Second-warmest winter on record for Naples, Weather Service says

SFL hazards Saturday

NICE WEATHER, BUT … there’s a high risk of rip currents at the beach, hazardous marine conditions due to gusty winds, and an elevated fire risk due to the winds and low humidity. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

Ahhh … another crisp, cool weekend!

Temperatures this morning slid into the mid-50s in the West Palm Beach area, nearly a 40-degree plunge from Thursday’s high in West Palm of 94. The official low was 56.

It was 64 in Key West; the low 60s in Upper Keys; upper 50s on Florida’s southeast coast; and lower 50s on the southwest coast.

Lows were in the upper 40s to near 50 in Central Florida; and the low- to mid-40s in North Florida. The panhandle was mostly in the 40s with a few scattered 30s.

A warm-up begins on Sunday, but near-normal temperatures are in the forecast for next week. This time of the year, that’s 80 in Miami; 77 in Orlando and 76 in Tampa.

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SOUTH FLORIDA WINTER WRAP: It was the ninth consecutive winter in South Florida with above normal temperatures, the National Weather Service in Miami reported. Average winter temps were 3-5 degrees above average across the area.

Naples had its second-warmest winter on record; West Palm Beach had its third-warmest; Miami had its fourth-warmest and Fort Lauderdale had its 12th warmest.

“The general weather pattern this winter was for higher than normal pressures aloft over much of the Continental United States,” forecasters said in the report. “This is likely a reflection of fewer and less intense cold air outbreaks originating from Arctic air masses, and as result most of the cold air outbreaks in Florida this winter were rather mild and of short duration.”

The most potent cold snap of the meteorological winter (December 1-February 29) occurred January 20-22. The coldest official temperature in the South Florida coverage area was 33 degrees in Moore Haven, on the west side of Lake Okeechobee. Unofficially, it got down to 30 degrees in some parts of southwest Florida for up to two hours, resulting in a light freeze.

“In contrast, the temperature reached or exceeded 80 on anywhere from about 40 to 60 days this winter. Naples on February 18th reached 90, the earliest 90-degree day on record.”

Most of South Florida had above normal precipitation as well. But totals varied widely. “The highest measured rainfall total was 22.55 inches in Juno Beach, and the lowest was 5.17 inches south of South Bay,” forecasters said.

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DROUGHT WATCH: More of West-Central Florida has been designated as “Abnormally Dry” by the U.S. Drought Monitor. All of Pasco County and almost all of Polk county are in the dry category, the precursor to full-blown drought.

Most of North Florida, from the Big Bend area east to Jacksonville, is dry. The Tallahassee area is in Moderate Drought and the Gulf Coast county of Waukulla is in Severe Drought.

Below normal precipitation is in the forecast in Florida through at least March 20, according to the Climate Prediction Center, so look for expanding areas of drought and pre-drought over the next week or two.

Summer-style heat for Florida peninsula: West Palm hits 94

Tallahassee rainfall

The Florida panhandle and points north have had a soggy week, with more than an inch of rain falling Tallahassee. The National Weather Service in Jacksonville said 1.21 inches of rain fell on the city Thursday. The rest of the peninsula has been fairly dry. (Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

If you’re new to Florida and wondering what the summer weather will be like, Thursday was a preview of coming attractions — with one big caveat.

Official temperatures exceeded 90 degrees at several of the National Weather Service’s major observations sites; for some cities it was the first 90-degree high of 2020.

Miami hit 91, a record high that beat the previous mark for March 5 of 90, set in 1964.

West Palm Beach smashed its record high with 94, beating the old mark of 91 also set in 1964. And it was 88 in Naples, beating the old record of 87 set in 1989.

The high in West Palm was the hottest of any major reporting site in Florida, but there were a couple of unofficial 96-degree readings in interior parts of South Florida.

However, if you’re comparing it to Florida’s summer weather, note that dew points are still relatively low. As West Palm topped out at 94, the dew point was in the mid-60s; in summer the dew point is usually in the mid-70s, making the day feel even more sticky and tropical.

