanford (165); and Vero Beach (204). All these cities beat records set in 2019. One exception: Fort Pierce, with 201 days over 70 degrees, remained in second place behind 1929, which had 207.

The NWS Miami office reported last week that areas of East-Central Broward County had rainfall totals in excess of 100 inches in 2020. Thanks to some wet tropical storms during the blockbuster hurricane season, 70-90 inches of rain hammered the Treasure Coast.

“There were even some localized spots in the Stuart and Hobe Sound area that reached up to 95 to 100 inches in 2020,” Weitlich said. “Fort Pierce and Stuart both had annual precipitation totals that ranked as 4th wettest on record for each site. In contrast there were some spots that ended drier than normal, such as Leesburg and Sanford airports that had totals that were 11 to 12 inches below normal for the year.”

Access the full report by clicking here.

West-Central Florida, also despite a cooler than normal December, ended 2020 with “all sites likely ending up with a Top Ten Warmest year,” the National Weather Service in Tampa reported.

Forecasters see another busy hurricane season next year

Another nice beach day is on tap for the Florida peninsula. A weak cold front is expected to move through but stall out and then dissipate near South Florida. A stronger front late in the week may knock temperatures down a bit and bring drier air. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

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If you figured we were due for a quiet hurricane season in 2021 after this year’s record-busting storm totals, think again. An analysis by Colorado State University speculates that next year could once again be a busy one.

The December analysis, which does not include a forecast for a specific number of storms, nevertheless calls for a 60 percent chance for another above normal season, with anywhere between 12-17 named storms, six to 11 hurricanes and two to five majors.

There are two big factors that the forecasters — Philip Klotzbach, Michael Bell, and Jhordanne Jones — look at when issuing these December “quantitative” analyses. They are water temperatures in the tropical Pacific that determine whether La Niña, El Niño or neutral conditions are in control; and water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic, controlled in part by the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation

The Pacific is currently in a La Niña phase — abnormally cool tropical waters — which helped power this year’s hyper-active hurricane season. El Niño, above normal Pacific water temps, generally tamp down developing storms in the Atlantic because it results in higher wind shear.

But a transition to El Niño next summer seems unlikely, the CSU team said.

“Of the ten previous moderate to strong La Niña events, only one transitioned to El Niño five were neutral ENSO while the remaining four were La Niña,” they said. “There is considerable uncertainty at this point what ENSO will look like by the peak of next hurricane season from August-October, but at this point given model forecasts as well as statistical analyses, it appears extremely unlikely that El Niño would develop before next summer.”

As for Atlantic water temperatures controlled by the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation (AMO), Klotzbach and crew noted: “We had three quiet Atlantic hurricane seasons in a row which led us to question whether we had moved out of the active era that began in 1995. However, the Atlantic has since had five active seasons in a row, causing us to believe that the AMO remains in its positive phase.”

In the United Kingdom, Tropical Storm Risk — a consortium of scientists and insurance industry experts — issued a more traditional 2021 hurricane season forecat calling for 16 named storms, seven hurricanes and three majors. An average Atlantic season has 12 named storms.

“TSR predicts North Atlantic hurricane activity in 2021 will be above the long-term norm but lower than the hyperactive 2020 hurricane season,” forecasters said. “However, the uncertainties associated with this outlook are large and the forecast skill at this extended range is historically low.”

“At present TSR anticipates that the July-September 2021 trade wind speed will be slightly weaker than normal – due mainly to our expectation for weak La Niña conditions to occur at this time – and thus will have an enhancing effect on North Atlantic hurricane activity in 2021.”

A closer look at the Florida peninsula’s record-busting fall

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

More info is trickling in on an unsually wet and warm November around the Florida peninsula, and in some cases a record-breaking fall (September through November).

Daytona Beach set a new record average temperature for the meteorological fall, with 77.2 degrees, beating the old mark of 76.2 degrees set in 2015.

Sanford and Leesburg also had their warmest fall on record, while Orlando, Melbourne and Vero Beach had their second-warmest.

November temps in West-Central Florida were in the top five since record keeping began, in some cases going back to 1890. Tampa had its third-warmest November at 74.6 degrees compared to a normal average of 69.2.

The Sarasota-Bradenton area was just a tick above that with 74.7 — also the third warmest November on record, according to the National Weather Service.

Six West-Central observation centers had their warmest autumn on record. They include Sarasota-Bradenton, Winter Haven, Tampa, Bartow, Inverness and Brooksville. Lakeland, Arcadia, and Chiefland has their second-warmest autumn on record.

Thanks to the visit last month by Tropical Storm Eta, several sites had a top-five wettest November on record, including Punta Gorda (record wettest); Sarasota-Bradenton and Venice (second-wettest); Tampa (third-wettest); St. Petersburg (fourth wettest) and Lakeland (fifth wettest).

In addition, Arcadia had its second-wettest fall on record.

On the East Coast, Fort Lauderdale had its wettest fall on record with 47.58 inches of rain from September 1 through November 30. That smashed a 96-year-old record set in 1924, when 43.47 inches fell.

