Environment

2017 was stormy and wet in Miami. It could also be the hottest year on record.

Beachgoers enjoyed a sunny day in South Beach in July, when the National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for parts of Miami-Dade.
Beachgoers enjoyed a sunny day in South Beach in July, when the National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for parts of Miami-Dade. pportal@miamiherald.com

For the third year in a row, Miami is in a neck-and-neck race to break the record for hottest year as it nears the end of 2017.

With just four days left, the city is tied with 2015, with average daily temperatures hitting 79.1 degrees, according to University of Miami climate researcher Brian McNoldy. To maintain that average and beat the record, temps need to average 75 degrees for the next four days, he said.

Last year, Miami narrowly missed setting a new record when a winter cold front popped up with two days left to spare. With a weekend front again expected to cool things off, this year’s forecast is eerily similar.

“It’s going to be ridiculously close,” McNoldy said. “It’s an odd thing to race for the hottest year. But when you’ve had the year we’ve had, why not? We’ve earned it.”

No kidding. This was a brutal year for weather in South Florida. Irma hammered the region in September, spreading hurricane or tropical storm force winds from coast to coast. July, August and September set new record-high temperatures. And this year’s rainy season was the wettest in 86 years, according to the South Florida Water Management District. Miami is now on track for its fifth wettest year, McNoldy said.

Climate change is setting the stage for a warmer, wetter planet, but McNoldy said tying local records over a single year to the pattern is tricky. But it is unusual to be setting high temperature marks with so much rain, he said.

“Usually if you have a lot of rain, you associate that with clouds and less sun. And less heat,” he said.

Globally, scientists have repeatedly documented higher average temperatures. In its November global climate report released this week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported warmer-than-average temperatures dominating the planet, with record highs in the U.S. Southwest and temperatures 3.6 degrees higher than average. November also marked the 395th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th century average. The 10 warmest Novembers have occurred since 2000.

nws end of dec weekly forecast
The weekly forecast calls for continued high temperatures this week, but a weekend front bringing cooler temperatures could keep Miami from marking a new record hot year. National Weather Service Miami bureau

One trend that might be affecting Miami more disproportionately is the creeping up of daily low temperatures. Previously, Miami’s record for lows at 80 degrees or above in a year was 45 days, McNoldy said. This year, the number is 72 days.

“It just blew the record out of the water,” he said. “It’s not just Miami and not just Florida. A lot of places are seeing that lows aren’t getting as low.”

In a study last year, NOAA and Princeton University predicted the number of mild weather days would drop 10 to 13 percent over the next century, with a sharper decline in the tropics.

“We are not cooling off at night as much as we used to in a big-picture way,” McNoldy said.

Follow Jenny Staletovich on Twitter @jenstaletovich

After several soggy days in South Florida, streets in one section of Miami Beach were submerged on Oct. 5, 2017.

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