PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - Usually this time of the year, South Florida competes with Southern California as the winter weather getaway. However, even Southern California has had more than its fair share of winter woes.
With the exception of a couple of quick cold snaps, winter in South Florida has been warmer than normal.
According to Robert Molleda, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service, South Florida just experienced the third-warmest winter on record.
Miami temperatures averaged nearly 3 degrees above normal. That may not sound like much, but in the world of weather, that is a significant change.
In the meantime, the Midwest and Northeast are having one of the coldest and wettest winters on record. Just last week, there was a 100-degree difference between Miami and International Falls, Minn.
Through much of the winter, South Florida has been under the influence of a large area of high pressure anchored in the Atlantic Ocean. The clockwise circulation of air around the high often puts South Florida in a warm east to southeasterly flow. On occasion, the flow would come in out of the south or southwest. The origin of this air drives in warmer-than-normal air, keeping temperatures up.
Also, the strong high pressure acts like a barrier in the atmosphere, keeping colder air from diving south into Florida. The end result is a great pattern for tourism and the local economy.
The frozen residents of the Midwest have to blame the jet stream on their frigid winter. Some in the media have called this process a polar vortex.
To be honest, I cringe every time I hear that term thrown around. A vortex denotes a small-scale spinning parcel of air or water. This polar vortex is anything but small. It is a massive area of low pressure measuring thousands of miles across that meanders back and forth between Canada and the Midwest.
The jet stream is a river of air in the upper levels of the atmosphere that separates the cold air from the north and the warmer air to the south. Where the jet stream goes, the arctic air follows.
This unusual pattern has been known to develop in the past. However, this time it really caught the attention of national media and has been played up like it was part of an apocalypse.
According to the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, the outlook for March, April and May is for area temperatures to continue to be warmer than normal. That usually translates to a busier-than-normal fire season.
For residents of the Midwest, the colder-than-normal temperatures will continue.
So, for now, what we have seen is what we are likely going to get.
As for me, I have stopped taking selfies wearing shorts and sandals on the beach. For some reason, my friends in the cold don't think it's funny anymore.
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