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Steamy Miami Ties With 2015 And 2017 For Hottest Year On Record

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Miami's rising temperatures are part of planet-wide trend in extreme weather driven by climate change.

Miami can claim yet another climate title: hottest year on record in a three-way tie with 2015 and 2017.

Steamy high temps for the year averaged 79.1 degrees, according to Brian McNoldy, a Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science researcher who tracks climate-related conditions at the University of Miami’s Virginia Key campus.

"All three years are now tied for first place," McNoldy said. "We ended up about two degrees Fahrenheit above the average, which is a big offset."

The rising temperatures are part of planet-wide trend in damaging conditions, like warming oceans and sea rise, driven by climate change. McNoldy also catalogued five consecutive months of record high tides between July and November - as well as March - on Virginia Key.

Preliminary data also indicate Key West may set a new record. According to the Southeast Regional Climate Center at the University of North, Key West temperatures averaged 80.3 degrees. But because of a difference in record-keeping, it's not yet clear that will match National Weather Service calculations, a spokesman said. 

The nation’s five warmest years on record have all occurred since 2006, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Last year also marked the 22nd consecutive year in which average temperatures were warmer than the 20th century average, NOAA reported.

"We have records going back to 1896. If you look at the list of top 10 hottest years [in Miami], six of them have just happened in the last decade," McNoldy said.

Some of that heat can be attributed to a heat island effect, where dense urban areas with lots of pavement trap heat up during the day and then release that heat at night, McNoldy said. But because of South Florida's cooling tradewinds, the effect is less intense than in other areas and doesn't explain the recent spike in heat. That, he says, is more likely the result of a warming planet.

"For sure, in the last 50 and certainly the last 100 years Miami has grown," he said. "But I would say with high confidence that a large majority of the warming that we've seen is due to climate change."

NOAA hasn't yet posted national temperature data for 2019. But through November, NOAA reported that temperatures remained above average for the continential U.S. In the southeast, temperatures were considered ‘much above’ the average.

Statewide data also indicate Florida is on track to set a new five-year record-high average. Locally, Palm Beach, Broward, Monroe and Miami-Dade counties will also likely set new five-year highs. In 2018, all four counties broke record five-year highs.

NOAA typically issues its year-end temperature review in January.

Jenny Staletovich is WLRN's Environment Editor. She has been a journalist working in Florida for nearly 20 years.