A shallow breath from a dying season will exhale through South Florida next week as a cold front appears at the twilight of winter.
Temperatures are expected to begin chilling late Sunday even as spring officially begins with the March equinox.
National Weather Service meteorologists in Miami forecast overnight lows Sunday to dip near 60 degrees with Monday’s highs tipping 70. That’s below normal highs for mid-March which are closer to 78 degrees and a whiplash from this week’s near 90-degree days.
“Ooh, brrr, what’s it going to be, 75 degrees?” said a joking Roan Iorio as he sunbathed Wednesday on Palm Beach. “I’ve been here 36 years and it will be nice to sleep with the windows open one more time.”
Near record-high temperatures – Tuesday hit a whopping 89 degrees in West Palm Beach – will turn chillier over the weekend as daytime highs plummet 16 degrees with the arrival of a lazy front drifting east from the Mississippi Valley.
A high pressure system sitting atop Florida jolted temperatures to the upper 80s this week. Westerly winds blew land-warmed air toward the coast, keeping a cooling sea breeze from making its customary afternoon appearance.
Despite the glimpse of cooler temperatures, AccuWeather senior meteorologist Frank Strait said winter is essentially over for South Florida. The season was notable for a lack of freezing temperatures at any of the National Weather Service’s official measurement sites.
Even next week’s bluster of Canadian nip will be tempered by a lazy sojourn through the middle of the U.S.
“This is polar air, a fairly chilly air mass, but it’s going to have a few days of modification,” Strait said. “March sunshine will do a bit of a number on it before it gets to South Florida.”
There are actually two cold fronts that will impact the U.S. this week. The first is trekking across the southeast now, moving toward the Carolinas. But it is expected to stall along the Gulf Coast, causing storms in the Panhandle, but leaving South Florida alone.
The second is blowing down from Canada and the Great Lakes. It will catch up with the stalled front over the weekend and could mean a true return of winter for the northeast, which has experienced above normal temperatures this week.
At La Guardia Airport in New York, temperatures were in the high 60s Wednesday. They reached the high 70s at Washington Dulles International Airport.
“There’s a good bit of question about whether it will snow and if so, where,” Strait said. “Depending on the track of the storm, there could be snow in the central and southern Appalachians on Friday.”
But weekend forecasts are also showing possible snow Sunday into Monday skimming along the northeastern coast.
For South Florida, rain will precede the front with chances hitting 50 to 60 percent in Palm Beach County on Saturday and Sunday. Dry air pushing behind the cold front means rain will taper off Monday.
South Florida’s cool spell won’t last long.
Barry Baxter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami, said temperatures will begin to warm up in the middle of next week.
For seasonal South Florida resident Jim Kerwin, who also enjoyed Palm Beach on Wednesday, the forecast is better than anything his other home in New Jersey is offering.
“It think it’s fabulous,” Kerwin said. “It’s all good.”
Florida’s state climatologist David Zierden wasn’t ready last week to entirely give up on winter.
He said while there is a good chance South Florida won’t see any more “extremely cold temperatures,” there’s no guarantees when dealing with weather.
“We cannot be certain, however, because looking at daily records shows that West Palm Beach has seen low temperatures in the upper 30s as late as the first week of April and in the mid 40s as late as may,” Zierden said.
Meteorological winter, defined as December through February, was dominated by the global weather phenomenon El Nino. This year’s El Nino pattern, which begins with warmer temperatures in the Pacific, is one of the strongest measured and meant more storms and rain for Florida.