NOAA forecasts above normal spring temps for most of U.S.

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The new March, April and May forecast is for abnormally warm temperatures in much of the U.S. (Credit: NOAA/ CPC)

An unusually warm and dry spring is on the horizon for Florida and much of the eastern U.S., NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday.

The CPC is forecasting above normal temperatures across the entire southern tier of states, from Southern California to Florida and up the East Coast to Maine. Only the Northwest and Upper Midwest is out of the warm spring forecast area — and even there, the agency hedged its bets and said there was an equal chance for above, below or normal temperatures.

No below normal spring temperatures are forecast anywhere in the U.S., including Alaska.

The Southeast, including Florida, should be dryer than normal, NOAA said.

The CPC also forecast above normal temperatures in Florida for February, despite what could be a cool start to the month.

The forecast for abnormally dry weather is perhaps a bit more troubling than the predicted heat. The Florida peninsula remains Abnormally Dry in the latest analysis by the U.S. Drought Monitor, issued Thursday morning.

With a little more than a week left in January, Palm Beach International Airport has had only 0.24 of an inch of rain all month, a deficit of 1.66 inches. Fort Lauderdale and Naples are also looking at a precipitation shortfall, although Miami precipitation is slightly above average for the month.

Sunday/ Monday’s forecast rainfall associated with an incoming cold front looks to be a quick splash of precipitation before more dry weather builds in by the middle of next week.

Miami is an outlier in its rainfall totals and precipitation deficits continue to mount in Key West, Marathon, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Tampa, Fort Pierce, Melbourne, Daytona Beach and Orlando.

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SATURDAY UPDATE: The cold front expected to rip across the Florida peninsula on Sunday could bring strong thunderstorms, wind gusts of up to 60 mph, small hail and isolated tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service. The Storm Prediction Center’s forecast, above, is for a “slight” risk for severe weather Sunday and Sunday night into early Monday morning. (Credit: NWS-Miami)

MONDAY STORM WATCH: Winds accompanying the strong cold front due to sweep down the Florida peninsula late Sunday night or early Monday morning could gust as strong as 40 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

Some strong thunderstorms could accompany the front, forecasters said. Temperatures will be only slightly cooler behind the front.

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Miami 40 years ago: The weather outside was frightful

Here’s a slice of South Florida history that will chill you to the bone: Thursday is the 40th anniversary of the only recorded snow in Miami. There was a dusting of the white stuff as far south as Homestead in Miami-Dade County, but a quarter of an inch accumulated at Palm Beach International Airport.

No, PBIA didn’t have to haul out the snow plows in order to get flights off the ground. The snow began at 6:10 a.m. in West Palm Beach and was over by 8:40 a.m. Wellington and areas west of the city reported unofficial totals of up to a half-inch.

Some radio stations reportedly began playing Christmas music.

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Lows on Jan. 20, 1977. (Credit: NWS-Miami)

No snow has fallen since then in South Florida — at least officially — although there were unconfirmed reports of flurries in the Everglades during the December 1989 cold snap and again during the unusual cold wave of January 2010.

Even Freeport in the Bahamas picked up some snow that day in 1977, mixed with rain — the only time in the 350-year history of the island nation that snow occurred.

The farthest south snow had fallen previously was in 1899, north of a line from Fort Myers up to Fort Pierce.

On the morning of Jan. 20, the coldest temperature officially noted by the National Weather Service in Miami was 21 degrees at LaBelle in Hendry County. It was 27 in West Palm Beach, 28 in Fort Lauderdale and 31 in Miami.

Agricultural losses added up to $100 million in Miami-Dade County — then just Dade County — and $350 million (1977 dollars) statewide. Thirty-five counties were declared disaster areas.

The Florida Highway Patrol issued travel advisories for ice-covered roads, since water used to irrigate crops to protect them from the freeze splashed on to roadways and froze.

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HOTTEST YEAR: Earth had its hottest year on record in 2016 for the third year in a row, NOAA announced Wednesday. The analysis was echoed by NASA.

Average temperatures were 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th century mean, NOAA reported. Record hot years were also logged in 2014 and 2015.

Weather locations change over the years, but NASA said the agency was “greater than 95 percent” certain of its conclusion.

“2016 is remarkably the third record year in a row in this series,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). “We don’t expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear.”

Average surface temperatures have risen about 2 degrees F since the late 19th century, NOAA said in a news release, “a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.

“Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001.”

