ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida doesn’t participate in winter, right? Maybe not in the traditional sense of cold and snow, but the season still exists, of course. [Insert joke here.]
While it still may be hot outside in mid-September, the overall pattern for the winter season may be coming into view.
There is a high likelihood that a strong El Niño will continue through the meteorological winter months of December, January and February and have huge ramifications for Florida.
Typically an El Niño winter is cooler and wetter than normal. This winter appears no different.
During an El Niño winter, the subtropical jet stream, a ribbon of fast-moving upper-level winds that hangs out near the tropical region, is much more active. This acts as a pathway for storm systems to roll across the Pacific into California, continue through the Southern Plains and Deep South and eventually into Florida.
As a result, Florida tends to see colder and wetter winters during this pattern.
Significant severe weather events are also more common in Florida during an El Niño winter due to increased wind energy in the atmosphere.
On occasion, the subtropical and polar jet stream merge off or near the Atlantic coast, creating the infamous Nor ‘Easters that pummel the northern states with snow and can bring severe weather/tornado outbreaks to the South.
Long-range climate models are honing in on an active subtropical jet stream as you would expect from a strong El Niño being present.
Several models are predicting above normal rainfall for the upcoming winter months. Below is the NMME model for average precipitation over the December, January and February period. Green represents higher-than-normal precipitation.
For the three-month average temperature anomaly, warmer-than-normal temperatures show up. However, if we peel back and look at the month-by-month breakdown, we can find out why.
Indications are autumn may end and winter may start warm, but the season could end cold and stormy.
Below is the CANSIPS climate model’s temperature anomaly for February.
While more-often-than-not Florida is the place to be during winter, just know that the upcoming winter could feature a few more cold snaps, especially the second half of the season, and rounds of severe weather thanks to El Niño.