Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Looking and Feeling Like Meteorological Winter & We Need to Get Used to It!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010  2 p.m.

It is like a winter wonderland out there! Well at least at Durbin Creek Elementary School! The gingerbread project for the kindergartners is well underway and talk about talented kids! I was supposed to be a helper but they were teaching me some decorating tips including making candy canes into hearts. The hardest part was not eating those houses as we were putting them together. The great part is that each kid's holiday house went onto an actual map of the area so kids would get a better understanding of geography and where they live. It is just the tip of the icing and I understand today they are using google earth to zoom into different neighborhoods. Here is another shot of all the homes! Great job kids and don't worry, I will bring my A game to your school for our weather talk. I will have to include modeling data and model biases meteorologists deal with when forecasting on a daily basis.

Yes! It is without a doubt the first day of winter meteorologically, weather wise and otherwise. It looks like it in the pictures above and feels like it outside.  Today will be our first day we are stuck in the 50s during the afternoon since March 4th. Most people look at their calendars and are completely misled by them without knowing it. Even though my kitchen calendar says the first day of winter is December 21st, it is in fact today or December 1st. Happy Winter!

Here is why. The standard calendar most of us ready on a daily basis are based on the position of the earth and its orbit around the sun. It has nothing to do with the weather. While on our weather calendar is actually based on weather. Winter actually runs from December 1st through February 28th. You do not need me to tell you that our coldest 90 days of the year are actually underway. In fact, climatologically we have now falling into the upper 60s for highs and we will not have an average high of 70 again until, you've guessed it, late February. So yes, the weather calendar is the way to go. The first day of Spring you ask? It is March 1st. The first day of summer is June 1st, while the first day of autumn in September 1st. You can bring this up at your Christmas party if you want to look smart. Yes, I am watching out for you! Although some would say it is trivial, I say it is important information.

Speaking of important, there is a freeze warning tonight for most of our viewing areas. There will likely be a temperature range from 26 in the far west and northwest to 29 at Jacksonville to 36 by the river and 41 at the beaches. Even though the beaches will not see a freeze, it will feel like it with wind chills dropping to 32 by morning. Areas away from the much warmer waters and that have less wind will challenge record lows of 25 set way back in 1876! Here we go again. Our our extreme summer and autumn weather is continuing as we head into winter. Remember to protect the pets, plants, and pipes tonight.

Now the question everybody is asking is how long will this last. Well look no further than Greenland. The map above shows we are in a negative North Atlantic Oscillation. This is also known as an NAO. It is basically a meteorological tool used to forecast weather weeks in advance. When it is negative it usually corresponds to cooler than normal weather for us here at home. When it is positive we warm up. Remember last winter's cold grip that lasted for months! Well the NAO was partly to blame as it stayed strongly negative. This year's winter has the NAO is starting off negative as you can see above, but it is expected to go positive for the second part of December. So our winter this year in Florida looks like it will come early and may depart early. In fact, I cannot rule out 70s and 80s by Christmas and New Years. If you are traveling to the Northeast for the holidays, snowstorms that will wreak havoc with the pattern the next two weeks could turn to heavy rain and flooding by Christmas Week. Yes, it will be interesting. But for the next couple weeks, I think we stay much cooler than normal here in Florida with plenty of freezes and 50s and 60s for highs. One map that came in this afternoon had highs next week stuck in the 40s. Stay tuned! We will see! For more information on the NAO you can click on this link.

So now you are prepared for the chill and of course our weather team will keep you updated on the NAO. The NAO is also to blame for the record-breaking cold they are experiencing in Europe. Remember weather works like the world economy. It is all intertwined and related. The dominoes have fallen across the ocean and now they are falling over us as we have seen with our temperatures.

Now tomorrow on the blog I am going to throw another long-range tool we use to forecast. It is the Arctic Oscillation. We will also talk about how we fared in meteorological autumn and hurricane season. We were lucky by not having any hurricanes strike the mainland but very unlucky with the rainfall.

 I will leave you with a picture that shows one of the brief downpours we had last night in Mandarin while I was out. I may have embarrassed my wife by jumping out of my seat and yelling precipitation during our date and then on top of that taking this picture but I was not the only one excited. The waiters came over and gave me high fives. Unfortunately the rain did not last very long. Yes, I am still upset by this today. It feels like my favorite football team lost the Super Bowl. This is not a good feeling. Here are some of the scant rainfall totals:

.35" Waycross
.21" Cecil Field
.18" Lake City
.15" Green Cove Springs
.14" Ocean Pond
.10" Fernandina Beach
.08" St. Johns
.06" Julington Creek
.06" Jacksonville
.05" Mandarin
.03" Middleburg
.03" Argyle Forest
.02" UNF
.01" Jax Beach
0 St. Augustine (this really hurts)
0 St. Simons Island

What happened to the rain? Blame it on the pattern and timing. Once again the main front did not arrive until 5 a.m. The atmosphere had very little to work with at that hour. If the front came through at 5 p.m. we easily would have had a half-inch to an inch like they saw in Valdosta. One other thing to note is that when we are doing these forecasts the technology is just not up to speed at this point. The sophisticated models do a very poor job with forecasting exactly not only where thunderstorms will pop but exactly when they will move through the area. This is a  micro scale phenomenon that hopefully one day all meteorologists and their models can forecast better. This is also the reason it is hard to forecast hurricane intensity...those thunderstorms are just too small scale for our large-scale models to handle. Where they pop and how intense they are has a huge bearing on a hurricane weakening or becoming a monster. Okay enough of the rant and I will keep my head up. I have to just let go and will do better the next time. Have a great day. Thanks for reading. Happy Winter!

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