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RECORD WATCH: The low in Fort Lauderdale Tuesday was 72, tying a mark for the warmest minimum set in 1943.

MONDAY WEATHER WATCH: After a warm weekend with highs in the 80s around South Florida, things could get bumpy on Monday as a strong cold front rips through the area, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

“Plenty of moisture and sufficient instability will be out ahead of this front,” forecasters said in their Wednesday morning analysis. “Coupled with strong dynamics and shear associated with the front, strong to perhaps severe thunderstorms with the front cannot be ruled out and will need to continue to be monitored closely over the upcoming days.”

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A strong cold front could bring severe thunderstorms to the Florida peninsula on Monday. (Credit: NOAA/ WPC)

South Florida logs record temps, but changes may be ahead

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The forecast for Florida’s West Coast is for temperatures in the 80s into next weekend. But changes may be afoot. (Credit: NWS-Tampa)

Temperature records are being challenged in South Florida, and spring-like warmth is expected this week in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. But a pattern change to a more wintry setup may be in the works for the start of February in the Eastern U.S.

Florida could start the month with some cooler than normal temperatures after a very toasty January featuring balmy days and nights from Key West to Jacksonville.

Miami tied a record high Sunday with 83, matching a mark set in 1993. Fort Lauderdale tied a record warm minimum Sunday with 72, matching the mark set in 2013.

West Palm Beach checked in with an apparent low of 71 Monday, just a degree off an 88-year-old record of 72 set in 1929.

Monday morning’s low in Palm Beach was 72.

The low was also 72 in Key West Monday which was short of record territory — but by 8 a.m. it was 76, the warmest in the continental U.S.

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Early February may be cooler than normal in the Southeast — a big change from January. (Credit: NOAA/ CPC)

Although NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center forecast map has the eastern two-thirds of the country bathed in shades of deep red through the end of January, indicative of above average temperatures over the next two weeks, the new three- and four-week forecast released Friday suggests a cool start to February in the Southeast.

Florida temperatures may slip back into the normal- to slightly-below-normal range through the first week to 10 days of February.

After a long string of highs near 80 and lows in the 60s and lower 70s in South Florida, highs may top out closer to 70 with lows in the 50s during the first week of the new month, according to AccuWeather.

The CPC’s forecast map shows cooler than average temperatures through Feb. 10 stretching from eastern Texas through the Mississippi Valley to the coast of the Carolinas and the Mid-Atlantic, including the Florida panhandle and east into North Florida.

The cool start to February may not set the tone for the entire month, however. AccuWeather predicts a warm second half of February in Florida.

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CLIMATE CHANGE IS LOCAL: The Northeastern U.S. will warm faster than other parts of the country, and will cross the plus-2-degree Celsius threshold 20 years earlier than the global average, according to a new study released by the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“The fastest warming region in the contiguous U.S. is the Northeast, which is projected to warm by 3 degrees C when global warming reaches 2 degrees C,” researchers Ambarish Karmalkar and Raymond Bradley wrote in their study, which appears in the current issue of PLOS ONE.

“The eastern U.S. is projected to experience wetter winters and the Great Plains and Northwest are projected to experience drier summers in the future,” they added.

Their conclusions were based on climate model simulations.

La Niña on its way out; Mid-Atlantic basks in winter warmth

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The holiday weekend forecast looks almost picture-perfect for South Florida. (Credit: NWS-Miami)

The quasi-winter of 2016-17 continues with some summer-type temps in Washington, Baltimore and other locations in the Mid-Atlantic, and an uncharacteristic warm front on its way to the Upper Midwest.

Florida, meanwhile, is revelling in a true Chamber of Commerce streak, with highs in the upper 70s to near 80 while East Coast overnight lows remain around 10 degrees above normal.

It was 71 in Baltimore on Thursday and 65 on Friday. A cool and gloomy weekend is in store for the Mid-Atlantic, but highs are due to rebound into the mid- to upper-50s next week.

It was 66 in New York Thursday and 62 on Friday.

While it has been blustery in Chicago over the last couple of days, with lows in the teens, a warm front is on the way over the weekend (preceded, unfortunately, by a dangerous ice storm) that will drive temps up into the mid-40s next week, and around 50 by week’s end.

In Washington, Friday could be the warmest Inauguration Day on record, according to Bob Henson at Weather Underground.

The storminess in the West — which was anticipated during last winter’s El Niño but has instead taken hold during this winter’s La Niña — has put a big dent in California’s drought and more precipitation is on the way.

