It’s going cold and it’s getting even colder.
One can count the number of days that the mercury has risen to 32 degrees over the past decade. Many newcomers are unaware of this fact, while some old-timers may not be aware that freezes and frosts were once more common.
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Is the icebox door open?
National Weather Service forecasters have warned all week about a bomb-cyclone and nor’easter sweeping through the northeastern U.S.Meteorologists on Wednesday stated that Florida’s “feels like” temperatures were expected to drop to the bottom.
- 18 degrees inJacksonville
- 19 degrees inTallahassee
- 22 degrees in Orlando
- 25 degrees inTampa, Vero Beach
- 28 degrees inWest Palm beach
- 30 degrees in Naples
Actual temperatures can vary. Why? Because weather forecasters often miss the mark. These numbers are also calculated using wind speeds, which will be between 15-20 mph.
After this cold front passes through, an “Arctic Door” will remain open that will sweep cold, dry air from Northern Canada down to Florida Keys and Bahamas. It has been a while since people in the lower third Florida experienced these temperatures.
However, this next cold front could cause low temperatures to drop.
How low can you go?
I’ve been through more than half a century of Florida winters. I recall many days when I was struck by how cold it was and the impact it had on my life.
Jan. 19, 1977:The day it snowed at Miami. Jensen Beach was where I grew. Mom excitedly woke up my brother and me from bed in Jensen Beach. It was amazing to be 10 years old and watch tiny snowflakes fall on my tongue. The snow didn’t actually pile up; it just melted as soon as it touched the ground. I can recall being angry that we didn’t get a snow day off school.
Christmas Eve 1987 & 1989Florida was ravaged by hard freezes. Tampa pipes burst. Central Florida’s citrus trees were killed. Fortunately, the freezing temperatures didn’t stay low for too long.
Jan. 1-12, 2010:Florida’s temperatures have never exceeded 50 degrees. It really changed the landscape, freezing back tropical species.
Let’s look at it again, ignoring the whining and funny memes about South Florida’s low temperatures. Is there a silver-lining to a dip below the freezing point?
You can make a difference by going to the warmest part of the nation once a month or once every two years. Here are some ways it can help:
There are over 500 non-native invasive species fish, invertebrates and reptiles of fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles, reptiles and plantsAccording to the Florida State University, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Many people are from tropical climates. The Sunshine State is a great place to live and thrive.
Warm winters and no freezes have allowed the critters to swim north along the peninsula. Red-headed agama red-headed lizards, pythons and cichlids, armored catsfish, iguanas and Brazilian pepper trees are moving north every year, becoming more established and outcompeting native species.
These species can be killed and stopped from migrating by a good freeze.
Control the spread of tropical natives
Not all things that spread north are invasive. A problem can arise when a tropical fish or tropical plant moves into a new territory.
Snook have been moving into Cedar Key. They are being caught in Suwanee. They could be displacing grouper, redfish, black drum, sheepshead, and other species that have been able to access those waters all their lives.
Red mangroves are being introduced to the Halifax River and Tomoka Basin coastline estuaries. Here, spartina is the native vegetation. Mangroves can alter the chemical composition of soil and water, competing with and pushing out other plants.
Mangroves and snook are not freeze-tolerant.
There is a delicate balance to cold weather and how it impacts open-field agriculture in Florida. When temperatures drop for short periods of time, sugars can build up in certain fruits and vegetables, making them sweeter after harvest.
The cold temperatures are not a problem for strawberries that ripen in the winter months. They can be kept at 32 degrees for a few hours if there isn’t a hard freeze. It’s the same with citrus. Central Florida growers still own thousands of acres of oranges for juice such as Valencia, Hamlin, Ambersweet and Hamlin varieties.
Here are some ways it doesn’t help:
Manatees & Sea turtles
Manatees and sea turtles living in coastal waters can die from cold stress. About 50 manatees are killed each year by cold exposure. Sea turtles are also at risk. To prevent them from becoming too cold-affected, there is a multi-organizational coordinated effort.
Produces can be damaged by cold
Citrus trees can become brittle if they are left below freezing for too much time. Strawberry plants can die. Temperatures below freezing for more than eight hours will cause the death of tomatoes, bell peppers and beans, as well as lettuce, cabbage, lettuce, and other vegetables.
Nobody wants to see 2010 again, when temperatures were below 50 degrees for 10 consecutive days. The number of snook that were killed by cold weather was untold. It caused a moratorium in harvesting for the next few years.
Let’s enjoy this cold spell. Let’s hope it warms back up quickly.
TCPalm’s outdoors writer is Ed Killer. Sign up for his weekly newsletters and others at profile.tcpalm.com/newsletters/manage. Friend Ed on facebook Ed KillerFollow him on Twitter @tcpalmekillerYou can email him firstname.lastname@example.org.