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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After mid-week chill, close to 80 by Sunday, forecasters say

cfl thursday am temps

Central Florida Thursday morning temps were “a tad chilly,” the National Weather Service said on Facebook. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

“Okay, campers, rise and shine and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cold out there today!” (Yup, that’s from the movie Groundhog Day — Punxsutawney Phil’s mid-winter extravaganza is just 23 days away.)

Thursday morning temperatures were uniformly cool over almost the entire state, with upper 30s to low 40s stretching from the panhandle over to Jacksonville, and down into interior areas of Central and even South Florida. Exceptions were the southeastern coast and the Keys.

keys temps

It was a little warmer in the Keys …. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

It was in the mid-50s in the Upper Keys and the low 60s in the Lower Keys, including 62 in Key West, according to Weather Underground.

It was around 50 in the Palm Beaches, the low 50s in the Fort Lauderdale area and most of Miami-Dade County, with mid-50s in Miami Beach.

Upper 40s to near 50 covered Southwest Florida but there were lots of the low 40s in interior portions of South Florida.

An observer just outside Okeechobee reported a temperature of 31, but in nearby Sebring it was 46.

Mid-40s stretched from the Tampa area over to the Treasure Coast, and it was 45 in Orlando.

There were a few upper 30s in North-Central Florida 30 in the Lake City area and upper 30s to low 40s in the Jacksonville area.

nfl wind chills

North Florida wind chills had a bit of a bite on Thursday morning. (Credit: NWS-Jacksonville)

The National Weather Service reported that the temperature dipped to 49 just before sunrise in West Palm Beach, which will be the likely low for the day — that’s 8 degrees below average. Miami International Airport reported 53 and Fort Lauderdale fell to 52.

A warm-up is in the works for the weekend — the forecast high in South Florida on Sunday is around 80 — before another cold front sweeps through and knocks temperatures back to slightly below normal again for the first part of next week. Tampa and Orlando should be in the upper 70s on Sunday, slightly cooler in Daytona Beach.

The weather pattern over the next 10 days will be pretty mundane for mid-winter, according to the National Weather Service. No great warm-ups, no drastic cold snaps. Forecasters Thursday morning were predicting a “relatively zonal mid and upper-level flow with periodic shortwave troughs associated with the northern branch of the jet stream occasionally pushing cold fronts through the eastern [U.S., which] will continue into next week.”

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DROUGHT UPDATE: Moderate Drought conditions expanded again to include all of the southern Florida peninsula, including Mainland Monroe and most of Collier County, as well as southern Miami-Dade County, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported Thursday.

Abnormally Dry conditions encompass a swath of Central Florida, including Lee County on the West Coast and areas north and west of Lake Okeechobee.

Some areas of South Florida area already almost an inch behind normal precipitation levels for this point in January — 10 days into the month.

30s expected in North Florida with weekend warm-up in forecast

7 day rainfall forecast

NO DROUGHT RELIEF: Look who’s expected to get skunked on precipitation over the next seven days — the Florida peninsula. The U.S. Drought Monitor releases its latest analysis on Thursday and it will be interesting to see if Moderate Drought conditions expand again. They already cover most of the southern and eastern portions of the Florida peninsula. Wednesday’s cold front was forecast to roll through with little or no rainfall. (Image credit: NOAA/ WPC)

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POST-COLD FRONT FORECAST LOWS AND HIGHS: Miami, 56 on Thursday morning, high 67; West Palm Beach, 54 and 66; Naples, 52 and 64; Sebring, 39 and 62; Tampa and Orlando, 43 and 60; Gainesville, 34 and 57; Daytona Beach, 38 and 56; Jacksonville, 37 and 55; Lake City, 33 and 55; Tallahassee, 32 and 53.

Temperatures moderate on Friday, but then another cold front knocks temperatures back on Sunday.

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LATEST SUNRISE: We’re in the period of January (and the season) with the latest sunrise, a phenomenon that will last through the rest of this week and most of next week. On Friday, January 18, the sun begins rising a minute earlier and the mornings continue to get longer until Daylight Saving Time intervenes on Sunday, March 10.