The latest El Niño analysis, issued Thursday by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, says the cooler-than-normal tropical Pacific water temperatures that are the hallmark of La Niña will be on their way out starting next month.

“Even as the tropical Pacific Ocean returns to ENSO-neutral conditions, the atmospheric impacts from La Niña could persist during the upcoming months,” the CPC said.

Neutral conditions are expected through the coming fall. How might that impact the 2017 hurricane season?

Colorado State University’s Philip Klotzbach said in his 2017 projection last month that we could have another robust hurricane season if no El Niño develops by autumn, which now looks to be the case.

He assigned a 60 percent chance of an above average season if a strong Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) phenomenon develops and no El Niño forms. The AMO affects sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic, and El Niño produces high wind shear unfavorable to tropical storm development.

By the numbers, that would be 12-17 named storms, six to 11 hurricanes and two to five majors.

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Sea surface temperature anomalies on Jan. 12. (Credit: NOAA/ NESDIS)

Speaking of Atlantic water temperatures, the tropical Atlantic is very warm for the time being, with above average temps stretching all the way from the coast of Africa into the Caribbean and to the coast of Central America.

Even the Gulf of Mexico is toasty, with a few spots of below normal water temperatures in the vicinity of the Bahamas — but they are still warm off the Florida coast.

Water temperatures off South Florida’s East Coast are in the mid- to upper-70s.

While local ocean temperatures have been stubbornly above normal all winter — they are largely responsible for the season’s long strings of unusually balmy nights — it’s worth noting that we are four days away from winter’s average temperature turnaround, when normal lows and highs begin creeping back up.

The average high in West Palm Beach ticks up from 74 to 75 on Wednesday, and the normal low rises from 57 to 58 on Jan. 31. There’s no looking back from there with normal highs and lows of 78 and 61 by the end of February.

NOAA issues its new long-range forecast for February — and the February-April period — on Thursday.

More sultry Florida temps on tap as drought conditions improve

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Forecast highs were edging close to 80 Thursday in East-Central Florida. (Credit: NWS-Melbourne)

Florida temperatures have rebounded this week and are again significantly above normal, even though South Florida’s daytime highs in the mid-70s feel comfortable and are par for the course for the middle of January.

Once again, overnight lows are taking center stage. Wednesday morning’s low was 64 in Fort Lauderdale, 67 in Miami and a relatively sultry 68 at Palm Beach International Airport. That West Palm Beach low is 11 degrees above normal for the date, while Wednesday’s high of 76 was 2 degrees above average.

That put the overall Jan. 11 temperature at 7 degrees above average, the ninth day of the month with above normal temperatures.

Wednesday morning’s apparent low at PBIA was 69. Expect this run of balmy January nights to continue well into next week with winds remaining easterly, bringing in warm air from the Atlantic. Water temperatures off Palm Beach are still an impressive 75 degrees and 77 just south of Key Biscayne near Miami Beach.

The long string of warm overnight lows on Florida’s East Coast could be interrupted late next week as a cold front finally marches down the peninsula around Jan. 20, according to long-range forecast models. Although the National Weather Service notes that it’s too soon to assess the potential impact of the front, AccuWeather is predicting low temperatures in the normal range the last week of the month.

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Most of the Florida peninsula remains Abnormally Dry. (Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor)

DROUGHT IMPROVEMENT: The U.S. Drought Monitor issued its latest analysis of conditions around Florida on Thursday, concluding that Moderate Drought improved in parts of the panhandle. In fact, some areas around Tallahassee are back to normal while Apalachicola on the Gulf Coast went from Moderate Drought to Abnormally Dry.

Most of the Florida peninsula, though, from around Gainesville to Jacksonville south to Collier and Palm Beach counties remains Abnormally Dry. Only a small slice of the southeastern peninsula is in the normal range, from Mainland Monroe County northeast into southeastern Broward County.

Current rainfall deficits: 0.96 of an inch in West Palm Beach; 0.92 of an inch in Miami; 0.75 of an inch in Fort Myers; 0.61 in Vero Beach; 0.53 of an inch in Tampa; 0.31 of an inch in Fort Lauderdale; 0.23 of an inch in Naples; and 0.22 of an inch in Orlando.

