THURSDAY MORNING UPDATE: Six record highs were added to the list Wednesday (available just beneath this paragraph), which brings the monthly total to 35.  The record high of 88 in Tampa was the seventh one tied or broken this month in that city alone.

Record highs are again in jeopardy today in Florida.  Cities projected to come within one degree of their record fro February 22 are Pensacola, Tallahassee, and yes - Tampa.[/vc_message]


Original story posted Wednesday...

It certainly feels like winter is over in Florida. Check that - it feels more like summer has arrived.

Wednesday could be the sixth day in a row a record high temperature will be tied or broken in the Sunshine State. It would also add to the list of 29 records already tied or broken this month alone.Not only are the daily records falling by the dozens, Sarasota and Tampa broke all-time monthly maximum records Tuesday with highs approaching 90.

Another record high temperature was reached at Tampa today with 89 degrees. This breaks the old record for today of 87 last set in 1997. This also breaks the ALL-TIME record high for the month of February which was 88 degrees set just yesterday and also back on February 26 1971.

— NWS Tampa Bay (@NWSTampaBay) February 20, 2018

 

An area of high pressure developed off the Atlantic coast earlier this week, and it won't be going anywhere soon. This will keep the abnormal warmth in place across the Southeast U.S. for the next week to ten days.

While temperatures have been 10-15 degrees above normal east of the Mississippi River this week, they are 10-20 degrees below the normal from the West Coast to the Rockies, with plenty of fresh snow across the mountains in between.

Meanwhile in Florida, the record-setting warmth likely continues for at least one more day.

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

Meteorologist Cyndee O'Quinn and UF Forecaster Kyle Kipple contributed to this report.

Summer-like heat and humidity is finally coming to an end in North Florida. The first major cold front of the season will move through the Florida Panhandle Monday, then slide into northern and central sections of the state Tuesday.

The front was already making a huge difference in temperature over 24 hours Monday.

Check out this temperature drop happening over the #MidSouth! FINALLY, we have a front that can make it to #NFla. 10-15° cooler by Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/Dgj0B0b9qW

— Jeff Huffman (@HuffmanHeadsUp) October 16, 2017

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

The air mass behind the front will not only be noticeably cooler, it will be sharply drier as well. Dew points are expected to fall nearly 20 degrees by Tuesday, The dew point is a measure of how much moisture the air can hold, and for many months it has been mostly in the 70s. This will make the air feel much more comfortable in the coming days, especially at night and in the morning hours.

We've been eager to send this out for weeks! A whole new season arrives tomorrow. #MuggyMeter #flwx @UF pic.twitter.com/oshQBWgtXd

— UF Weather (@UFWeather) October 16, 2017

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

The front will put on the brakes near the I-4 corridor Tuesday, which will prevent the cooler and drier air from reaching central and south Florida. In fact, an area of low pressure is likely to form along the front just offshore of the Space Coast Wednesday, further enhancing the easterly wind flow off the Atlantic Ocean. This will keep the rain chances elevated from Jacksonville to Miami for several days, with the occasional shower or thunderstorm moving inland and to the southwest toward Orlando, Tampa and Fort Myers.

Temperatures will begin warming again across all of Florida by week’s end, and the humidity will be on the rise as well. This will be in response to a more southerly flow developing ahead of the next front, which is on target to arrive next week. This time of year, cold fronts typically begin to visit the Sunshine State about every 7 to 10 days.

 

UF Forecaster Bryan Boggiano contributed to this report.

This will be the nicest weekend in all of Florida so far this year. It will be dry and comfortable coast to coast, and from the Georgia border all the way to The Keys. It may still be a bit cool to jump in the water, but it's the perfect time to soak up some early spring rays.

A flatter, faster flow in the jet stream (from west to east) will steer warmer air from the Pacific Ocean across the entire country. This is in stark contrast to the more amplified, slower jet stream we dealt with last week that allowed Canadian air to move straight into Florida. The warmer air, coupled with the dry air mass already in place will make for ideal conditions to head outdoors. Here are some select destination 3-day forecasts.

 

 

Even though Friday will start out a bit cool, temperatures will warm to near or slightly above normal by Saturday. From Pensacola to Key West, 70’s will be the common theme during the day and 50’s the most popular numbers at night. A weak onshore flow from the east will keep it a little cooler along the Atlantic beaches, making the Gulf coast beaches the more ideal spot to get a jump start on that summer color.

