Florida temps could tumble into 40s mid-week as winter makes a comeback

A rip-roaring cold front — at least by mid-March standards — will sweep down the peninsula Tuesday night, delivering some of the coolest temperatures of the season.

Lows on Wednesday night and Thursday morning could be in the mid-50s in coastal areas of South Florida, with mid-40s inland.

Thursday’s forecast high in West Palm Beach is 69, which would be the coolest daytime high since Jan. 30.

The brief return to wintry weather should last through the end of the week, according to the National Weather Service, with temperatures running 5 to 10 degrees below normal for this time of the year.

In fact, the six- 10-day long-range temperature outlook covering March 16-20 issued Friday by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center has the entire State of Florida bathed in blue, indicating below average temperatures through a week from Monday.

Through Friday, March temperatures in South Florida have been running 2-3 degrees above normal.

Other Wednesday night forecast lows around the peninsula include 50 in Vero Beach; 45 in Daytona Beach and Orlando; 35 in Gainesville; 45 in Tampa; 42 in Sebring; and 47 in Fort Myers. Temperatures in the Keys are expected to sink into the low 60s.

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New England is bracing for possible heavy snow by mid-week. (Credit: NWS-Boston)

The low pressure system that will be dragging the front through Florida has the potential to scoot up the East Coast and trigger a powerful Nor’easter, bringing possible blizzard conditions to the Northeast, forecasters say.

It’s too early to predict how much snow could fall from Washington DC north into New England, but it looks like astronomical winter could go out with a bang.

Spring begins on March 20 at 6:29 a.m. EDT.

And speaking of Daylight Saving Time, clocks spring ahead Sunday and we won’t gain the hour back until the return to Standard Time on Nov. 5.

Sunrise in Palm Beach Sunday will be at 7:32 a.m. with sunset at 7:28 p.m. Twilight will linger until 7:51 p.m.

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From Daytona Beach to Key West, Florida remains high and dry

CoCoRaHS

WHEN THE RAINY SEASON ARRIVES: National Weather Service offices around Florida are asking weather buffs to consider signing up for CoCoRaHS — the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network — to beef up precipitation date around the state. All you need is a rain gauge, which can be purchased from the CoCoRaHS website www.cocorahs.org. You can register at the site as well. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

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Despite a few spotty showers that blew in on gusty easterly winds, the dry conditions that characterized February have continued into the first week of March across the Florida peninsula.

South Florida rainfall deficits are already approaching an inch in parts of South Florida, with no rain at all in Naples.

Moderate Drought conditions held in over most of the peninsula this week despite a series of weak cold fronts that meandered toward Lake Okeechobee. The associated showers mostly remained off shore in the Atlantic.

Rainfall deficits in Central Florida are averaging just under an inch for the first week in March, and have already topped 1 inch in some West-Central locations like Sarasota and Clearwater. Rainfall is about a half-inch short of normal in the Keys.

Long-range forecasts by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center indicate a higher chance of normal rainfall around Florida through the end of the month, but that is not being backed up by actual forecasts, at least so far. More dry weather with slightly above normal temperatures seems to be in the picture as we head into the second half of the month.

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The eastern Atlantic is cooling while the tropical Pacific heats up. (Credit: NOAA/ NESDIS)

SOME POTENTIAL GOOD NEWS: The eastern tropical Atlantic has cooled significantly over the past few weeks and sea surface temperatures are now actually cooler than normal off the coast of Africa and heading into the Main Development Regions of the Central Atlantic.

With the first Colorado State University hurricane forecast only a month away — soon to be followed by AccuWeather and other professional assessments — it will be interesting to see what the experts have to say about this year’s potential. Warm water continues to build up off the West Coast of South America, perhaps an indication that a new El Niño could be brewing sooner than anyone expected.

Will all this mean that Atlantic tropical storm activity could be suppressed? Fingers crossed.

