You may have noticed unseasonably warm and dry conditions across Southwest Florida the past couple weeks. In fact, the last time the high temperature in Fort Myers was below average was March 8th when the high was 77 degrees. Since then several records have been tied or broken in Fort Myers and Naples. It's also been dry across Southwest Florida. The last measurable precipitation at Page Field in Fort Myers was March 11th and the total amount of rain that has been measured at Page Field this month has only been 0.02". Compare that to the average rainfall to date for the month of March which is 2.36". We are over 2 inches below average for the month of March and 4 inches since January 1st 2020.
So why has it been so warm and dry? The answer is simple. A strong ridge of high pressure! A typical March would feature several cold fronts moving through southwest Florida, but not a single front has moved through our area in over 2 weeks.
A ridge is an elongated area of relatively high pressure extending from the center of a high pressure region. Air in a high pressure area compresses and warms as it descends. This warming inhibits the formation of clouds, meaning the sky is normally sunny in high pressure areas. This particular high pressure system has been so strong that cold fronts are blocked from moving through Southwest Florida. Front after front approaches from the north, but is "deflected" by this strong ridge and moves to our north and east.
This weekend the ridge moves from the central Gulf of Mexico to being positioned right over Southwest Florida. That means the warmest temperatures of the year could occur this weekend. Forecast high temperatures this weekend are in the low to mid 90s.
It does look like a pattern change could be on the way! This ridge finally weakens and moves to our east by the middle of next week. A cold front is forecast to move through next Wednesday which will cool temperatures to near average and bring isolated rain to the area. Long range forecasts suggest a more typical pattern for Southwest Florida through the first week of April which consists near average or slightly above average temperatures and slightly below average rainfall amounts. This is good news as most counties in Southwest Florida are in the abnormally dry category as we progress through the height of our fire season.