 

 

You may want to take advantage of the nice weather this weekend, because some big changes are on the way next week. You can pull up your detailed 10-day forecast below.

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Editor's Note: UF Forecaster Brittany Van Voorhees contributed to this story.

The following is a gathering of social media and video from various news sources covering the aftermath from the deadly tornadoes that hit parts of west-central Florida Saturday Night. The UF Weather Team and Florida Public Radio Emergency Network thank you for staying informed during our coverage of the event and we send our sincerest thoughts and prayers to those who were impacted.

[View the story "Deadly Tornadoes Hit West Florida Overnight" on Storify]

If you thought a named tropical storm in May was early last year, how about one in January? Subtropical Storm Alex was named at 4PM EST by the National Hurricane Center, becoming the first named Atlantic storm to form in January since 1978. That was also an El Niño year, which may have influenced both storms’ extremely unusual formation. The video below was captured from our Storm Center earlier today.

[jwplayer mediaid="17641"]

Packing winds of 50 mph, Alex will be of no threat to the United States as it wanders north in the eastern Atlantic over the next few days. Alex may pass over or near the Azores Islands as a subtropical storm early Friday, and is then expected to transition back to extratropical status during the weekend.

The difference between an “extratropical” and a “subtropical” storm is in the amount of warm air at the core of the system. Over the last 24 hours, warmer air has wrapped into Alex’s center and convection has become better organized, thus the subtropical designation. In the next 24 to 48 hours, the system is expected to move over colder waters and resemble more of a mid-latitude low pressure system.

The Florida Public Radio Emergency Network and this station will continue to monitor future advisories with Subtropical Storm Alex in the coming days. The latest from the National Hurricane Center is displayed below.

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Editors Note: UF Forecaster Dan Henry contributed to this report.

Dozens were killed from severe weather and tornadoes in Texas and Mississippi over the holidays. Meteorologists fear this could soon happen in Florida. That is, if history is any clue and residents aren't prepared.  The current El Niño ranks right up there in strength with the record-setting 1997-98 event. This is important because strong El Niño's correlate to a greater frequency of tornadoes in Florida, some unusually strong for this part of the world.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management highlights one week in February every year as "Severe Weather Awareness Week".  This year, officials and weather personnel in central and north Florida felt it was important to get the word out now. Meteorologist Brian LaMarre from the National Weather Service in Tampa said the pattern could shift soon and place many people at risk for severe weather and tornadoes.

"The jet stream is starting to spread a little bit farther south in the Southern U.S. We're going to see more of a current coming in from California, across Texas and the Mississippi River Valley, and over to Florida."

This stronger flow of wind is what often leads to an enhanced risk of tornadoes in the state, particularly in Central Florida. As we have noted repeatedly this fall, the two recent deadliest tornadoes outbreaks in our state occurred during El Niño winters of 1998 and 2007. Also, it's likely no coincidence that the only two accounts of an F4 tornado were during the El Niño's of 1958 and 1966.

Steve Watts, Director of Emergency Management for Osceola County, wants everyone to participate in a tornado drill Wednesday at 10 am.

“We’re trying to get as many of the members of the community to be aware of where they may need to go to shelter in the event of a tornado, whether it be somewhere locally in their community or even giving some consideration to going out of town if they live in a mobile home park or campground.”

TornadoDrill

 

Preparation and staying informed are the keys to surviving the sudden blast of 100+ mph winds from a tornado. Winds of that strength can destroy everything you own in a matter of seconds.  The first line of defense is awareness. The Florida Public Radio Emergency Network has a unique mobile app that allows you to customize severe weather alerts for multiple locations at street level. It's called Florida Storms and available free of charge in the app store today.

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Many Floridians don't have storm shelters that are underground such as in the so-called "Tornado Alley". However, there are still actions you can take to protect your life if a tornado is approaching.  The following recommendations are something to think about on a calm weather day, such as during today's drill, so that you'll have the peace of mind to react quickly.

 

If you are in a home, small building, school, or work place...
If you are in a manufactured home or office...
If you are outside with no immediate place of shelter available...

If you are not in a sturdy building, there is no single research-based recommendation for what last-resort action to take because many factors can affect your decision. Possible actions include:

In all situations:

 

The Florida Public Radio Emergency Network and UF Weather Team will continue monitoring every weather system that heads our way in the coming weeks and will keep you informed of any possible hazardous weather well in advance.

