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.

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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.

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Winter blows into Florida on gusts near 50 mph

oWinter solstice

Friday was unusually mild across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, and near normal around the Midwest and Great Lakes. Nevertheless, winter 2018-19 officially arrived Friday at 5:23 p.m. It will end on Wednesday, March 20 at 5:58 p.m. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

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In Florida, the new season started off with a bang — winds were howling from Central Florida down into the Keys.

Maximum gusts around South Florida and the Keys on Friday:

North end of Lake Okeechobee, 49 mph; Fowey Rocks, Biscayne Bay, 48 mph; Palm Beach International Airport, 41 mph; Marco Island Airport, 48 mph; Naples Municipal Airport, 45 mph; Fort Lauderdale, 47 mph; Hollywood, 49 mph; Miami International Airport, 46 mph; Key West, 37 mph; Marathon, 35 mph.

East-Central Florida: 41 mph; Orlando, 38 mph; Titusville, 37 mph.

West-Central Florida: Tampa, 45 mph, Sarasota, 39 mph.

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Jan forecast temps

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

JANUARY SNEAK PEEK: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for abnormally warm temperatures in January. Most of the southeastern U.S. is likely to experience below normal temperatures in January, forecasters said, but above normal temps are likely in Florida from around Lake Okeechobee south into the Keys.

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DROUGHT UPDATE: Moderate Drought maintained its hold on the eastern side of the Florida peninsula this week, according to Thursday’s release from the U.S. Drought Monitor. The only change from the previous week was a slight expansion of Abnormally Dry conditions in North-Central Florida.

The conditions were analyzed on Tuesday, however, and so do not take into account the heavy rains in Central Florida on Wednesday and Thursday. Those rainfall totals will be taken into account in next week’s report.

Hurricane Center ups chances for Atlantic wave development

two_atl_5d0

(Image credit: NHC)

TROPICS WATCH: An impressive tropical wave set to come off the coast of Africa on Thursday has plenty of model support for development, and the National Hurricane Center upped the chances of a tropical depression forming over the next five days to 70 percent. Fortunately, the major forecast models show it curving north and out to see in the Central Atlantic, and there’s no indication that it would be a threat to land.

Meanwhile, a tropical wave moving across the Lesser Antilles may — or may not — impact South Florida weather toward the end of the Labor Day weekend. The European (ECMWF) has consistently formed a low pressure system in the Bahamas from the wave and ramped it up in the Gulf of Mexico next week. Other models don’t show any development, but either way, rain chances rise over the weekend in South Florida.

“The GFS and the ECMWF continue to show disagreements in location, timing, and precipitation chances as it is still far out in time,” National Weather Service forecasters in Miami said Wednesday. “This will be something that will be continued to be monitored as the weekend approaches.”

Forecasters in Melbourne said: “The models differ with respect to the next easterly wave approaching early next week. The GFS is weaker, while the ECMWF is stronger and shows some surface development.”

Full Disk - Clean Longwave Window - IR

The tropical wave near the Lesser Antilles Wednesday could impact Florida weather over the Labor Day weekend. (Image credit: NOAA)

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RAINFALL REPORT: Tuesday’s heaviest rainfall was focused on the peninsula’s West Coast. a CoCoRaHS observer in the Clearwater area reported 3.02 inches, tops in the state, according to the network. Alachua County and an observer southeast of Tallahassee reported 2.18 inches.

Rescues on the rise in Central Florida as rip currents pound beaches

CFL rip currents

RIP CURRENTS ROCK EAST-CENTRAL COAST: More than 400 people were rescued from rip currents at Volusia County beaches since early last week, the National Weather Service in Melbourne said. A High Rip Current Risk alert was posted through Sunday night. A Michigan man died Wednesday after being pulled out of the water at Ormond-by-the-Sea, the Daytona Beach News Journal reported. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

DRY AND DUSTY: The National Weather Service in Miami declared the weekend “unseasonably quiet” around South Florida. That was also the case, in terms of precipitation, all the way up the East Coast on Saturday.

The heat index in Miami hit 102 and 106 in Naples, 100 in Tampa and 99 in Orlando.

More dry air was due over the southern peninsula for the upcoming work week. And a new batch of Saharan air scheduled to arrive mid-week, “further reinforcing the warm and dry atmosphere,” NWS forecasters in Miami said in their Sunday analysis.

WK34prcp

(Image credit: NOAA/ WPC)

Still, a wet end to July and above normal rainfall through August 10 was forecast for the Florida peninsula by the Climate Prediction Center in its long-range forecast issued Friday. The full August forecast comes out Thursday.

RAINFALL REPORT: The East Coast was mostly dry on Saturday, but on the West Coast, an observer near Port Charlotte reported 2.46 inches of rain. An inch to an inch-and-a-half fell in inland areas of Hillsborough and Pasco counties. And in the panhandle, 2.07 inches fell near Wakulla Springs south of Tallahassee.

Officially, Punta Gorda measured 0.94 of an inch, according to the National Weather Service.

