Florida on pace to shatter heat record in 2017

Florida is on pace to break another annual heat record in 2017, a 3-year trend of chart-topping warmth that has marked every season and endured through the shifting patterns of an El Nino and La Nina.

Through November, Florida’s average temperature was 2.5 degrees above the 20th Century average, making the first 11 months of the year the hottest since measurements began in 1895, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

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It is among eight states nationally that could end the year historically hot, the majority of which are in the southeast. Only Arizona and New Mexico are outside of a sizzle zone that runs from Florida to West Virginia.

“It raises the question of are we really starting to feel the affects of climate change more and more now,” said Florida Climatologist David Zierden about the state’s consecutive triumvirate of record-breaking heat. “If you look at monthly values, it’s been 31 of the last 32 months that have all had above average temperatures.”

Florida’s record-holder for hottest year is 2015, with 2016 ranked as second warmest.

Nationwide, 2017 has been abnormally warm in every state, with the average temperature running 2.6 degrees above the 20th century average. That puts the country on track to end 2017 as the third warmest year on record. Only the first 11 months of 2012 and 2016 were warmer than this year.

Related: There’s still time to catch some of the Geminids meteor shower.

Zierden said hotter temperatures can have far-reaching implications from higher energy bills, to the challenge of controlling pests, including whitefly, whose populations would normally would be mitigated by strong freezes.

“Even though we’ve been in this warming trend the last three years and the forecast based on La Nina is also for a continued warm winter and spring, doesn’t preclude outbreaks of winter weather,” Zierden said. “We’ll still have week to week weather variability.”

Eight cities in Florida are also in the running for 2017 to be their hottest year, including Miami, Vero Beach, Fort Myers, Tampa, Plant City, Sanford, Jacksonville and Pensacola.

The Southeast Regional Climate Center ranks West Palm Beach as 5th warmest based on 118 years of records. According to a gague at Palm Beach International Airport, the average temperature through November was 77.2 degrees.

A federal report released last month said South Florida could experience double the number of days with temperatures above 90 degrees by the mind-21st Century if efforts to curb climate change aren’t made.

Under a worse-case-scenario, South Florida could see up to 70 more days per year of temperatures warmer than 90 degrees by the mid-21st Century.

West Palm Beach, on average, already has about 65 days per year above 90 degrees, according to David Easterling, National Climate Assessment Technical Support Unit Director at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

But Zierden said the current warming trend has been marked not by flashy daytime highs, but a slow simmer of warm overnights.

In the past two months, overnight heat records were tied or broken in West Palm Beach five times.

“Even though the average temperatures have been elevated, we haven’t had critical heat waves. It’s been more overnight temperatures affected,” Zierden said. “But as you change the baseline, it will make extreme events more likely.”

 

 

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