ORLANDO, Fla. – It was a cold afternoon and evening across Central Florida Saturday. There’s no denying that. Saturday night, however, videos were making their way around social media that showed what appeared to be snow falling in Central Florida. It has happened before. It may happen again. But there was no snow falling in Central Florida Saturday night.
Wind-driven mist being illuminated in lights was the likely culprit. It can often appear to be flurries, especially through a camera. Let’s take a deeper look.
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Twice daily, once in the morning and again in the evening, meteorologists at the National Weather Service release weather balloons to collect data of the atmosphere. The instruments measure things such as temperature, moisture and wind.
To snow, the entire “column” of air, maybe except for a little sliver at the surface, has to be below freezing.
Looking at the information from the 7 p.m. balloon launch from Cape Canaveral Saturday evening, snow was not possible. There is a lot going on in the graphic below, but focus on the blue line. If the red line representing the temperature is to the right o the blue line, the air is above freezing.
The red line is the temperature being recorded as the balloon gets higher in the sky. Through the first 3,000 feet, the air is above freezing.
Now, relatively warm water from the Atlantic keeps coastal areas warmer than inland areas so we will look elsewhere. Since there is no balloon launch in and around Orlando, we’ll go up the street to Tallahassee, where it was even colder.
You’ll note that there is a little sliver of air below freezing, the red line just barely getting to the left of the solid blue line. Even if a few of those droplets turned to snowflakes, it likely would have been an ugly-looking ice pellet or sleet. The Jacksonville data shows a similar scenario.
To inspect closer, we’ll use a forecast from a high resolution computer model.
It tells the same story as the nearby concrete data.
The information shows a very moist low-level atmosphere that is well-above freezing with slightly drier air above that. This type of look in the data shows that it was mist or drizzle falling rather than any type of frozen precipitation.
It can snow when surface temperatures are above freezing, but the rest of the air above the surface has to be below freezing with that warm layer near the surface very shallow.
Moral of the story? Don’t believe everything you see on social media and find a weather team you can trust. We hope that’s the Pinpoint Weather Team at News 6.