 

It’s official. The current El Niño is now tied with 1997-98 as the strongest on record. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released the numbers earlier this week to confirm what has been predicted for months. Waters in the Pacific are not just warm - they are historically warm.

El Nino Status-FPBS-small

The Oceanic Niño Index, an official tool used by NOAA to measure sea surface temperature anomalies in the Pacific, is now at 2.3. The only other time it has been this high since 1950 was in late 1997. The extra atmospheric energy and evaporation that occurs as a result of the warmer waters will continue to affect weather patterns nationwide through the winter. In Florida, those influences have only just begun. The highest correlation between our climate and the El Niño pattern typically occurs in the months of January and February, with impacts noticeable as late as May. Meteorologist Brian LaMarre from the National Weather Service in Tampa explains why.

"Usually there's a lag time between the warming of the Pacific Ocean and the time it takes the atmosphere and the weather patterns to start responding to the change."

And he says there's already sign of that change.

"The jet stream is starting to spread a little bit farther south in the Southern U.S. We're going to see more of a current coming in from California, across Texas and the Mississippi River Valley, and over to Florida."

Damage in Holly Springs, Mississippi from an EF4 tornado that was linked to the current El Nino.

Damage in Holly Springs, Mississippi from an EF4 tornado that was linked to the current El Nino.

This stronger flow of wind is what often leads to an enhanced risk of tornadoes in the state, particularly in Central Florida. As we noted earlier this fall, the two recent deadliest tornadoes outbreaks in our state occurred during El Niño winters 1998 and 2007.

Severe weather is not the only byproduct of El Niño in Florida. In a book published in 1999 by The Florida Consortium, research shows that El Niño winters in Florida are typically wetter than average, especially in central and southern sections of the state.

The good news is that by most measures, waters are beginning to cool across the Pacific. Monthly and weekly anomalies have decreased across all major sectors of the ocean over the last four weeks, and forecast data suggests there will be a continuation of this trend. NOAA projects El Niño conditions will persist through winter, but near-neutral conditions will return by late spring or early summer.

Scott Cordero, Meteorologist in Charge from the National Weather Service in Jacksonville, says the most important thing Floridians can do now is stay informed.

"These evolving threats are typically identified a few days in advance. We give more specific information of the most likely times and locations from those impacts of any individual storm one or two days in advance."

Scott also wanted to remind everyone to keep those cell phones charged and have a backup battery just in case. The Florida Public Radio Emergency Network has a new free mobile app that can send customized weather alerts to multiple locations, all while streaming severe weather information from this radio station. It's called Florida Storms and is available free of charge in the app store today.

 

Editors Note: UF Forecaster Dan Henry provided some research to this story.

Eating healthy may be a tad more pricey this winter, thanks in part to the effects of the near-record strength El Niño currently underway.  According to the December 9th forecast released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, most major fruits and vegetables are expected to see decreased production this winter, with orange outputs statewide possibly the lowest in over 50 years. Partly to blame are the record-warm waters across parts of the Pacific Ocean, altering the jet stream and producing more cloudy, rainy days than usual. The silver lining is that despite falling output forecasts through spring, hard freezes in Florida are less common in El Niño winters, perhaps giving gardeners a reason to breathe a bit more easily.

As we first informed you earlier this fall, the Climate Prediction Center is forecasting well above normal rainfall in the state through March.  Combined with temperatures that are expected to be near or below normal, this will yield reduced output of most crops that rely on Florida’s abundant sunshine during the cool season.

"Normally the El Niño winter is cooler and has more rain than a La Niña or neutral winter, and that can cause some issues with early-season plant diseases,”

This was according to Peter Spyke, owner of The Orange Shop in Citra. He’s already having to make adjustments.

“We have to spray the trees a little bit more to keep the trees clean and pretty. The amount of moisture may affect the bloom; the bloom may not be quite as uniform as in a year when it's drier."

Inconsistent blooms mean less fruit. The official USDA orange production forecast for the 2015-16 season is down 7% from just a month ago, and a whopping 48% lower than the 2012-13 season, when neutral conditions were present in the Pacific. The projected 69 million boxes would be the lowest orange output since 1962-63, when Florida’s population was just one fourth of what is is today. Other citrus such as grapefruit, tangerines and tangelos will be hit hard as well, with forecasts 35-60% below 2012-13 numbers.