Toasty Florida temps on the way despite weak cold fronts; scientists unveil big plans for Mars

Florida temps

A trio of very weak cold fronts are expected to push into the Florida peninsula this week, but they won’t do much to knock down temperatures that are running slightly above average from Central Florida down to the Keys. The fronts are forecast to stall out just north of Lake Okeechobee and they could trigger a few showers over the southern half of the peninsula from mid-week through the weekend. But temperatures in the low 80s remain in the forecast. (Credit: NWS-Tampa)

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HOT TOPIC: Yes, it can get too hot to support life in the tropics and subtropics, a team of researchers from Purdue University have concluded.

A warming planet — the kind of warming that took place 60 million years ago, at least — was thought to be self-limiting, allowing species to adjust to the heat. That theory of an Earth “internal thermostat” turns out to be untrue, they said.

The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum period, which occurred 56 million years ago, is the warmest period of the last 100 million years, according to scientists. Global temperatures jumped by 9 degrees Fahrenheit while the tropics and subtropics warmed by 5 degrees

The increase was particularly dramatic because temperatures prior to the period were already at warm levels.

“The records produced in this study indicate that when the tropics warmed that last little bit, a threshold was passed and parts of the tropical biosphere seems to have died,” said study author Matthew Huber, a professor in the Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences Department at Purdue.

“This is the first time that we’ve found really good information, in a very detailed way, where we saw major changes in the tropics directly associated with warming past a key threshold in the past 60 million years.”

The theory has particular relevance since the tropics and subtropics comprise half of the earth’s surface area and more than half of the Earth’s biodiversity. Today, those areas are also home to more than half of the world’s human population.

Humans of course are an adaptable lot and modern technology can make places livable that ordinarily would not be. But, said Huber: “If you say there’s no tropical thermostat, then half of the world’s biodiversity — over half of the world’s population, the tropical rainforests, the reefs, India, Brazil — these populous and very important countries have nothing to prevent them from warming up substantially above conditions that humans have been used to.”

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Artist’s conception of a terraformed Mars. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

RED PLANET REDO: It’s a little early to book your travel tickets, but NASA scientists say they’ve come up with a plan to develop an atmosphere on Mars. The proposal could create more accommodating environmental conditions on the planet as early as the 2040s.

The idea, unveiled at the recent Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop in Washington, DC, involves employing a magnetic shield to protect Mars from solar winds and allow its atmosphere to regrow.

Currently atmospheric pressure on Mars is about 1 percent of Earth’s at sea level.

But the shield would cause the atmosphere to thicken over time and boost temperatures by up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit, melting the carbon dioxide in the polar ice caps. That would trigger a greenhouse effect, warming the planet further.

“A greatly enhanced Martian atmosphere, in both pressure and temperature, that would be enough to allow significant surface liquid water would also have a number of benefits for science and human exploration in the 2040s and beyond,” said Jim Green – the Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division.

“Much like Earth, an enhanced atmosphere would allow larger landed mass of equipment to the surface, shield against most cosmic and solar particle radiation, extend the ability for oxygen extraction, and provide ‘open air’ greenhouses to exist for plant production, just to name a few.”

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Key West rainfall record

MARCH MADNESS: Monday was the 30th anniversary of the wettest March day on record in Key West — 5.26 inches drenched the island on March 6, 1987. (Credit: NWS-Key West)

In Florida, the winter that wasn’t; NOAA braces for big budget cuts

The National Weather Service made it official in its seasonal analysis released last week, although it was something everyone had already guessed: “It wasn’t much of a winter in South Florida.”

As I mentioned in my Friday post, winter 2016-2017 was the warmest on the record books in Miami, and it was the first winter on record in which the temperature failed to drop below 50 degrees for even one night.

Highs hit 80 or above on 69 days, which was also a record.

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Cool winter days were scarce around South Florida this winter — and almost non-existent in Miami. (Credit: NWS-Miami)

Very cool winter days — defined as a high that fails to reach 70 or a minimum temperature below 50 — were far and few between at South Florida’s four main reporting sites. Miami had only one such day (when the high failed to hit 70); Fort Lauderdale had two, and Palm Beach International had eight. Naples had six.