Record highs were also set or tied Thursday in Vero Beach (91); Fort Pierce (90); Daytona Beach (89); Melbourne (90);

Record warm minimum temperatures were tied or set in Key West and Marathon (both with 77); Orlando (69); Sanford (70); and Leesburg (69).

A cold moving through South Florida this morning will knock temperatures back into the 60s and 70s for the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

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GLOBAL RECORD WATCH: Many Florida cities had a top-10 warmest winter. New data released Thursday show that it was the warmest winter on record in Europe — by a lot.

Average temperatures for the December through February period were 1.4 degrees Celsius warmer than the previous record warm winter of 2015-2016, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service.  January was the warmest on record in Europe and the world.

It was the second warmest February, both globally and for Europe, and the warmest January.

First 90-degree day of the year in Orlando, Vero Beach

ECFL temps

More record highs are possible today before a cold front rolls down the peninsula on Friday. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

Orlando had its first 90-degree day of the year on Wednesday with a record high of 90. It was the first since October 31, when the temperature topped out at 91. Orlando’s previous record for March 4 was 88, last set in 1989.

It was also 90 in Vero Beach, which hasn’t seen a 90-degree temperature since October 27 (91). The previous record for March 4 was 89 set in 2001.

Record highs were also set Wednesday at Naples (88); Leesburg (88); and Jacksonville (88).

With southwesterly winds ahead of the next cold front (due tonight and Friday), look for more East Coast cities to notch record high temperatures. For a change, it will be slightly cooler on the West Coast with winds off the Gulf.

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(Image credit: NOAA/ SPC)

Some severe weather is possible with the arrival of the cold front in North Florida, but the front is expected to lose much of its punch by the time it gets into Central and South Florida on Friday.

Nevertheless, Florida will see one more cool day on Saturday before winds swing around to the east again and the next warm-up begins. But rather than the record levels we are seeing this week, temps are forecast to be near normal over the Florida peninsula.

Winter Keys

MORE WINTER DATA FROM THE KEYS: Key West had its ninth warmest winter on record while Marathon had its seventh-warmest. Records date back to 1872 in Keys West, so the record is fairly impressive. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

 

Low humidity and gusty winds combine for weekend fire threat

Leap Day records

Weather records for February 29 tend to stick around for a long time, since it’s a date that only occurs every four years. Record lows in Orlando and Fort Pierce go back to 1908. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

SATURDAY UPDATE: A Red Flag Warning was posted for fire weather conditions in parts of East-Central Florida Saturday, due to strong winds and low humidity in the 25-30 percent range.

“Any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly,” the National Weather Service in Melbourne said.

The warning was in effect from noon to 7 p.m. for Volusia, Orange, and Seminole counties.

Relative humidity in both Orlando and Miami bottomed out at 29 percent on Friday; 26 percent in Gainesville and 24 percent in Jacksonville. Midday humidity in Tampa was 47 percent.

According to the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, 18 wildfire “incidents” were reported around the state on Saturday covering 628.2 acres, but all of the fires were listed as contained.

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Fire weather alert

FIRE ALERT: Very low humidity levels will produce “dangerous fire weather conditions” Friday and Saturday, the National Weather Service in Miami says. “Avoid outdoor burning and don’t throw cigarettes from vehicles,” forecasters said. (I would add, and don’t throw cigarettes from vehicles when it’s raining either.) (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

ORIGINAL POST: Temperatures that would be cool even for January slapped Florida residents this morning — just two days before the start of meteorological spring. Only the Lower Keys were clinging to the 60-degree mark; 40s were the rule inland around South Florida.

A Weather Underground observer in East Lehigh Acres outside of Fort Myers reported a wintry low of 35 degrees.

In Hendry County, LaBelle bottomed out at 37, but it was closer to 50 right along the Gulf Coast in the Naples-Fort Myers area.

The upper 30s to low 40s stretched all the way up into Central Florida, and north of Orlando there were some spots at or just above freezing, including 33 in Ocala. An observer in Georgetown northeast of Ocala reported a low of 31 degrees. The low was 29 in Alachua, north of Gainesville.

