Florida enjoys Chamber of Commerce start to week; winter on hiatus

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Sunday morning temperatures in North Florida. (Credit: NWS-Jacksonville)

It was pleasantly cool on Sunday around the Florida peninsula, and here’s the interesting thing: The weather nationwide was pretty much ho-hum, a strangely mild end to the first week of January.

First, the early morning post-cold front numbers (from National Weather Service and Weather Underground) around the state and area: 56 in Miami; low 50s in the Palm Beaches; upper 50s in south Miami-Dade County and Upper Keys; mid-60s in Lower Keys; mid-50s on the southwest coast with a few upper 40s in interior areas of South Florida.

Upper 40s were common in the Tampa area over to Orlando, but it was in the low- to mid-50s on the Treasure Coast and Space Coast. North Florida was in the low 40s with upper 40s in the Jacksonville area; and low 40s to upper 30s in the Tallahassee area.

The Northwestern Bahamas were pretty much in the low 60s, except Alice Town in the Biminis east of Miami checked in with 68.

WEIRDLY WARM IN THE DEAD OF WINTER: For the second week of January, the nation’s weather takes a walk on the mild side.

Tuesday’s forecast high in New York is 52; it’s expected to be 58 degrees in Washington (assuming anyone’s there to take a measurement); 64 in Atlanta; 51 in Pittsburgh; 55 in Cincinnati and 42 in Chicago (after an expected high of 57 on Monday).

Monday’s forecast high in St. Louis is 65 (anyone else starting to think about the baseball season?); Minneapolis, 40; Kansas City, 58; and Denver, 54.

Last Vegas will be in the 60s to end the week, while the West Coast is looking to get soaked by winter rains.

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TROPICS WATCH: Chances of development of a low southwest of Baja California dropped to near-zero on Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said, as environmental conditions became hostile. Chances of development were as high as 50 percent at the end of last week.

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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.

Hurricane Center watching for off-season development in Pacific

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TROPICS WATCH: January should be a smoke-em-if-you-got-em time for the staff at the National Hurricane Center, a period deep into the off-season that offers a chance for research and fine-tuning forecast infrastructure. Lo and behold, though, an area of interest has popped up on the Northeastern Pacific Tropical Weather Outlook map, 1,300 miles southwest the tip of Baja California. The broad area of low pressure was moving north and NHC forecasters gave it a 50 percent chance of developing “tropical or subtropical characteristics” over the next five days. “Environmental conditions are expected to become unfavorable for further development by early next week,” forecaster David Zelinsky said. “Regardless of tropical or subtropical cyclone development, the low will likely produce gale-force winds over the weekend.” Tropical systems in the Northeastern Pacific are not entirely unknown in January — four have formed since record keeping began. It seems February is a more unlikely time for tropical development in that area. Only one storm has formed during that month. The Northeastern Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15 to November 30. (Image credit: NHC)

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(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

ABOUT THAT COLD FRONT: It was entering the panhandle on Friday and was forecast to roll through Central and South Florida on Saturday. Unfortunately for South Florida, it looks like it’s going to come through mostly dry.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Miami upped rain chances to just 20 percent, and they expected rainfall totals to be less than a tenth of an inch in most places. Eastern and southern portions of the Florida peninsula are still dealing with Moderate Drought conditions, and December ended dry in the southeast.

West Palm Beach ended December with a shortfall of 1.94 inches.

Rain chances are a little higher on the state’s West Coast, forecasters said.

It seems 2018 was either feast or famine for rainfall in the U.S. Bob Henson at Weather Underground has an interesting analysis of the final data for the year. The Mid-Atlantic was drenched in 2018, and the heavy rainfall totals stretched all the way down to the Gulf Coast. Rainfall totals in the Central Florida panhandle were in the top 10 percent compared to other years, but Central and South Florida were unusually dry, along with the western U.S. Mt. Mitchell, North Carolina posted an amazing yearly total of 139.94 inches.

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RECORD WATCH: Fort Lauderdale notched a record warm low temperature on Thursday of 76 degrees, beating the old record of 75 set in 2015. The low in Key West was 78, which broke the previous record warm low of 77, also set in 2015.

Strong storms target North-Central Florida; a look at the 2019 hurricane season

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Heaviest rain was predicted for areas west and north of Orlando. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

Parts of North Central Florida were under a Flood Watch Friday as the area braced for up to 5 inches of rain.

Even Tampa could get up to 4 inches, and an area from around Fort Myers northeast to Melbourne will be in line for an inch or more of rain this weekend, forecasters said. Cities as far south as Naples could get up to an inch, but most of South Florida will see a maximum of around a half-inch, according to the National Weather Service.

