January 2016 was the rainiest on record in South Florida. It was also a top five wettest January for all official climate stations along and south of the I-4 corridor. An unusually active, El Nino enhanced jet stream is largely to blame for the wet weather, and this pattern is likely to continue into February. Above normal rainfall is expected in most of the state, with the highest chances for extreme amounts again occurring in central and south Florida.
The highest January total was reported at Fort Myers Page Field, where 12.98 inches shattered the previous 114-year record of 7.95”. A top monthly rainfall total was also observed at the Miami (7.57”) and Vero Beach (9.39”) International Airports. This is the second straight month of extreme rainfall in Miami, with a two-month departure from normal of 13.79 inches! Meanwhile, in much of North Florida and the Panhandle, rainfall came in near or slightly below normal. Pensacola was the driest (compared to normal) where less than four inches of rain fell, 0.7” below the seasonal average.
February is usually a relatively dry month across the entire state. Normal rainfall ranges from two or three inches in central and south Florida, to four or five inches in the panhandle. This year, however, the Climate Prediction Center says there is a greater than 50% chance of above normal rainfall across nearly all of Florida. In a January 31st update, the entire peninsula (Jacksonville and points south) was noted as having a greater than 70% chance of rainfall exceeding the 30-year average.
The next significant rainfall event for the state is likely to arrive later this week, as a slow-moving cold front sweeps through Wednesday through Friday. The heaviest rain with this system is expected to fall across north Florida, where up to 2 inches will be possible. There is no sign that the active pattern will let up anytime soon either. In fact, long range forecast data suggests that a heavy rainfall event could occur about every five to seven days through at least the middle of the month. Historical data from prior El Nino’s suggest the heavy rainfall risk will ease up some in March, and near-normal rainfall typically returns by the middle of spring.