Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cold Weather? Nah, Not A Fan

It was a clear, cool night in South Florida. Temperatures were in the 50’s and forecast to drop into the lower 40’s, easily the coldest weather of the season. The winds were a bit gusty, too (at times up to 20 mph) making the cool night feel even colder.

It was, without a doubt, my least favorite type of weather. And I knew, as I left the TV station following the late news, that there was work to do at home. A cool snap, you see, is my wife’s favorite type of weather.

Sure enough, as soon as I arrived at home I found all of the windows wide open, the chilly air spilling into the house. The thermostat indicated the air temperature inside my home had dropped to a nippy 65 degrees. I quickly closed all the windows, turned on heat and set the thermostat at a comfortable 71 degrees.

Still, I knew my greatest challenge was yet to come. Throwing on a sweatshirt and a baseball cap (they say you lose most of your body heat through your head) I worked up enough courage to enter the master bedroom (or as I like to call it Ice Station Zebra).

Not one but two fans were humming away as I walked into the bedroom, a ceiling fan set on high and a window fan pulling in the 50-degree weather. I was sure I saw my breath as I turned off the fans, closed the window and beat a hasty retreat to a warmer part of the house.

Obviously, I’m not a fan of chilly weather but for many others it is a welcome change to South Florida’s legendary heat and humidity. Like my wife, many people enjoyed last week’s cold snap (the coolest temperatures since February), giving folks the opportunity to wear sweaters and coats for the first time and embracing a significant change in our weather pattern.

And, thanks to a growing El Niño, fans of cool weather will be happy to hear that more chilly nights and cool mornings are in our future.

Meteorologists at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center issued their final winter forecast last week and reiterated once again that South Florida is likely to experience a cooler-than-average winter.

Forecasters says a strengthening El Niño will help to steer more frequent cold fronts through South Florida this winter dropping temperatures below average. Still, forecasters say, a freeze is not likely this year.

Those passing cold fronts will also generate showers and thunderstorms during the winter months prompting the NOAA meteorologists to predict above average rainfall for South Florida this winter.

Overall, winter is likely to be warmer-than-normal for most of the United States, especially the northern plains and the Northeast. “During moderate as well as strong El Niño episodes, an increase in the occurrence of extreme cold days, especially in the Northeast, becomes less likely," said Vernon Kousky, research meteorologist at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

The precipitation outlook calls for wetter-than-average conditions here in Florida and across the entire southern tier of the country. Drier-than-average conditions are favored in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, the northern Rockies and Hawaii.

It is important to keep in mind that the NOAA forecast is an average of temperature and precipitation patterns for the next three months. There will be exceptions to the rule, meaning powerful snowstorms will sweep across the country and bone-chilling cold will pour down from Canada. But, when the temperatures and precipitation reports have been added up next spring, this winter is likely to be remembered for its mild and dry weather pattern.

Still, for me, the latest winter forecast means more work to do when I return home at night.

Posted at 1:18 PM