The cold spot was in the crossroads community of O’Brien, southwest of Lake City, where it was 27 degrees at 7 a.m. There were also a few upper 20s in the panhandle.

The low in Miami was officially 51, a far cry from the record low of 37 set in 1971.

Look for similar lows Saturday morning on that once-in-every-four-years day — February 29 — as well as chilly lows on Sunday before winds swing around to the east and a warm-up begins.

By Wednesday, temperatures should be back up into the 80s over much of the peninsula. Another cold front is forecast to roll through on Thursday, but forecasters said the air associated with it will be Pacific in origin, so not as cool as what we’re seeing this weekend.

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HEAVY-DUTY DISCOVERY: Scientists at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom have determined that a planet 124 light years away has water vapor in its atmosphere, raising the possibility that life exists. It’s orbit is in that sweet spot — not too far from its host star and not too close.

The only problem is that the planet, tagged K2-18B, has a mass 8.6 times the mass of Earth. That means if you weigh 150 pounds on Earth, you’d weigh 1,290 pounds on K2-18B.

So if life does in fact exist there, doctors are probably hounding their patients all the time to lose weight. On the other hand, observations have led researchers to believe that the planet could be “an ocean world, with liquid water below the atmosphere at pressures and temperatures similar to those found in Earth’s oceans.”

“Water vapor has been detected in the atmospheres of a number of exoplanets but, even if the planet is in the habitable zone, that doesn’t necessarily mean there are habitable conditions on the surface,” cautioned lead researcher Nikku Madhusudhan, of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy.

Warmest winter so far in U.S., NOAA says

ONE MORE COOL MORNING: Saturday morning 7 a.m. temps: mid-60s in the Keys, upper 50s on southeast coast, upper 40s to near 50 interior and southwest, upper 40s in Central Florida but upper 30s to near 40 in North Florida.

The panhandle was in the 30s with a few freezing temps — it was 31 at Crawfordville northeast of Apalachicola.

Actually though, despite the cold front that came through the Florida peninsula after the storms on Thursday night and Friday morning, temperatures for the first week of February panned out close to normal, or even a bit above normal.

In South Florida, that was skewed a bit by the fact that high temperatures occurred right after midnight on Friday before the cold front arrived.

In addition, all four main observation sites for the National Weather Service in South Florida — Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Naples — broke record warm minimum temperatures on Thursday, some by a lot. For example, Naples reported a low of 74, which broke the old record of 70 set in 2014.

Winds are expected to become easterly on Saturday, a pattern that should hold next week, according to forecasts. That means that a fairly significant warm-up is on the way.

The Climate Prediction Center is now calling for above normal temps in Florida through at least March 6.

All of that leaves us …

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WONDERING WHERE WINTER WENT: Every state in the contiguous 48 had above average temperatures in January, the National Centers for Environmental Information said this week. The Northeast and the Great Lakes states had near-record warm temperatures.

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(Image credit: NOAA/ NCEI)

Also, the first two months of meteorological winter — December and January, were the warmest on record in the U.S., with records going back to 1895. (Meteorological winter runs from December 1 to February 29).

“The average national temperature for the first two of winter’s three months was 35.95°F, topping the 35.82°F observed in Dec. 2005 – Jan. 2006,” blogger Bob Henson said at Weather Underground.

“Across the contiguous U.S., this winter so far is running about 4.5°F warmer than the average winter of the 20th century.”

A full report will be released by the NCEI on Tuesday.

Warm-up begins on Monday; Phil says winter’s pretty much over

Groundhog Day Key West

RODENT REVIEW: The National Weather Service in Key West tried to set the record straight about groundhogs Sunday. See below for the full Punxsutawney Phil report. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

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It was a cool Sunday morning around Florida, but there were no freezing temperatures as of 7 a.m., even in the panhandle, where temperatures were in the 30s. The Orlando area was in the mid-40s, with upper 40s on both Central Florida coasts and low- to mid-50s on both South Florida coasts. It was 62 in Key West, according to Weather Underground.