In Palm Beach, the eastern-most slice of the Florida peninsula, the sun rises this week at 7:10 a.m., the latest of the fall/ winter season.

Sunset has been getting later since December 5, when the sun set at 5:26 p.m. Sunset is at 5:44 p.m. on January 9 and it will set at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, January 29.

This is also the week with the coolest normal high temperature in West Palm Beach — 74 degrees. That edged down from 75 on Sunday; it bounces back up to 75 on the same day as the sunrise turnaround — Friday, January 18. Normal highs continue to march higher until July 31 when they top out at 91.

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AND: At the same time all of these astronomical changes are taking place, residents of North America will be treated to a total lunar eclipse, which will occur on the night of January 20-21.

This is what the media is calling the Full Wolf Moon, which will “glow an eerie coppery hue high in the dark and crisp winter sky,” says the Farmers Almanac.

A lunar eclipse happens when the Earth passes between the sun and moon — blocking the light from the sun and casting a shadow over the lunar surface.

The peak of the event should occur on the 21st at 12:16 a.m. EST.

Late-week frost possible in North Florida as three cold fronts take aim at peninsula

WHERE’S THE COLD AIR? A trio of cold fronts are expected to roll down the Florida peninsula this week and late in the weekend. But big-picture-wise, it doesn’t look like there’s much Arctic air to work with as we head toward mid-January. At left is the 6-10-day outlook and at right is the 8-14-day outlook for the U.S. A lot of above-normal temperatures are in the forecast except for the East Coast, where close-to-normal temps are expected. There are no below-normal temperatures in these long-range forecasts anywhere — even in Alaska. (Image credits: NOAA/ CPC)

Florida-style winter weather is on the way — get out the long pants, but keep the shorts and flip-flops on standby.

The week should end in typical Florida winter fashion: Mid-week warm-up followed by a cold front, followed by high pressure building in, then once the high pressure slides off the coast, an east wind modifies the air mass and a warming trend begins. Rinse and repeat.

Frost is possible in North Florida on Thursday morning as the second of two cold fronts slides across peninsula late Wednesday, the National Weather Service says. Another slides through late Sunday.

Central Florida and South Florida should be safe, forecasters said, and in fact lows in coastal South Florida should only fall into the 50s. Inland areas may bottom out in the 30s, but breezy conditions should negate any frost potential, even in areas northwest of Lake Okeechobee, according to National Weather Service forecast discussions.

Thursday’s highs in South Florida will be in the upper 60s; the lower 60s in East-Central Florida; near 60 in the Tampa and Orlando areas; and upper 50s in the Gainesville area after a cold start to the day just above freezing.

Although these temperatures are below normal, they’re expected to modify quickly on Friday and a pretty nice weekend is on the horizon with highs in the 70s up and down the peninsula.

Even Key West should see lows near 60 on Thursday morning, with highs back up in the upper 70s on Saturday and Sunday.

In any case, there’s no ultra-cold air anywhere in the country, looking at Tuesday morning’s temperature map from Weather Underground. The only sub-freezing weather was in the Upper Midwest, the Plains States and the Mountain States — and in northern New England.

Tuesday early morning temps were in the 50s as far north as southern Illinois.

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radar outage

NOT TO WORRY: Unscheduled radar maintenance in Key West shouldn’t have much of an effect, since no precipitation is in the forecast through at least Thursday in the Keys. If you need to check things out, use the Miami long-range radar. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

Near-perfect weather for most of Florida, but rainfall deficits continue to build

tallahassee forecast

FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: Nice nice nice! A mid-week cold front bumps temperatures down a notch or two, but nothing too dramatic. The only problem is, rainfall deficits will continue to build in South Florida and East-Central Florida. No meaningful rains have fallen during the first week of the month in South Florida, which is coming off big December deficits. The front that pushes down the peninsula Tuesday night and Wednesday will be a dry one, the National Weather Service says.

keys forecast

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

nfl morning temps

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.

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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wk34temp

(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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two_pac_5d0

(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.