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KEY WEST CHILL: Today is the 130th anniversary of the coldest temperature on record in Key West — 41 degrees on Jan. 12, 1886. That mark was matched, however, on Jan. 13, 1981. The culprit was a massive 1037 mb high pressure system that settled over the Mississippi River Valley and poured Arctic air over Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. Temperature records in Key West date back to 1872. (Credit: NWS-Key West)

The Big Bounce: Florida warming trend picks up its pace

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Florida’s warm-up continues as we head into mid-week. (Credit: NWS-Melbourne)

After flirting with some winter weather late last week and over the weekend, most of the eastern two-thirds of the country appears to be headed for some spring-time temps — in mid-January.

Temperatures should jump back into the low 80s in Florida by the end of the week — more on that below — but even the Frozen North is enjoying a January thaw that could stick around for at least 10 days, and possibly longer.

Not that people in the Upper Midwest, or the Northeast, will be sitting on their patios wearing shorts and Ray-Bans and sipping tropical drinks. The weather in Chicago through the third week of the month looks mild but gloomy, with highs in the 40s under cloudy and rather drippy skies.

Consider the AccuWeather forecast for Chicago on Friday Jan. 20: A high of 43 degrees under partly sunny skies. That’s about as good as it gets this time of the year, and might even generate some wire photos of people rollerblading through Grant Park.

The commercial forecasting service is calling for mostly mild weather in February, too, with a bunch of highs in the 40s.

Wednesday’s forecast high in Cleveland is 49 and Thursday’s forecast high is 54. Even Buffalo looks to be well above freezing for much of the rest of the month and into February.

Boston’s forecast high on Thursday is 50 degrees — 62 in Washington. In fact, inauguration day, Friday Jan. 20, will be cloudy with a high near 60, which would be in stark contrast to some of the nasty cold conditions that have presided over other inaugurations.

Forecasters credit high pressure that maintains a firm grip on the central and eastern U.S. while low pressure remains in control over the West Coast.

That means more Chamber of Commerce weather in Florida, with highs edging up near 80 in places like Palm Beach, Miami and Naples, and even Orlando.

Temperatures in South Florida, by the way, are still running between 2-5 degrees above normal for January despite the weekend cold snap. Expect that gap to widen over the next 10 days to two weeks.

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A meteor hit near the Russian City of Chelyabinsk in February 2013, damaging buildings and injuring hundreds. (Credit: Alex Alishevskikh via Wikimedia Commons)

CLOSE CALL: An asteroid up to 112 feet in diameter ripped through space between the Earth and the moon on Monday. The good news, of course, is that it was a clean miss.

But the bad news is that it was only discovered on Saturday by the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona. Had it make its way into Earth’s atmosphere, it would have generated an explosion 30 times more powerful than the blast at Hiroshima 10 miles above the surface, according to a report in Popular Mechanics.

It may have triggered an event similar to the Chelyabinsk meteor that hit Russia in 2013.

“Not knowing about near-Earth objects (NEO) until days before they fly close to the Earth is slightly concerning,” the magazine noted.

For a list of other (known) asteroids in Earth’s neighborhood, check out NASA writer Tony Phillips’ blog at Spaceweather.com.

South Florida temps slide into 30s; warming trend on the way

Sunday temperatures in South Florida plummeted into the 30s in western areas and 40s along the Atlantic Coast after Saturday’s vigorous cold front funneled in wintry air behind a storm system that brought snow and even chillier weather to the Northeast.

It was 45 in West Palm Beach — the coldest temperature since Feb. 11, 2016. It was 51 in Miami, 48 in Fort Lauderdale and 42 in Naples.

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Sunday morning lows in South Florida were mostly in the 40s. (Credit: NWS-Miami)

It was 39 in Immokalee in inland Collier County and there were scattered readings in the upper 30s west of Lake Okeechobee. Wind chills were in the lower to mid-30s in Southwest Florida.

It was in the 30s along the Treasure Coast and Gainesville, in North-Central Florida, reported 28 degrees.

A wind change from northwest to northeast late Sunday will kickoff a moderating trend, according to the National Weather Service. Monday morning lows will be near or slightly below 60 on Florida’s southeast coast, with highs edging back up into the 70s by Monday and Tuesday.

Highs late in the week will return to the upper 70s with lows around 70 under mostly sunny to partly cloudy conditions.

Saturday’s cold front delivered 0.19 of an inch of rain to Palm Beach International Airport to round out the first week of the new year. The January total of 0.24 of an inch is about a half-inch below normal for this point in the month.

Miami reported 0.59 of an inch front the front while 0.15 of an inch fell in Fort Lauderdale and 0.37 of an inch fell in Naples.