A normal winter has 10, 12, 18 and 20, respectively.

It was also an unusually dry winter throughout the Florida peninsula, with one exception: Miami International Airport picked up 7.94 inches of rain, 1.13 inches above normal for the three-month period.

Four other sites had top-20 driest winters on record, including LaBelle, Moore Haven, Naples and Ortona.

“The dry recently-concluded winter combined with normal spring dryness means that drought conditions are likely to develop over all of South Florida during the coming weeks,” NWS forecasters warned in their report.

With warming temperatures and dry conditions continuing, a very active fire season may be on the horizon for South Florida.

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Products issued by the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) include updated maps of global sea surface temperatures. (Credit: NOAA/ NESDIS)

ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK: NOAA — the federal umbrella agency that oversees the National Weather Service and other climate-related components — is facing a 17 percent budget cut proposed by the new administration in Washington, The Washington Post reported Friday.

The bulk of the cuts would come from the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS), which among other things provides regularly updated analyses of global sea surface temperatures.

Ocean temperatures — especially those in The Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and the tropical Atlantic — are essential to hurricane forecasts and especially pre-season forecasts, since warm water temperatures provide the fuel for tropical storms and hurricanes.

The Commerce Department, of which NOAA is a part, should be managed “like a business,” according to proposals obtained by the Post.

The department will look into greater use of privately owned satellites.

Late February rains didn’t dampen Florida drought

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Moderate Drought covered the south-central part of the state this week. (Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor) 

Drought conditions remained in place this week over much of south-central Florida, despite beneficial rains to close out February.

West Palm Beach picked up 2.51 inches of rain over the final seven days of the month. Some parts of the Treasure Coast also picked up 2.5 inches.

But Moderate Drought continued from northeastern Palm Beach County through Southern Brevard County on the East Coast, and from Naples north to Tampa on the West Coast. Most of the rest of South Florida, including Palm Beach and Broward counties, remained Abnormally Dry, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor analysis released Thursday.

A small slice of Miami-Dade and extreme southeastern Broward counties are not affected.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for the drought conditions to persist at least through the end of March.

Rain chances around South Florida will be in the 20-40 percent range through early next week, but the big story will be wind — gusts out of the northeast and east may reach the mid- to high 30s by Saturday night, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

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key-west-record-high

Temperatures heated up in the Keys this week, and heat records were broken or tied in other parts of the state as well.  Cooler weather is expected through the weekend after a cold front moved down the peninsula late Thursday and Friday morning. It was also the warmest winter on record in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and the fifth warmest in West Palm Beach — tied with 1950. It was the second-warmest winter in Naples. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

RECORD WATCH: Key West set a record high on Thursday with 86, busting the previous mark of 85 set in 1991.

Jacksonville set a new record high with 88, beating he old mark of 87 set in 1997. Gainesville’s high of 87 tied the old mark set in 1997.

Daytona Beach broke a record warm low on Wednesday with 66, beating the previous mark of 65 set in 2007.

Fort Myers had its warmest winter (Dec. 1 to Feb. 28) on record with an average temperature of 70.9 degrees, the National Weather Service in Tampa said. The previous record was 70.7 degrees setting during the winter of 1931-1932.

February highs average 80-plus from Orlando to Miami

march-forecast

Most of the U.S. is in for a warm start to spring, forecasters say. (Credit: NOAA/ CPC)

February ended Tuesday with an average monthly high of 81 from Miami to West Palm Beach, with average lows from 61 to 66 — temperatures that you would normally see in early April.

Rainfall deficits ran from 1.39 inches in Fort Lauderdale to nearly an inch in Miami and Naples, to a little more than a quarter of an inch in West Palm Beach, which benefited from some unexpected showers that moved in off the coast late Monday night.

The average February high in Naples was 80.

