Despite a cold spell in northeast Florida last week, this winter — which ended Sunday — ranks as the fourth warmest on record for Jacksonville.
Fewer than 20 days fell below 40 degrees here during the three-month period, according to data from the National Weather Service. That makes it the warmest winter in 60 years, the data states, with years in the 1930s, 40s and 50s cinching top spots.
“Most of the eastern United States has been fairly warm this year,”said Dr. David Zierden, state climatologist with the Florida Climate Center. “It’s been the fifth warmest for the entire country, so the trend hasn’t been confined to Florida.”
Florida saw its third warmest winter, while temperatures in cities such as Miami and Ft. Myers soared to the highest on record.
Jacksonville’s average temperature for the 2016-17 season sits at 60.8 degrees, an almost six-point increase above normal here in the Bold City. The area’s warmest day, a balmy 87 degrees, fell on Feb. 28, while its coldest day likely came during last week’s unusual weather.
Unverified data indicate temperatures fell on Thursday, March 16, to a record-setting 21 degrees. If confirmed, that temperature could become the coldest ever recorded for the state of Florida this close to spring.
Despite the chilly last days of winter, the jacket-less season comes as an outlier among the last five or so years. Two of the last four winters saw at least 20 days in the 30s and 20s, while two of them hit at least 30 days in the 30s and 20s.
Zierden says he doesn’t see a warming trend — and this year’s warm winter is not enough to predict anything uncommon for the coming spring and summer.
Winters here in the Sunshine State aren’t getting consistently hotter, despite public speculation, Zierden added. This winter, he said, is just part of a natural variability.
“Certainly, the earth and the globe as a whole are warming,” Zierden said. “But, here in North Florida, we haven’t seen that.”
Climatologists attribute this to Florida’s watery surroundings, but Zierden says it is still a broad question his field is trying to answer. When will Florida catch up with the rest of the world?
As of right now, there isn’t an answer.
What can be seen among scientists are the impacts of unusually warm temperatures on Florida and south Georgia’s agricultural crops. Flowering fruits may have bloomed earlier than they normally would have, Zierden said. Then, the cold spell flowed into the area — and could have resulted in damage to such plants.