2015 will go down as THE warmest year on record in Gainesville. The 2.4 degree anomaly for the year is remarkable, but the numbers in December are even more incredible. December was a staggering 10.4°F above average, making it the warmest December in the city’s 126-year recorded history. To put this in perspective, the monthly numbers were closer to the normal highs and lows for Fort Myers, some 200 miles south. Even more staggering were the numbers during the week of Christmas. From the 23rd to the 29th, the regional airport was an unprecedented 19.5° F above average, more than 5°F warmer than the second place year of 1984.
We weren’t alone in the recent historic warmth. More than 10,000 daily or monthly records were tied or broken nationwide in December. In Florida, more than 600 warm temperature records have either been tied or broken this month as well. In fact, every major climate reporting station in the Southeast U.S. has experienced its warmest Christmas week ever, some by unbelievable margins! In Washington, D.C. for example, a city nearly 800 miles to the north, the mercury was two degrees warmer than Gainesville’s typical numbers for the same holiday period. Erik Blake, Hurricane Specialist from the National Hurricane Center, tweeted Wednesday this map showcasing the widespread warmth.
Gardeners and farmers aren’t complaining. It’s just the third time a freeze hasn’t occurred this late in the season since 1950, and the latest frost-free period since 1995. But after 10 straight months of above-average temperatures in Gainesville, a change in the weather pattern may not be that far away. Strong El Niño events, such as the one we are currently experiencing, typically correlate to temperatures a few degrees below normal in January and February. These are the months when the effects from this global weather phenomenon are most pronounced. As we have informed you numerous times through the fall, temperatures in January are projected to be near or below average statewide thanks to the influence of a vigorous subtropical jet and more precipitation events. This will be most notable in the daytime temperatures, often struggling to warm because of persistent clouds and rain. It remains to be seen, however, just how much cooler the temperatures will be. Considering the recent unwavering warmth, a return to normalcy will likely seem just as cold to many Floridians.
The UF Weather Team and the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network will continue to monitor the recent trends of the El Niño event and provide updates to all of Florida’s public media stations in the coming months. Now is a good time to download Florida Storms, a free app with customized push notifications for severe weather, lightning, and extreme weather.
Editor’s Note: UF Meteorologist Jeff Huffman edited this article. The research on the numbers is cited below…