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It was the third-warmest winter on record in Key West, with an average temperature of 75 degrees. The warmest on record was the winter of 1931-1932, which had an average temperature of 75.4. Records in Key West date back to 1872. (Credit: NWS-Key West)

Average high temperatures in Central Florida: Melbourne, 78; Vero Beach, 80; Daytona Beach, 76; and Orlando, 80. Tampa, 78; Sarasota, 77; Fort Myers, 83.

Fort Myers ended February with a high of 90 degrees on Tuesday, breaking a record for the date of 88 set in 2012. St. Petersburg tied a record high with 82.

Fort Lauderdale set a record warm low on the last day of the month — 75, beating the previous mark of 74 set in 1997.

Naples set a record high with 88 on Tuesday, beating the old record of 87 set in 1997.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for above normal March temperatures in Florida and much of the U.S. But long-range forecasters have backed off on calls for increased precipitation, with below normal Florida rainfall in the forecast for at least the first half of the month.

March rainfall usually jumps from February to March, with average precipitation of around 4.5 inches in South Florida. Normal highs edge up from 78-79 into the low 80s.

As the weather continues to heat up, longer days are ahead. Daylight Saving Time arrives a week from Sunday — March 12 — with sunset at 7:28 p.m. in Palm beach. Sunrise will be at 7:32 a.m.

Florida’s winter winds down amid more unseasonable warmth

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Toasty temperatures continue around the Florida peninsula as spring approaches. (Credit: NWS-Miami)

Tuesday is the end of the 2016-17 meteorological winter. We really ought to put the word “winter” in quotes, since it was one of the most un-winter-like seasons in memory.

During a normal winter — which meteorologists consider the Dec. 1 to Feb. 28 time frame — there are at least a handful of nights in the 30s, even in coastal areas of South Florida.

That didn’t happen this year.

The winter’s low in West Palm Beach was 43, and that was one of only five nights that made it into the 40s, all of them in January except for the Dec. 31 low of 49. The season’s low in Miami was 51 on Jan. 30. The low in Fort Lauderdale was 48 on Jan. 8 — and that was the only sub-50-degree low all winter.

Naples made it down to 42 on Jan. 8.

Out of the 90-day winter period, about 50 of them had high temperatures in the 80s in West Palm Beach, at least 67 in Miami, 54 in Fort Lauderdale and 51 in Naples.

There was plenty of 80-degree weather in Central and even North Florida as well, but there were at least some cooler overnight temperatures.

Fort Pierce made it to 33 degrees on Jan. 31, after a strong cold front — one of only two all season — swept through in time for the end of the month. It was 34 in Vero Beach, also the winter’s low. Melbourne’s low was 37; with 35 in Daytona Beach on Jan. 8.

Even Orlando, which doesn’t have the full benefit of moderating effects of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic, bottomed out at 36 on Jan. 8.

The low in Tampa was 34 on Jan. 8; it was 36 in Sarasota on the same day. Fort Myers made it to 40 on Jan. 8 — the city did not have a temperature in the 30s all winter.

You have to look at North Florida to find any freezing weather. It was 26 in Jacksonville on Jan. 8 and 30 degrees on Dec. 31.

Gainesville, usually one of the coolest spots in the peninsula, had a pair of 25-degree lows on Jan. 8 and 9.

North Florida, however, was 5-7 degrees above normal this winter. Central Florida was around 4-6 degrees above average December through February and South Florida sites were between 2.5 to 5 degrees above average. The Keys were around 3-6 degrees on the plus side.

Is it possible that South Florida could still get some cold weather, even as we move into spring? Statistically, yes. Miami has been as cold as 32 in March, and the record low in April is 39.

But those kinds of readings aren’t in long-range forecasts, which stretch out to the end of March.

It looks like Old Man Winter has been sent packing, at least in Florida and much of the U.S. Southeast. Will he be able to book a return trip next year? We may be dealing with a long and hot spring, summer and fall to find out.

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Highs will be in the upper 80s by mid-week in Orlando. (Credit: NWS-Melbourne)