WRUF Weather

Spoiler Alert: Winter is Not Over

You knew it wouldn’t last.  We first told you eight days ago that a prolonged spell of unusual warmth was on its way.  And seven 80-degree days later, it continues.  We even get a “bonus” day with Wednesday’s high temperatures likely cresting 80 for an almost unprecedented eighth day in a row in mid-January.

UNUSUAL STREAK
A look graphically at the unusual warmth in the middle of the month in stark contrast to the expected cool spell in the wake of Thurday’s front.

The last time seven or more 80-degree days were recorded in Gainesville during the month of January was 1975.  According to the National Weather Service in Jacksonville, the record for the month is a whopping 24, set back in 1950.  It was unclear, however, what the longest streak of consecutive 80-degree days for the month is since records have been kept.

“Certainly, something like this [the seven days in a row] is not a common occurrence,” says Climate Specialist Jason Hess.  He further adds, “the 30-year running average for 80-degree days in January is just two.”

THE SET UP
Upper-level pattern over the past seven days, resulting in a constant barrage of precipitation along a stalled front from Louisiana to Pennsylvania.

Similar to the way water must find away to flow around a boulder in a creek, the jet stream that steers weather systems has been forced to move around a large area of high pressure anchored near The Bahamas.  When a blocking pattern such as this develops, weather systems tend to move over the same areas for days, while leaving locations underneath the ridge unaffected by influential weather such as cold fronts or precipitation systems.  This has played out over the past week, with multiple fronts delivering flooding rains to the Mid-South states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee, while leaving residents of Florida basking in a dry and very warm air mass.

The blocking pattern breaks down Thursday as an area of low pressure strengthens along the front and it resumes movement to the southeast, eventually passing through The Sunshine State.

The week-long warm spell will end rather dramatically on Thursday when a cold front can finally break down the ridge of high pressure that has sponsored the spring-like temperatures.  An area of low pressure is forecast to form along the front in the northern Gulf of Mexico, which will help to strengthen it and push it across the peninsula by Friday.  A large shield of rain will quickly move through Alabama, Georgia, and North Florida on Thursday, followed by a quick drop in temperature in its wake.  Temperatures will likely be 20 to 25 degrees colder on Friday in some locations than where they end up tomorrow.

The absence of a ridge of high pressure aloft over The Bahamas will open the doors to arctic air moving south by the middle of next week.

The aforementioned ridge of high pressure has acted like a shield, protecting Floridians from any cold air or precipitation.  However, the ridge will take quite a beating on Thursday and Friday, eventually weakening and moving further east.  This will open the doors for the next cold front to make a direct hit, likely arriving next Monday or Tuesday.  Arctic air will accompany this front, and the air mass behind it will be allowed to move almost directly south from the northern provinces of Canada.  It should be noted that much of the cooler weather this weekend will be due to limited sunshine.  The air mass arriving next week will be just as cool despite the sunshine.  In fact, a frost or freeze is possible by next Wednesday (the 23rd) across much of North-Central Florida.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Exclusive 10-Day Forecast from WRUF (published Tuesday evening)

Through Thursday Morning:  Unseasonably warm with patchy morning fog.  Daytime temperatures near 80 and overnight lows near 60.

Thursday Afternoon – Saturday: Brief shower Thursday afternoon, then breezy and sharply colder. Brief showers and steady temperatures in the 50s Friday & Saturday under a mostly cloudy sky.  

Sunday – Monday:  Brief warm up with daytime highs approaching 70 by Monday.  Nights will be cool and mostly in the 40s.  Skies will clear up a bit by Monday.

Tuesday – Friday (22nd-25th):  Much colder with daytime highs only in the 60s and overnight lows in the 30s.  A frost or freeze is possible Wednesday morning (the 23rd).

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