The hottest two years on record for Miami may end with one final bang: one of the toastiest Decembers on record.
On Sunday, Miami set a new record for the warmest December day ever. Monday shattered another record, with the highest high at 86 degrees. With less than two weeks to go, it's too soon to say if December 2016 will top December 2015, which now holds the record for Miami's hottest December. But bet on it being the polar opposite of back-to-back arctic blasts gripping other parts of the country this holiday season.
“It’s not just hot, it’s so humid, too,” said University of Miami tropical weather expert Brian McNoldy. “It’s as if winter or fall never happened.”
Blame the stickiness on a confluence of unlucky weather. From the north, winter cold fronts that typically keep us cool fizzled before they arrived. From the south, a high pressure ridge keeps pushing along warm air from the tropics, McNoldy said. While this hot December follows a similar steamy end to last year, the two are not the same. Last year’s heat, accompanied by record rain that shut down Zoo Miami, was part of an intense El Niño magnifying summer-like conditions across much of the southeastern U.S. This year’s heat is much more localized, he said.
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McNoldy said it felt like South Florida has been cheated out “of two nice Decembers in a row.”
Globally, the El Niño was blamed for driving high temperatures around the planet for much of 2016. New records were set for each month between January and August. Since December 2014, Miami has endured the warmest 24-month period on record, said Chris Fenimore, a physical scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
The trend could be caused by warm ocean waters surrounding the peninsula, he said. Or the annoying upper air circulation that blocked or weakened the seasonal fronts.
While climate change isn’t being blamed directly for the heat — unlike the state’s sunny-day flooding linked directly to human causes in a new report — such conditions are likely to increase as the planet warms, Fenimore said. In a tweet, National Hurricane Center specialist Eric Blake also pointed out that of the top 20 record high averages for December days in Miami since meteorologists began logging temps, 10 occurred in 2015 and 2016. Warmer ocean temps in the equatorial Pacific could also mean rainier winters, when the region typically dries out from its summer drenching.
Some relief could arrive by the weekend as a front pushes our way, McNoldy said. But hold off on the yule logs.
“By the time it’s going to reach us, it’s going to lose most of its kick,” he said. “It won’t get up to as hot as it’s been, but it’s not going to be cool by any means.”
How cool? About five degrees and still plenty warm for a balmy Christmas.
Follow Jenny Staletovich on Twitter @jenstaletovich