The start of the 2018 racing season is almost here! The seasons for IMSA, NASCAR, Trans Am, Pirelli World Challenge, and IndyCar all open in the state of Florida during January, February, and March. So I decided to take a look at what the long term weather outlook is for those months.
A couple years ago, I wrote a post about long term weather forecasting, and I encourage you to take a look at that to get a better idea of what goes into making a long term forecast, and what the limitations are. It's foolhardy to try and pinpoint specific details about the weather more than 10 days in advance, but it is possible to predict the general weather pattern and the likelihood of temperature and precipitation being above or below normal. The Climate Prediction Center has forecasters that make monthly and seasonal forecasts, and I will be using their forecasts here.
One important factor in making a long term forecast is to know what the ENSO cycle will do. What's ENSO, you ask? It stands for El Niño-Southern Oscillation (for more information about it, see this post). Whether there is an El Niño or a La Niña in the Pacific will have an impact on the dominant position of the jet stream, which impacts the weather pattern across North America. Currently, La Niña conditions are observed in the Pacific, which is expected to persist through the winter.
What does that mean for Florida? Typically, La Niña conditions produce warmer-than-normal temperatures and drier-than-normal conditions across Florida during the winter:
Here's another way to think of it. There are three equal possibilities - conditions near normal, above normal, or below normal. So this is what the forecast above looks like visualized as a pie chart for Daytona:
While this forecast is no guarantee of warm and dry race weekends, I'd say it is good news for race fans who plan to attend these events in Florida. Keep in mind that this forecast covers a period of three months, and the five race weekends (Rolex 24, Daytona 500, TA at Sebring, 12 Hours of Sebring, GP of St. Pete) are only 10 days out of 90. So those 10 days could all be cold and rainy, while the other 80 days could be warm and dry, and the long term forecast for Jan-Feb-Mar would still be accurate. But there would be a lot of unhappy race fans.
We'll have the detailed forecasts for these races (except the Daytona 500 - we leave that to @NASCAR_WXMAN) posted here at RacecastWeather.com a week before the race is run. You can see our entire schedule of race forecasts at the 2018 Schedule link at the top of the website, and be sure to follow all of our social media feeds - we're on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.