Showers, clouds, humidity: when does it all end for Walt Disney World? After a holiday week which at times felt almost summer-warm and certainly soggy enough for the best rainy season totals, Central Florida feels due for some sunshine.
A persistent southeastern fetch was the culprit in our post-Christmas gloom. A high pressure center in the Atlantic kicked up the moisture from over the Bahamas and pushed it up the Florida peninsula. Our precipitable water (that’s the amount of water in the atmosphere) has been at summertime levels, and the muggy warmth makes staying under a poncho for any length of time unbearable. If you just opted to get soaked by the passing showers, you’re not alone.
What’s coming for New Year’s week? Can we catch a break, and maybe see the sun again?
This Week in Walt Disney World Weather
A very warm Sunday starts the slow end of the rainy weather, thanks to a… cold front? That’s right! The ridge over the western Atlantic which has been pushing moisture up the peninsula from the southeast will start to shove over from the approach of a cold front from the northwest. While it won’t get close enough on Sunday to force our temperatures down, the influence of the opposing air mass will increase winds from the south-southeast. This keeps the moisture flowing north for another day, but persistent rain is expected to stay closer to the coast. Look for a high of 80 degrees under cloudy skies, with a thirty percent chance of afternoon showers. Sunday night barely cools off, with a low of 67.
The wind shifts to the southwest overnight as the high pressure system retreats southeast over the Atlantic. The insane moisture levels remain elevated as the cold front approaches central Florida on Monday, and scattered showers will move through the area once more. Despite the saturated air mass and the influence of the approaching cold front, there doesn’t seem to be enough instability in the atmosphere to support thunderstorms. Monday is looking like another cloudy day of scattered showers, mostly in the afternoon, with cool air finally flowing into the area late. Look for a refreshing low of 59 degrees overnight Monday.
Tuesday morning, you’ll feel the difference when you head out to the parks! Cool and dry air settles in behind the cold front. The wind shifts to the northwest and the dew points drop at last. Look for sunshine, blue skies, and temperatures in the 60s, topping out around 70 degrees. New Year’s Eve festivities will require a jacket, with a low around 50 degrees. Luckily, we aren’t expecting gusty winds with this cold front, and that should lower the goosebump potential. It might even be considered “comfortable” in the crowded parks!
Wednesday is New Year’s Day… what a good example the weather is setting for the year to come! If only “start as you mean to go on” applied to atmospheric conditions. We’re talking sunny with a high of 68 degrees, sweater weather for locals, with another blue sunny sky. In the evening, the temperature drops to around 50 degrees.
On Thursday, the temperature starts to climb just a little, as the wind shifts back around to the southeast and the tropical air begins to flow again. Expect sunny skies with a high around 77 degrees, and a low overnight around 63.
Friday and Saturday look like the warm trend will continue, with highs near 80 degrees both days and lows in the lower 60s. Long-range guidance suggests the next weather maker will enter the Central Florida region on Friday night into Saturday. The forecast has a moderate chance of rain showers for those days, with a slight dip for Saturday temperatures. It’s something to watch — if you’re packing for the entire week right now, go ahead and prep for wet weather at the end of the week, just in case.
January 2020 Weather Trends
If you’ve read this column regularly, you’ve probably noticed the confidence in Friday-Saturday forecasts has been very low since the dry season began. That’s due to the lack of big atmospheric drivers in North American weather, thanks to a neutral El Niño season. You tend to get some very strange results from 7, 10, or 14-day forecasts run by the most trusted model systems during the extremes of winter. Last week, one of our favorites was spitting out blizzard conditions in the 14-day forecast for Orlando. Meteorologists knew this was silly; unfortunately some people did see the forecast without any good context or explanation and thought it was going to be very cold (snowing?) for New Year’s Day in Orlando this year.
Still, even when the forecast outside of five days is looking a little misty, there are some other large-scale weather machines which meteorologists look at when looking at forecasting. Different phases of long-term atmospheric conditions can tell us what a weather pattern for a region can generally look like.
One that’s getting a little buzz in weather circles right now is the Arctic Oscillation. This circulation pattern over the far north of our hemisphere influences the north-to-south location of North America’s jet stream. Right now, it’s in a positive phase: that means very high pressure over the northern Pacific and northern Atlantic. This keeps the jet stream farther north than average, and with it, frigid polar air.
If you think back to some of the East Coast’s highly publicized “polar vortex” winters over the past ten years, like 2010 or 2013, the Arctic Oscillation was in a negative phase, which meant high pressure over the Arctic, low pressure over the oceans, and a southerly dip to the jet stream which brought arctic air down to the middle latitudes. Nor’easters, blizzards, and all-around frigid temperatures for the east coast were the eventual result.
But the Arctic Oscillation doesn’t just deal in months-long, dramatic weather shifts — it can and does shift from week to week. As we enter January 2020, the Arctic Oscillation is trending positive, offering mild air for the east coast. If you hate cold weather, this could be good news for the next several weeks — some weather wags are predicting it stays positive through February, at least. That cold air stays bottled well to our north, with temperatures diving below -70 degrees in the north of Greenland. The trend will be warm, mild air, and while we’ll still be interrupted by cold fronts, the chance for severely cold weather doesn’t seem to be worth mentioning right now.
Let’s just hope that arctic air stays up there, yeah?