West Palm Beach had its warmest fall on record, posting an average temperature (considering the highs and lows) of 80.8 degrees for the three-month period. That beat the old record of 80.1 degrees set in 1986.

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TROPICS WATCH: The National Hurricane Center posted its off-season map Thursday morning, which it maintains through June 1 unless there’s an off-season threat. The disturbance in the eastern Atlantic, which had been given a slight chance of subtropical development earlier in the week, was continuing to weaken, forecasters said.

South FL forecast: much colder, chance of falling iguanas

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

The well-advertised cold front that’s poised to bring freezing temperatures to the panhandle and North Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday will drive temps into the 40s as far south as interior South Florida — 50s on the coasts.

National Weather Service forecasters in Miami are calling for the “coldest temperatures of the season” with the possibility of “an isolated falling iguana or two.”

Iguanas, which have taken over South Florida’s parks and backyards, become dormant when temperatures dip into the 40s. They may fall out of trees, but they revive when temps warm back up during the day, especially in the sun.

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

BIG WARM-UP FOR MID-DECEMBER? The cold snap that hit North Florida today and will spread into the southern peninsula on Tuesday looks like it may generally keep a lid on temperatures for the next couple of weeks. Another front moves in over the weekend to tamp down temps after a return to seasonal weather late in the week.

The GFS forecast model shows continued cool temps — with some warmer temperatures between fronts — for the next two weeks. But the model suggests a return to the 80s for South and Central Florida by the second weekend of the month.

The long-range three- to four-week forecast, released Friday by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, calls for above normal temperatures from December 12 right through Christmas Day. That’s not only for Florida, but for the entire country, coast-to-coast.

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(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A WRAP … OR IS IT? Today is the final day of the wild 2020 hurricane season, which checks out with a record-busting 30 named storms, 13 hurricanes and six majors. The average number of named storms is 12.

Nature saved the strongest storm of the year for the grand finale, Category 5 Hurricane Iota, which whipped up sustained winds of 160 mph before it crashed into Central America.

On the final day of the season, the National Hurricane Center was still watching an area of disturbed weather in the far eastern Atlantic, giving it a 40 percent chance of becoming a subtropical depression, or Subtropical Storm Kappa over the next couple of days.

Nothing else is on the NHC’s Tropical Weather Outlook map.

Tornadoes, heavy rain possible in North Florida, panhandle

(Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

SUNDAY UPDATE: The Central Florida panhandle was under a Level 2 “Slight” risk for severe storms on Sunday as a warm front works into the area behind the cold front that will deliver the coldest air of the season to the entire state.

Once the storms associated with the front are completely out of the way on Tuesday, lows should plunge everywhere with temps in the 40s as far south as interior South Florida.

However, NWS forecasters in Miami said the cold snap will be very short-lived around the lower half of the peninsula, since winds should swing around to the northeast, and then east, off the warm Atlantic, on Wednesday.

Nevertheless, North Florida is bracing for a potential freeze.

National Weather Service Tallahassee: “The coldest night since March 1, 2020 is in store Tuesday morning, with low temperatures forecast to range from the upper 20s in [southeast Alabama] to the low-mid 30s in the FL Big Bend. A freeze with temperatures of 24 to 32 degrees is increasingly likely outside of the SE FL Big Bend …”

“Based on the forecast low temperatures, a more widespread freeze compared to Tuesday morning is possible away from the gulf coast.”

It looks like another cold front is slated to impact the state next weekend, but it’s still unclear how much cold air will be behind it, and how much rain we might expect as it’s moving through.

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TROPICS WATCH: The disturbance that was being followed by the National Hurricane Center south of Bermuda was yanked off the agency’s Tropical Weather Outlook map on Sunday.

That left just the system east of the Azures in the eastern Atlantic. The non-tropical low was moving south toward the Canary Islands, and forecasters said there was a 40 percent chance it could become a subtropical depression or storm over the next few days.

Strong storms possible on Monday, NOAA says

(Image credit: NOAA/ SPC)

SATURDAY UPDATE: Strong thunderstorms are in the National Weather Service forecast for North and Central Florida on Monday, but it’s still unclear how much weather South Florida might get out of the system, which will accompany the strongest cold front of the season.

NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center has Central and North Florida under a “Marginal” risk for severe weather, including gusty winds, heavy rain and frequent lightning strikes.

RECORD WATCH: Several temperature records were tied or broken on Thanksgiving Day, according to the National Weather Service. Fort Lauderdale tied a record warm low with 75 degrees, matching a mark set in 2007.

In the panhandle, Tallahassee’s high of 83 tied a record set 93 years ago in 1927. And Apalachicola broke a record high with 81, beating the old record of 80 set in 1985.

TROPICS WATCH: Two disturbances in the Atlantic — one southwest of Bermuda and one northeast of the Azores — had a 30 percent chance of subtropical development over the next five days. For the first low, that’s down from 40 percent on Friday.