Photo: FloridaCitrus.org

Photo: FloridaCitrus.org

Florida’s vegetables are also expected to have an off year. Research from climate scientists Dr. James W. Hansen and James W. Jones shows that tomatoes in particular do not respond well to wet winters, with yields over 25% lower in El Niño winters compared to neutral or La Niña winters. With Florida’s 47,000 farms accounting for over 60% of the United States’ winter vegetable production, these lower yields for Florida farmers mean prices are going up for consumers nationwide. Prices for tomatoes, snap beans, sweet corn and bell peppers are all typically higher following El Niño winters.

The Florida Public Radio Emergency Network continues to monitor the latest trends on the El Nino event and will provide the state with updates. You can also stay informed on any potential weather hazards this winter, such as flooding or severe weather, by downloading the new mobile app, Florida Storms. Look for it in the app store today.

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Editorial Note: UF Forecaster Dan Henry contributed to this story, and has sourced his research here.

Record books have already been rewritten in South Florida from historic rainfall last week, and the effects of a near-record strength El Niño may have only just begun.

Mike Halpert, Deputy Director from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, says this season’s El Niño continues to strengthen,

“The September-November Oceanic Niño Index, or ONI value, currently ranks second for this particular season, behind only 1997."

Speaking to the media Thursday, Mike also said that this year’s event has a chance to become the strongest since 1950. He clarified, however, that forecast data suggests it may peak in intensity within the next month.

The ONI Index is the best measuring stick for an El Niño event and is now the second highest ever recorded since 1950.

The ONI Index is the best measuring stick for an El Niño event and is now the second highest ever recorded since 1950.

There was no change to NOAA’s official forecast that calls for the strong El Niño to persist through the winter months, gradually weakening during the spring and summer months of 2016.  

"You know we do expect El Niño, even if the departures decrease some, it's still gonna remain a strong event, certainly through the winter."

Rainfall estimates from NOAA over the past seven days.

Rainfall estimates from NOAA over the past seven days.

Typically, the greatest affect on the daily weather in Florida from El Niño occurs in January and February. A “split flow” pattern, whereby an enhanced subtropical jet stream develops, sends  storm systems into the Gulf Coast States, feeding off the warm waters and dumping copious rainfall across the state. This pattern has already produced record rainfall in South Florida, with Miami receiving more rain than usually falls from December to March - nearly 10 inches -  in just the first 10 days of December.

It’s not only extreme rainfall that becomes a byproduct of El Nino in Florida. An elevated risk of severe weather, especially across the central and northern parts of the state, is an even greater concern during strong El Niño winters. The two deadliest tornado outbreaks in Florida’s history occurred in February (1998, 2007) during strong El Niño events.

The extreme weather that may occur this winter might be difficult for Floridians to believe at this point, considering how warm and calm the recent weeks have been. However, Mr. Halpert went on to tell us that it’s really too soon to expect anything extreme from this global phenomenon anyway.

“I think in terms of extremes and if you're going to see severe weather, that really becomes how the whole jet stream configures itself, likely more January-February than in December at this point.”

The recent record warmth in November and early December, while largely related to atmospheric influences other than El Nino, might be a contributing factor to heavy rain and possible severe weather events in later months. Water temperatures over the Gulf of Mexico are presently 1 to 2°C above normal from the recent lack of cold air.

The Florida Public Radio Emergency Network has made a commitment to track the latest El Nino developments and keep your public radio and television stations informed on how it might affect our state. The new mobile app, Florida Storms, offers detailed mapping, customized alerts, and live streaming from your local Florida public radio station free of charge.  Look for it today in the iOS or Google Play store today.

 

Editors Note: Dan Henry contributed to this story and is a student forecaster at the University of Florida.  

The last time Floridians were forced to evacuate or board up their homes, tweeting was for the birds, YouTube was just a baby, and the first iPhone wasn’t even a rumor. The 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season officially came to a close Monday, and the state’s longest stretch without a direct hit from a hurricane (Wilma, 2005) will extend into another year.  While the eleven named storms and four hurricanes would appear “normal” by the books (12, 6), the season - as predicted - was relatively quiet by most measures of strength and impact.

That’s not to say there weren’t a few scares and surprises.  Near-misses from Tropical Storm Erika and Major Hurricane Joaquin were challenging storms for even the most experienced forecasters. Thankfully though, empty grocery store shelves and a rash of media criticism were the only consequences in Florida. Two cyclones did make landfall in the United States, but they were weak, short-lived tropical storms well removed from the season’s traditional peak in September.

