Winter Outlook for West Central and Southwest Florida

In the following sections is more detailed information and graphics about how ENSO affects the weather across West Central and Southwest Florida. Click on one of the buttons below to go directly to that section. Also, all images can be magnified by clicking, and resized back to original size with a second click.

History: We had Neutral ENSO conditions last winter with temperatures generally averaging above normal while rainfall ranged from well below normal to slightly above normal. Before this, weak El Niño conditions occurred during the winter of 2018-2019 with above normal rainfall, but temperatures actually averaged out a couple of degrees above average thanks to a very warm February. In the previous two winters of 2016-17 and 2017-18 there was weak La Niña conditions which led to below normal rainfall with temperatures a couple of degrees above normal. This winter into next spring La Niña conditions are forecast so we are anticipating that rainfall will be below normal while temperatures should average out slightly above normal overall, but could vary greatly from week to week.

Following are U.S. maps of the Winter (December-February) departure from average precipitation and temperature for each category of El Niño and La Niña since 1950.

El Niño PrecipitationWinter (Dec-Feb) Precipitation during strong, moderate, and weak El Niños since 1950 El Niño TemperatureWinter (Dec-Feb) Temperature during strong, moderate, and weak El Niños since 1950
La Niña PrecipitationWinter (Dec-Feb) Precipitation during strong, moderate, and weak La Niñas since 1950 La Niña TemperatureWinter (Dec-Feb) Temperature during strong, moderate, and weak La Niñas since 1950
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Rainfall:

During El Niño there tends to be more stormy conditions across the Florida peninsula during the winter and early spring. Cold fronts will move across the region and with the jet stream further south and stronger, rainfall is more widespread and therefore usually above average. This can be seen in the graphics below where rainfall totals during the dry season average much higher during El Niño winters then during La Niña winters. Another way to see this is by viewing the Box and Whisker Distribution Plots* for the three climate zones across the Florida peninsula shown below: (Back to Menu Buttons)

Temperature:

The link between ENSO and wintertime temperatures is a little bit weaker. With the average storm track farther south during El Niño temperatures tend to average slightly below normal thanks to the increased clouds and rain that keep daytime highs cooler. This is in contrast to La Niña where we usually see drier air over the state with more fair weather days. This drier air leads to warmer daytime and slightly cooler nighttime temperatures that overall result in slightly above average temperatures across the area.

What plays a larger role in controlling temperatures across Florida during the winter and early spring is the Arctic Oscillation (AO) as we saw back in early 2010. This oscillation shifts on a monthly and sometimes weekly basis and typically is not included in long term forecasts. For more details about the AO and its effect on West Central and Southwest Florida visit Arctic Oscillation: Impacts on West Central and Southwest Florida.

This can also be seen in the Box and Whisker Distribution Plots* for the three climate zones across the Florida peninsula shown below:

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Freezes:

Freezing temperatures are possible into Central and South Florida during any winter no matter what the ENSO phase is that year. During El Niño conditions the likely cause of freezing temperatures is advection of cold air dragged southward behind low pressure systems that pass across the state. This is unlike La Niña conditions where the main cause is radiational cooling under clear skies and calm winds.

Long term averages indicate three to six days of freezing temperatures each winter across inland portions of Central Florida with only about one freeze over Southwest Florida. Farther north across the Nature Coast many more days of freezing temperatures occur with some locations such as Inverness and Bushnell having on average around 12 days, while farther north near Chiefland there are as many as 20 days with temperatures falling to or below 32° each winter. Overall the difference in the number of days with freezing temperatures each winter is not that much between the ENSO phases as seen in the graphics below, but more dependent on the phase of the Arctic Oscillation (AO). For more details visit Arctic Oscillation: Impacts on West Central and Southwest Florida.

Residents of West Central and Southwest Florida should remain informed of potential weather events this upcoming winter and early spring and stay tuned to local media outlets and NOAA Weather Radio for the latest weather information. (Back to Menu Buttons)

Other Web Sites:

NOAA Winter Outlook Press Release
https://www.noaa.gov/media-release/us-winter-outlook-cooler-north-warmer-south-with-ongoing-la-nina

Climate Prediction Center
http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/

NOAA Climate.gov ENSO Page
https://www.climate.gov/enso

NOAA Climate.gov Arctic Oscillation Page
https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-variability-arctic-oscillation <!–br />
NWS Tampa Bay Local El Niño/La Niña Page
https://www.weather.gov/tbw/tampabayelninopage</a–>

NWS Tampa Bay Local Arctic Oscillation Page
https://www.weather.gov/tbw/tampabayaopage

January 2010 Cold Snap
NWS Tampa Bay 2009-2010 Winter Newsletter

Current Drought Conditions in Florida
https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/CurrentMap/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?FL

Drought Outlook
http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/expert_assessment/sdo_summary.php

NWS Tampa Bay Local Drought/Rainfall Page
https://www.weather.gov/tbw/droughtinfo

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