The cold snap is forecast to last through Monday night, when winds swing around to the southeast. Thursday should be the warmest day of the week before another cold front pushes down the peninsula and temperatures return to seasonal levels.

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THIS JUST IN: Hooray! Looks like an early spring for the U.S. Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his burrow in Pennsylvania Sunday morning and did not see his shadow, a sure sign that spring is around the corner.

It was the first time on record that Phil has not seen his shadow in back-to-back years, according to the Capital Weather Gang at the Washington Post.

DEUCES ARE WILD: The writers also noted on Twitter that today’s date is a palindrome (reads the same backward and forward) — 02-02-2020. It’s also only the second time Groundhog Day has occurred on Super Bowl Sunday.

NOAA, through its NCEI (National Centers for Environmental Information) threw a little cold water on the forecast by noting: “In 2019, Phil forecast a ‘short winter’ when he did not see his shadow and predicted an early spring. In fact, the contiguous United States saw below average temperatures in both February and March of last year.

“The average contiguous U.S. temperature during February was 32.0°F, 1.8°F below the 20th century average. This ranked among the coldest third of the 125-year period of record and was the coolest February since 2010.”

On the other hand, NOAA is predicting above normal temperatures in the eastern U.S. in February, so the agency appears to be on the same page as Phil this year.

And the long-term CFS model sees mostly above-normal to normal temps in much of the U.S., including Florida and the Southeast, through mid-March.

Arctic cold front this weekend to chill Super Bowl fans

Tornado drill

(Image credit: NOAA)

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Today, which is the middle of Severe Weather Awareness Week in Florida, the focus is on tornadoes. And in connection with that a tornado drill was scheduled at 10 a.m., when NOAA weather radios announce the drill amid live tweets. “Take shelter as you would for a real tornado, take a selfie, and tweet us using #TornadoDrill #SWAW2020,” the National Weather Service says.

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SUPER COLD FRONT: A front that will push air into South Florida that’s “Arctic in nature, if not at least from northern Canada,” will cast a chill over Super Bowl Sunday in Miami, the National Weather Service says. It will feel cold after temps in the high 70s to near 80 that are expected to end the week. But Sunday’s forecast high in Miami is 70, which is 7 degrees below normal, should make it “an excellent day for outdoor activities, especially in northern Miami-Dade County.”

Lows are forecast to be in the 40s in interior areas; 50s along the coast, so you’ll see plenty of jackets at Hard Rock Stadium.

There’s a 50 percent chance of rain Friday night and Saturday in South Florida; 30-50 percent in Central Florida.

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BUSY BUSY BUSY: You may think pilots who fly Hurricane Hunter aircraft kick back in the winter and smoke ’em if they got ’em, but in fact they are busy collecting data for winter storms, NOAA says.

“From the beginning of November to the middle of April, two types of aircraft, the NOAA G-IV and the USAF Reserve WC-130J, have been flying over the Gulf of Mexico, along the U.S East Coast, and even over the Pacific Ocean to gather data on winter storms that may have big impacts of wind, rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow and even storm surge,” the agency says in a story posted on the NOAA website.

“Orders come from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction in College Park, Maryland. Depending upon where the winter storm could develop, the aircraft are sent to the Gulf of Mexico, or the Atlantic Ocean off the middle-Atlantic coastline, or perhaps both. They also fly over the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California for winter storms, including atmospheric rivers, that may affect the U.S West Coast.”

As in hurricanes, the aircraft deploy dropwindsondes over the ocean areas and collect data on temperature, wind, moisture and pressure. The data go into computer models to improve forecasts for winter storms.

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WET START TO THE WEEKEND: Parts of South Florida could get more than an inch of rain from a strong cold front forecast to roll down the peninsula on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. Up to a half-inch can be expected in East-Central Florida with lighter amounts to the west. (Image credits: NWS-Miami, above; NWS-Melbourne, below.

ECFL precip