Through Friday morning, parts of the Florida panhandle had already received more than 2 inches of rain, with more than a half-inch falling in the Gainesville area, based on CoCoRaHS reports.

Tallahassee has already booked 9.37 inches of rain this month — 7.69 inches above average; while 5.44 inches have fallen in Apalachicola and 5.83 inches have fallen in Panama City.

Tampa is also running a rainfall surplus for December, as is Gainesville, while Jacksonville has a slight surplus.

Precipitation shortfalls begin appearing in East-Central Florida, and South Florida has been getting more deeply into the red. West Palm Beach is short almost an inch of rain this month, as are Miami and Fort Lauderdale, while Naples is around a half-inch short.

Key West is more than an inch shy of normal rainfall in December.

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TROPICS TALK: El Niño looks like a lock this winter, but the forecast continues to call for a weak El Niño. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released its updated El Niño forecast Thursday, saying chances of a winter event have risen to 90 percent.

Chances of it continuing into spring are around 60 percent, forecasters said.

In October, probabilities were at 70-75 percent and they stood at 80 percent in November, so chances have been edging up.

In another analysis released Thursday, Colorado State University suggested that the 2019 hurricane season could be below normal. Hurricane researchers Philip Klotzbach and Michael Bell said there’s a 65 percent chance of from 5-11 named storms next year, with as few as two hurricanes.

A “big question for 2019 is how El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) will trend over the next few months,” they said. “There is considerable model disagreement as to what the phase of ENSO will look like for the summer and fall of 2019.”

CSU’s seasonal outlook will be issued on April 4.

The UK’s Tropical Storm Risk, meanwhile, issued a forecast for a slightly below normal 2019 hurricane season, with 12 named storms, five hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

An average season has 12 named storms. However, forecasters predicted Accumulated Cyclone Energy — a measure of the strength and duration of all storms — would be well below normal.

Driest fall on record in West Palm Beach

It was the driest fall ever recorded in West Palm Beach, the National Weather Service in Miami said Saturday.

Rainfall for the meteorological autumn — which runs from September 1 to November 30 — was just 6.92 inches, breaking the previous record dry fall with 7.32 inches set back in 1955.

It was a dry November around the peninsula and the Keys as well, with above normal temperatures despite the record cold snap at the end of the month.

Key West ended the month down 1.09 inches, and Miami was down a half-inch. Melbourne came up 1.74 inches short and Tampa reported a shortfall of 0.92 of an inch. Orlando precipitation was just below average at minus 0.04.

Moderate Drought continues to plague much of Florida’s East Coast from southern Palm Beach County north to Brevard County as well as the Jacksonville area. An area west of Lake Okeechobee is also dealing with Moderate Drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which issued its latest analysis Thursday.

Most of the rest of the southern peninsula, and Florida’s East-Central area, was designated as Abnormally Dry.

November temperatures in Key West were an impressive 4 degrees above normal; 0.8 degrees plus in Miami; plus-1.3 degrees in Orlando; plus-2.4 degrees in Melbourne; and plus-1.6 degrees in Tampa.

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Atlantic hurricane season

(Image credit: NWS-Key West)

HURRICANE SEASON IN REVIEW: The 2018 hurricane season surprised forecasters with its high levels of activity and duration of strong storms. The season was especially difficult to forecast due to the high number of systems that spun up in the subtropics, where factors like sea surface temperatures aren’t as important, according to experts.

“Our initial seasonal forecast issued in April correctly predicted a slightly above-average season, while later seasonal forecasts underestimated Atlantic hurricane activity,” Colorado State University hurricane researchers Philip Klotzbach and Michael Bell said in their post-season analysis.

“These downward adjustments were primarily due to anomalous tropical Atlantic SST cooling. Despite a relatively cold tropical Atlantic, early September 2018 was extremely active and was the primary driver of the slightly above-average season that occurred.

“In addition, six of the fifteen named storms that formed in 2018 were initially classified as subtropical, and these types of systems that form in the subtropics do not respond to large-scale tropical climate drivers in the same way that TCs forming in the tropics do.”

CSU will issue its first 2019 outlook on Thursday, December 13.

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Panhandle storms

STORMY WEEKEND: Very heavy rain was moving into the panhandle Saturday morning from the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasters were predicting up to 5 inches in some areas. Rain chances begin to taper off north of Tampa, and fall to just 20 percent in South Florida. (Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

December hurricane forecast was on the money; stormy weekend on tap for North Florida

Friday is not only the final day of the hurricane season, it’s also the final day of meteorological fall.

