Thursday, January 06, 2011

Florida Cold Fronts

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, FL
34 42.54 N 081 05.58 W

A cold front passed through this afternoon. It wasn’t a strong one. Nevertheless, we’ve learned a bit about the local cold fronts over the years.

These cold fronts seem to come about once a week. They usually come from the Northwest. When they arrive here in southern Florida, they are very distinct. We can see them approach. A big wall of ugly black clouds approaching at about 20 mph. You can see the scud hanging down under them.
When a strong cold front passes, the wind behind the front blows parallel to the front, and it can be very violent. Indeed, there are numerous boating deaths every year in Florida as people in less seaworthy boats are overcome by post cold front gusts. A couple of years ago, we got hit by a really strong front as we were approaching the Little Shark River in the Everglades. Even though I knew what to expect, the rapidity and violence of the wind change caught me off guard.

The front passage usually brings some rain, but it doesn’t last long.

It may be my imagination, but it seems that most of the fronts arrive in the afternoon. Then, as the wind picks up the skies partially clear for a while. That leads to to best of best spectacular sunsets. Today was no exception; a brilliant rose sunset sky.

After a few more hours, the wind picks up again and brings more rain. Tonight, the rain came around 2100. It was bitterly cold rain. It felt like sleet.

Tomorrow, typically will be a nice day but breezy. The wind direction will clock around. Sometimes, the day after passage of a cold front is the ideal window for crossing the Gulf Stream.

The same fronts that pass here cross the Gulf Stream and The Bahamas. I think they increase in intensity crossing the warm water. A day after we experience a cold front and 20 knot winds here, a front will pass Georgetown in the Bahamas with winds as high as 40 or 50. That’s one of the reasons why we want to wait until spring to go there.

Central and Northern Florida experience the same fronts, but up there they often bring severe thunderstorms. In our first month on Tarwathie we got hit by unbelievable thunderstorms offshore up near Jacksonville.

Texas also sees the same fronts, and there they are most noted by precipitous drops in temperature.

My god, we’re becoming Floridians. We’re beginning to learn the local weather patterns like natives.

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