December Weather Summary and January Outlook
December brought quite a change from the previous months of drought. The National Weather Service estimates for rainfall ranged from isolated locations with over 15″ (purple), large regions with over 10″ (hot pink), to less than 4″ along the coast of Gulf, Franklin, Wakulla and Jefferson Counties (tan and yellow).
The six Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN) stations also documented the range in rainfall in December, from a low of only 3.3″ in Carrabelle to over 12″ in Marianna and DeFuniak. All six FAWN stations recorded above historic average for the month of December. For the year, the wettest location was at the station in Defuniak, with 63.1″ in 2016. The driest location was at Carrabelle with only 48.4″ for the year. Certainly the rainfall was not uniform in 2016 with Monticello station recording 4.8″ above historic average, while the other five locations were below average for the year. The Carrabelle location was unusually dry, 7.4″ below historic average for annual rainfall.
Annual averages don’t tell the whole story. It is not just how much falls in total, but when it comes. The chart above shows how three months: March, August, and December made up for the shortfalls the rest of the year at the Marianna location. For the record it was an average year of 54″ of rain, but July, October and November were serious drought months.
The high rainfall totals in December did ease the drought through the Panhandle, but not uniformly. Calhoun, Gulf, Liberty, Bay and Leon, as well as portions of Escambia and Jefferson Counties are still listed in the Moderate Drought category. This may change in the weeks ahead with all of the rain in early January.
The Climate Predication Center’s (CPC) outlook for January calls for warmer and wetter than average. It does seem as if La Niña has lost some of its grip, which should mean continued improvement of drought conditions, at least in the Panhandle.