The hurricane season ends with 15 named storms, eight hurricanes and two majors. Looking at the preseason forecasts, who gets the blue ribbon?

Ironically, the closest projection was last December by Tropical Storm Risk in the UK — forecasters on December 7, 2017 predicted 15 named storms, seven hurricanes and three majors. Colorado State University’s April forecast wasn’t far off either — 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three majors.

North Carolina State University came out with 14-18 named storms, seven-eleven hurricanes and three-to-five majors, so it was definitely in the ballpark.

But all of these services cut their forecasts drastically in summer, figuring that the approaching El Niño in the Pacific would increase wind shear in the Atlantic. That did turn out to be the case, but there were obviously other factors at work that contributed to a robust hurricane season.

Meteorological autumn, which runs from September 1-November 30, was hot-hot-hot around Florida — well over normal temps from Key West to Jacksonville. Many sites would have finished November wildly over normal had it not been for the cold front that brought record-cool temperatures to a lot of the state’s East Coast.

Key West led the state in temperature anomalies this fall. It was plus 4.2 in November; 3.3 in October; and September, 2.6

For the three months, Miami was 1 degree above normal in November; 1.4 in October; and 0.4 in September.

Orlando: plus-1.4 in November; 2.6 in October; and September 2.3

Tampa: plus-1.7 in November; plus-3.8 in October; and plus 4.1 in September.

Jacksonville: 1.0 November; October, 3.8; September 4.2.

Severe storms

December will start out wet and wild in North Florida and the panhandle with heavy rain, strong winds and possible tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service. “Widespread rainfall amounts through Sunday will be on the order of 2 to 4 inches with locally higher amounts,” forecasters in Tallahassee said. The trigger will be a warm front that stalls over the Gulf Coast, they said. Farther south, from the Nature Coast down to Tampa, rain chances will begin to dwindle — and South Florida isn’t expected to get much, especially extreme southern parts of the peninsula. Precipitation probabilities rise to around 30 percent in West Palm Beach toward the end of the weekend, forecasters said. In western Florida, rain chances on Saturday range from a high of 70 percent in Chiefland to 20 percent in Fort Myers. (Image credits: NWS-Tallahassee, above; NWS-TampaBay, below)

WCFL rainfall

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HOW DRY WAS IT? The air mass that invaded Florida earlier this week was so dry it produced record low dew points in some northern locations. The dew point Wednesday morning in Jacksonville fell to 19 degrees — a new record that beat a dew point for the date of 20 degrees in 1966. Gainesville’s dew point was 23, beating the old dew point record of 27 set in 1973.

Weekend warm-up in sight — but North Florida braces for heavy rain

Tallahassee rain

FLOODING RISK: The panhandle and North Florida could get blasted with up to 6 inches of rain through early next week, the National Weather Service says. Projected amounts taper off quickly in Central Florida, with Tampa expecting a total of around an inch. South Florida could get a few showers, mostly limited to coastal areas, according to NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center. (Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

This week’s cold front will leave its mark on Florida record books.

Several long-standing records fell or were tied on the East Coast Wednesday and early Thursday morning. Vero Beach tied a record low with 37 shortly after midnight, matching a mark set on November 29, 1966.

Sanford broke a record cool high Wednesday with 58 — a degree lower than the previous record of 59 set in 1962.

In South Florida, Fort Lauderdale’s high was only 65 — clobbering the previous record cool high of 67 set way back in 1950. And it was 64 in Naples, beating the previous record of 65 set in 1980.

A warm-up begins Thursday afternoon as winds swing around to the northeast and east-northeast, where warm water will quickly modify the cold air mass and bring more seasonal temperatures to the peninsula, according to forecasters. Water temperatures in the Atlantic have cooled, but they’re still a relatively toasty 77 degrees off the Lake Worth beach.

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(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center issued an interesting forecast Wednesday for the first week of December. The entire country is forecast to have below normal temperatures — except for the Florida peninsula from around Lake Okeechobee south into the Keys. This time of the year, we’ll take it.

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(Image credit: NHC)

HURRICANE SEASON SPINS DOWN: Put a cork in it: Friday is the final day of the 2018 hurricane season — officially, that is. If nothing unexpected forms in December, that will leave the 2018 season with 15 named storms, eight hurricanes and two majors.

December storms have been known to occur, but it’s fairly rare. The last year one spun up was 2013, when an unnamed subtropical storm developed on December 5 and hung on for two days.

The last time we had a named storm in the Atlantic was in 2007 with Tropical Storm Olga. That formed on December 11 east of the Lesser Antilles and made landfall in the Dominican Republic. It dissipated in the Caribbean on December 13. Olga maxed out with winds of 60 mph.