083625_5day_cone_no_line_and_wind

TROPICS WATCH: Subtropical Storm Beryl was still lumbering along in the Atlantic, moving at 3 mph toward the northeast.  It should become post-tropical by Monday, the National Hurricane Center said.  Nothing else is on the radar over the next five days, forecasters said. The tropical Atlantic is dominated by dry air, Saharan dust, and high wind shear. (Image credit: NHC)

Severe storms possible across Florida on Tuesday, forecasters say

NFL storms

Tuesday’s severe weather threat coincides with the arrival of spring. (Credit: NWS-Jacksonville, above; NOAA/ SPC below)

day3otlk_0730

After a pleasant St. Patrick’s Day weekend, the arrival of astronomical spring is going to be accompanied by some potentially severe weather across Florida, followed by another shot of unseasonably cool air.

Crisp afternoon temperatures should round out the week, along with chilly overnight lows reminiscent of January — a continuation of winter’s unlikely hold on the Florida peninsula after a record warm February.

The Climate Prediction Center keeps promising a longer-term return to seasonable temperatures, but nature seems to have other ideas and keeps pulling wintry cold front out of her hat.

This week’s cold front could unleash some severe weather in North Florida on Tuesday, the National Weather Service says. The main area of concern is from Jacksonville south to around Daytona Beach and west to the Nature Coast.

NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center has put the area into the Enhanced Risk category, which is the highest risk the SPC has, and the forecast is calling for severe thunderstorms, damaging wind and hail, and possible tornadoes

There’s a Slight chance of severe weather in the Orlando-Tampa area on Tuesday with Marginal chances north of Lake Okeechobee and thunderstorms in the forecasts for South Florida.

As noted, the CPC is calling for normal temperatures after this cold air once again moves out of the way at the end of the week. And the 3-4 week forecast is for above normal temperatures across the southern U.S. as we move into early April.

Beach weather returns for the weekend; the true meaning of pi

WFL forecast

(Credit: NWS-TampaBay)

SFL forecast
Click to enlarge. (Credit: NWS-Miami)

COLD WEATHER TAKES A POWDER: The first half of March left most of Florida with much-below normal temperatures, ranging from around a degree below average in the Keys to almost 3 degrees in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

The month has been more than 4 degrees colder than normal in Vero Beach and almost 5 in Fort Pierce.

West Coast cities from Tampa to Fort Myers have been a little more than a degree below their March averages.

The switch is set to be flipped on Friday, as a serious warm-up begins with no new blasts of cold air on the radar.

Friday’s highs should shoot back up to the mid-70s around the state, followed by a return to 80-degree weather late in the weekend, and into early next week, for south and central areas, according to National Weather Service forecasts.

The Climate Prediction Center is calling for above-average temperatures over most of the peninsula through at least March 27.

NOAA’s April forecast comes out Thursday, along with the agency’s updated 90-day outlook for April through June.

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THREE POINT ONE FOUR BLAH BLAH BLAH YADA YADA YADA: You gotta love a day that celebrates mathematics. And since it only comes around once a year, it’s worth noting that Wednesday is Pi Day — 3.14, the first three digits of the irrational number that represents the circumference of a circle divided by its diameter.

The digits go on infinitely without repeat or pattern. Why is this so compelling?

Steven Strogatz, professor of mathematics at Cornell University, puts it elegantly in a 2015 New Yorker piece:

“The beauty of pi, in part, is that it puts infinity within reach. Even young children get this. The digits of pi never end and never show a pattern. They go on forever, seemingly at random—except that they can’t possibly be random, because they embody the order inherent in a perfect circle. This tension between order and randomness is one of the most tantalizing aspects of pi.”

Key West on pace for third-warmest February; early week rain may clip South Florida

Key West Feb temps

(Image credit: NWS-Key West)

It definitely looks like February is headed for the record books around the state, and this analysis by the National Weather Service in Key West provides an early indication of where we stand.

So far, with an average overall temperature of 75.9, February in Key West is tied with 1932 for the third-warmest on record. It’s only three-tenths of a degree away from second place and a little more than a degree off the warmest February ever recorded in Key West in 1959.

No big changes in the weather pattern are in the long-range forecast by the GFS forecast model through the end of the month, so top-10-warm Februarys are possible for several cities from Miami to Tampa and over to Orlando.

However, Sunday’s run of the GFS shows some cooler temperatures finally sliding into the Florida peninsula the first week of March. That’s the longest of the long-range, so we’ll have to see how those forecasts evolve.

AccuWeather is calling for normal temps the first week of March, with continued dry conditions.

And NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center forecast more above-normal temperatures in March for all of the Florida peninsula — excluding the panhandle — in its outlook issued on Thursday.

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Frog in rain guage

FROG ADVISORY FOR FLORIDA’S EAST COAST: National Weather Service forecasters in Melbourne found an unexpected visitor in their rain gauge on Saturday. “Can’t get rain in the gauge lately, but we can get frogs!” they said in a Facebook post. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

This time of the year, rainfall is usually associated with cold fronts moving south down the peninsula. This hasn’t been an ordinary month in Florida, and the first “appreciable rain chances” since the early days of February will be generated by a system moving up from the south, the National Weather Service says.

According to NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center, the most significant rain will be around the southern tip of the peninsula and through the Keys, but lighter precipitation may reach as far north as a line from Fort Myers to West Palm Beach.

A few showers may linger in South Florida into Tuesday, forecasters said.

Most areas in South and Central Florida haven’t had any measurable rainfall since February 9, and precipitation deficits of up to an inch-and-a-half are building up along Florida’s East Coast.