Possible El Niño for the Upcoming 2012-2013 Winter Season
It is late September, and the fall season is just beginning, but there are a lot of questions from meteorologists around the United State on how a potential El Niño could affect the winter season across North America including Florida in the upcoming months.
Florida's annual dry season begins during the first to second week of October, as the first weak cold fronts penetrate down the peninsula scouring out all the moisture that filters in from the Caribbean during the hot summer months. It usually takes several cold fronts to really kick in the dry season, but once it takes hold those daily afternoon lightning storms fadeaway until the next spring.
Florida El Niño And The Weather Effects
During an El Niño winter in the Sunshine State, the dry season usually experiences above normal rainfall and colder temperatures, as the jet-stream digs deeper into the southeastern United States tapping into moisture in the eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean. At the same time, with the jet-stream so far south, it helps to filter in colder arctic air down the spine of the peninsula bringing episodes of freezing temperatures sometimes as far south as western Miami-Dade County.
Colder Temperatures And Their Effects
These bouts of colder weather affect everything from agriculture to the tourist industry and livestock across the state. The Florida citrus, sugarcane, sod and tropical plant industries usually are effected the most during these chilly outbreaks. Not to mention the retirees and snowbirds that escape to Florida every winter to avoid the brutal cold months up north.
An Increase In Severe Weather and Tornadoes
As mentioned before, the state receives higher than normal rainfall during an El Niño pattern due to the jet-stream being further south, but this also increases the threat for severe weather events too, as developing low-pressure systems over the Gulf of Mexico track toward Florida and the southeastern United States.
This normally puts Florida in the warm sector of the low-pressure system, which is a favorable environment for severe weather, including intense squall lines and tornadic supercell thunderstorms. In February 1998 there was a significant tornado outbreak across Central Florida killing 42 people. There was 12 tornadoes, with three of them being intense E-F3 tornadoes. This deadly weather event took place during a strong El Niño winter that was affecting Florida.
Waiting On The Signs
It is too early to really know if we will be affected by a El Niño winter pattern this year, and meteorologists continue to watch the all computer model signals and current data across the Pacific Ocean and any hints of strength.
Earlier in the year it was thought that a developing El Niño would suppress the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, but it turns out that it developed into a fairly active season, including one landfalling category one Hurricane Isaac into southeastern Louisiana. Really, it only take one hurricane hitting you to make it an active season.
You can read more about the current El Niño watch from the Climate Prediction Center and NOAA.