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Spring Might Come Early to Florida

  1. Numerous cold records broken
  2. The thaw begins this week
  3. The warmth may be here to stay

Wind chills reached the teens this past week as far south as Orlando, and freezing temperatures were noted as far south as Punta Gorda. In fact, the National Weather Service Tampa Bay tweeted that more than a dozen record lows were either tied or broken Thursday morning.

The winter as a whole was expected to be warm in Florida due to the well-known correlation between La Niña and the wind patterns across North America. However, the mean temperature in nearly every city so far has been near or below average, this according to data collected from the Southeast Regional Climate Center Saturday.

Top Ten Coldest Cities This Winter

Departures from normal 12/1/2017 - 1/20/2018
Gainesville.............. -1.0º
Ft. Lauderdale........ -0.9º
Naples..................... -0.9º
Ocala....................... -0.9º
Pensacola................ -0.7º
Orlando................... -0.6º
Tallahassee............. -0.5º
Ft. Pierce................. -0.4º
Daytona Beach........ -0.4º
Key West................. -0.3º
West Palm Beach.... -0.3º


The fronts in early January weren't just cold. They were extreme. In fact, ice and snow fall in northern parts of the state not just once, but twice! Both times, the jet stream (or steering current aloft) was directing air from the North Pole straight at Florida. And because it persisted for days, it's no surprise that the winter has been colder than normal up to this point.While extreme warmth isn't expected anytime soon, there is evidence to suggest the season's coldest may be behind us. The state began to thaw out this weekend, as a ridge of higher pressure moved in aloft and the north winds ceased. Temperatures reached the 70s in most areas south of I-10 Sunday, and highs will likely top 70 across the entire state Monday. Inland areas of South Florida could even warm to the lower 80s Tuesday, which would be nearly 10 degrees above normal for this time of year.

The next cold front to move into Florida will arrive Tuesday, but it will be weak thanks to the flip in the overall pattern. The air mass trailing this front has origins over the Pacific rather than the Arctic. Even though temperatures will cool off some behind it Wednesday and Thursday, they will only be near average for late January and rebound quickly by the weekend. Daytime highs Wednesday and Thursday will range from the upper 50s north to the lower 70s south, and overnight lows will primarily range from near 40 in the panhandle to near 60 in South Florida.

Content is current now, not necessarily at the time of the post.

Despite the cold start to winter, statewide temperatures during the 3-month counting period, which ends February 28, could still turn out to be above average. In fact, medium and long range forecast data is lining up with climatology to suggest an early spring may be on the horizon. The Climate Prediction Center says probabilities for above average temperatures are at or higher than 50 percent for the next 14 days, and above 40 percent for the entire month of February.

Reliable forecast models add confidence to the warmer ideas by projecting the next few winter storms will track from the central plains to the Great Lakes, which matches well with the idea that a typical jet stream during a La Niña winter stays far to the north of Florida.

Cold snaps will still come to Florida over the next few weeks, but they likely won't be as strong or as long-lasting. It remains to be seen, however, if the warmer weeks ahead can erase the temperature deficit already established by the cold start. The second half of winter, however, is likely to be noticeably warmer in Florida than the first.

Meteorologist Cyndee O'Quinn contributed to this report.

Sources include nearest National Weather Service office, National Hurricane Center, and the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network (@FloridaStorms).
Sources include nearby emergency management agencies, FEMA, and your local NPR affiliate. 
Sources include the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Highway Patrol and other nearby traffic information.

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