The preseason expectations that a strong El Nino would play a large role in quelling storm formation across the Atlantic Basin came true, in particular where cyclones often tend to mature. Nearly all of the systems were either deflected or ripped apart by fierce upper-level winds, a byproduct of the phenomenon. In contrast, the record warm El Nino waters in the Pacific Basin produced a record-smashing number of cyclones, one in particular (Patricia) that became the strongest ever measured in the western hemisphere!

Here’s a look back on the somewhat eventful, yet relatively quiet 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

 

Ready or Not, the Rains Came

The 2015 season started before it officially began. Tropical Storm Ana was the earliest tropical cyclone to make landfall in the United States and the earliest named storm to form since 2003. It was the first of many flooding rain events this year in the Carolinas, sliding ashore near Myrtle Beach on May 10. Ana caused minor property damage and only few sporadic power outages.

Tropical Storms Bill and Claudette were similarly weak, but both menacing. Bill dumped up to a foot of rain across a wide swath of real estate from Texas to Ohio on June 16 and 17, forcing thousands from their homes and aggravating an ongoing major river flooding event that produced $17 million in property damage.  The season’s lone July storm, Claudette, lasted less than two days, resulting in only minimal coastal impacts from North Carolina to Newfoundland.

 

Many Storms with Minimal Impacts

The season’s first hurricane, Danny, carved out a path that was followed by the next seven storms. Once briefly a Major Hurricane, the cyclone formed and strengthened well out to sea, but never threatened the U.S. mainland. It was apparent by September that an El Nino-induced “cyclone graveyard” was in place across the western Atlantic and Caribbean. We dubbed this area as such because of the unfavorable upper-level winds that were forcing storms away or causing them to dissipate altogether.  Fred, Grace, Henri, Tropical Depression Nine and Ida all fell victim to these conditions.

Animation of Tropical Storm Erika's subtle shift to the left, which ultimately lead to the storm's dissipation before reaching the U.S.

Animation of Tropical Storm Erika's subtle shift to the left, which ultimately lead to the storm's dissipation before reaching the U.S.

Most Floridians will remember Tropical Storm Erika as the only formidable threat in 2015. Erika formed in an area similar to Danny, but a weakness in the upper-level winds gave it an opportunity to make landfall in Florida as a hurricane. However, a slight shift in the storm’s trajectory took it across the mountainous island of Hispaniola where it dissipated and eventually produced beneficial rain for South Florida.

September, usually the season’s most-active month, certainly lived up to the billing. Six cyclones were active at some point during the 30-day period, but they too were no match for the tenacious upper-level conditions. Other than a rare hit to the Cape Verde Islands by Hurricane Fred, there were no land impacts by any tropical cyclone in September.

 

Joaquin Walked a Destructive Line

Satellite snapshot and measured wind speeds from Hurricane Hunters as Hurricane Joaquin approached The Bahamas on October 1, 2015.

Satellite snapshot and measured wind speeds from Hurricane Hunters as Hurricane Joaquin approached The Bahamas on October 1, 2015.

Upper-level conditions became briefly more favorable for cyclone maturation in early October, and the season’s strongest storm was the result. Hurricane Joaquin will be remembered for generations in the Bahamas after battering the central islands with Category 4 strength winds of 155 mph.  Poor forecast modeling from a rare upper-level steering pattern made it difficult for forecasters to provide much warning to residents in its path.  Joaquin was the strongest Atlantic hurricane since Igor in 2010, and the storm’s erratic and slow movement claimed 34 lives and produced $60 million in damage. Despite passing within 300 miles of Florida’s east coast, impacts were limited to rough seas and rip currents before the storm escaped out to sea.

Hurricane Kate, the season’s final storm, moved quickly through the western Atlantic in mid-November and never posed a serious threat to land.  Even though the hurricane season is over, it should be noted that Florida faces an above-normal risk of severe weather this winter from the same El Nino that suppressed tropical activity. While it’s not possible to forecast specific storms or impacts months in advance, now is a good time to set up your customized alerts on the free mobile app, Florida Storms. It’s a free service of the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network and available on the iOS and Google Play store today.

 

(Editor's note: this article was co-authored by UF Forecaster Dan Henry and Meteorologist Jeff Huffman)

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