Tuesday, October 17, 2006

When Will It Be Our Turn?

Top down or top up? When I drive to the television station each weekday afternoon the top of my convertible is still up, the windows still shut and the air conditioning (thank goodness) still humming.

The calendar may say autumn but it still summer in South Florida. But, it won’t be long before I can put the top down on my car and enjoy the cool, dry air that (before Frances, Jeanne and Wilma came along) made South Florida famous.

“Most Floridians await the arrival of fall with the same anticipation that is common among northerners who long for the first warm days of spring,” writes Morton Winsberg, author of Florida Weather (University of Central Florida Press). “After a season of heat and humidity, the first break in high temperatures comes as a great relief.”

In recent weeks, we’ve seen a slight moderation in the temperature and, more importantly, the humidity. A series of weak “cool” fronts have swept through the area ushering in slightly drier air that, especially in comparison to the brutal humidity of summer, feels pretty good.

Still, the weak fronts have not had much of an impact on temperatures. Sure, the morning lows are a few degrees cooler but each afternoon the mercury is nipping at 90 degrees, a bit too warm for the top to come down on my car especially when I’m wearing a dress shirt and a tie.

So, when can we expect that first genuine cold front of the season? The first front that will knock down the temperature, eliminate humidity and put a smile on everyone’s face?

In the last three years, that first mighty cold front has arrived as early as October 16 and as late as November 6th, which fits in nicely with a study Winsberg did for his book. Winsberg, a professor of geography at Florida State University, examined weather records for a 30-year span for three areas across the Sunshine State: the panhandle, central Florida and southern Florida.

He found that the first cool spell of the season arrives in Tallahassee between September 28 and October 6, in Orlando between October 18 and October 29 and in South Florida between October 24 and November 17th.

Right on time, folks in Tallahassee and Orlando have already experienced their first taste of fall with comfortable temperatures and low humidity. Yet, while the early season cold fronts have brought delightful weather to northern and central Florida, they have not been strong enough to push that cool air into South Florida.

When will it be our turn?

Of course, none of us will forget the arrival of last year’s first big cold front. It was the afternoon of October 24th and came just hours after Hurricane Wilma tore through South Florida.

Wilma knocked out power to 98% of the area but, thanks to the front, overnight lows dropped into the 50’s making the cleanup manageable. We didn’t have power but the dry, clear air behind that first cold front gave us spectacular views of the night sky, while the sunny, comfortable days made the recovery from Hurricane Wilma a bit easier.

This year’s first significant cold front is probably just a few weeks, maybe even days away from South Florida. It is likely taking shape in the Prairie Provinces of central Canada preparing to drive south into the United States and eventually Florida, bringing an end to our wet season and beginning our really great weather season.

Top down or top up? It won’t be long now until the answer is top down.

Posted at 12:31 PM