Wintry temps to take hold in Florida next week

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

“The coldest weather of the season” is on its way to the Florida peninsula early next week, with lows plunging into the 40s as far south as interior areas of South Florida, the National Weather Service in Miami said Friday.

Beyond that, temperatures may recover slowly by mid-week, but the GFS forecast model has some bad news if you’re looking for more shorts-and-T-shirt weather as we head into the second week of the month. The model suggests even coastal areas could bottom out in the 40s on Wednesday, December 9, with a slight warmup due the following weekend as we near mid-month.

The 14-day temperature outlook from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center has below normal weather in the forecast through at least December 10, not only for all of Florida but for a large swath of states, from Texas all the way over to the Mid-Atlantic States. The Upper Midwest will be enjoying above normal temperatures, forecasters said.

Interestingly, this is the exact opposite of what a La Niña winter should look like. With a strong La Niña in the Pacific, Florida usually has above normal winter temps while the northern tier of states are cool and wet.

So what happened to NOAA’s long-term forecast for an unusually warm December for Florida?

The National Centers for Environmental Prediction’s ultra-long-range forecast model, the CFS, suggests that temperatures may moderate to near-normal by the middle of the month, followed by above-normal temps moving in for Christmas week and into the new year.

In other words, keep the shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops handy as we head into the heart of December.

Meanwhile, here are the post-cold-front forecast lows around the state for Wednesday morning: Miami, 56; Sebring, 43; Orlando, 41; Tampa, 44; Gainesville, 34; Lake City, 32; Jacksonville, 35; and Tallahassee, 33.

National Weather Service, Tallahassee: “Models are in good agreement of showing near or below freezing temperatures both Tuesday and Wednesday mornings with the better chances of below freezing temperatures through southeast Alabama and adjacent areas of southwest Georgia and western Florida panhandle.”

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TROPICS WATCH: The hurricane season ends Monday, but the National Hurricane Center was monitoring not one, but two systems in the Atlantic that have the potential for subtropical development.

The first system, in the Central Atlantic well east of the Bahamas, was given a 40 percent chance of development over the next 2-5 days as it heads northeast. The second, west of Portugal in the eastern Atlantic, had a 20 percent chance as it drifts to the south.

Neither are a threat to the U.S., but they could pad the numbers of this year’s record-breaking season to as high as 32. The next two names on the list are Kappa and Lambda.

Freezing temps possible in panhandle next week

IT’S (ALMOST) A WRAP: A record-breaking 30 named storms formed this year, topping the previous record of 28 set in 2005. The season had the second-highest number of hurricanes on record. (Image credit: NOAA)

The 2020 hurricane season, which officially ends Monday, was the fifth consecutive above-normal season, and the 18th above normal season out of the past 26, NOAA said in its season-ending report released late Tuesday.

There were 30 named storms — one or two more could still add to the final total — during the 2020 season, with 13 hurricanes and six major hurricanes.

On Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center was still tracking the disturbance in the Central Atlantic, and gave it a 30 percent chance of becoming a subtropical system over the next five days as it drifts toward the south. It was no expected to impact the U.S.

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Meteorological winter starts Tuesday, and right on schedule nature has scheduled a cold front that is expected to pack some wintry weather — at least winter Florida-style.

Monday night forecast lows: Miami, 58; Orlando, 51; Tampa, 51; Jacksonville, 41; Tallahassee, 37.

Tuesday’s forecast highs: Miami, 70; Orlando, 65; Tampa, 63; Jacksonville, 57; Tallahassee, 54.

Considering that heat index readings were still in the 90s last week in parts of South Florida, this blast of unseaonably cold air is going to have people digging into their closets for sweaters and jackets.

The two main foreast models used to predict this kind of weather — NOAA’s GFS and the European (ECMWF) — are still a bit at odds when it comes to the timing of the cold front passage, and the temperatures on the other side of the front, according to forecasters.

National Weather Service, Miami: “… we can confidently say we will see a frontal passage early next week; however, there are a couple questions in play still…(1) how cold will the temps be behind the front, and (2) will there be strong to severe storms ahead of the boundary.”

NWS Melbourne: “A strong cold front is forecast to push across the area on Monday preceded by a band of showers/storms. Wind fields suggest a threat for strong to isolated severe storms as the convection pushes rapidly across the area … much cooler air will overspread the area with low temps Tue in the 50s, except 40s north of Orlando.”

NWS Tampa: “Showers and storms will be possible ahead of this front on Sunday and Sunday night, then a more organized squall line will likely push through the area on Monday, with favorable shear to allow for a few stronger storms. A much cooler and drier airmass will filter into the area behind the front, with lows Tuesday morning ranging from the upper 30s over the Nature Coast, to mid 50s over southwest Florida.”

NWS Jacksonville: “Strong cold air advection will occur behind the cold front as the surface low continues to deepen over the
Great Lakes region. This will result in much cooler temperatures and windy conditions Monday and Tuesday with readings much below normal.”

NWS Tallahassee: “North of I-10 in outlying areas and normally colder areas could have lows near or at freezing [Tuesday and Wednesday] mornings.”