You can almost always tip your hat to the end of another perfect day in Florida. The climate has always been Florida's most important natural resources, which is reflected in its official nickname, the "Sunshine State."
Summers throughout the state are long, very warm, and fairly humid; and, daily thunderstorms are the norm. Winters are mild with periodic invasions of cool to occasionally cold air. Coastal areas in all sections of Florida average slightly warmer temperatures in winter and cooler ones in summer.
The primary factors affecting the state's climate are latitude and numerous inland lakes. Proximity to the currents of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico also plays an important role.
Average Annual Temperatures
Although southern Florida is 400 miles closer to the tropics than northern Florida, it doesn't feel like it because of the prevailing sea breeze. Southern Florida is one of the warmest places on the United States mainland in winter.
Summers are often hot, but the high temperatures are tempered by frequent afternoon or early evening thunderstorms. Thunderstorms occur, on the average, about half of the summer days. Often these thunderstorms trigger a rapid drop of 10- to 20-degrees in temperature, resulting in comfortable weather for the remainder of the day.
The highest recorded temperature was 109 degrees at Monticello, in Florida's Panhandle, on June 29, 1931. The lowest recorded temperature was 2 degrees below zero in Tallahassee on February 13, 1899.
Click links for average temperature and precipitation by month:
In Florida, more people die from excessive heat than from lightning. The human body temperature rises dangerously when hot days combine with high relative humidity because perspiration cannot evaporate and cool the body.
Elderly persons and small children, or persons who are on certain medications, overweight, or have an alcohol habit are particularly vulnerable to heat stress.
Florida's humid climate is attributed to the fact that no point in the state is more than 60 miles from salt water, and no more than 345 feet above sea level. Humidity is the degree of wetness or dryness of the air and is measured by a percentage ratio called "relative humidity." The warmer the air becomes, the more moisture it can hold, therefore, a person can feel the humidity on a warm day with 80 percent humidity than on a cold day with the same humidity.
This heat index chart above will help you determine how hot the weather feels on a given day. The chart combines Fahrenheit air temperature and relative humidity.
Average Annual Rainfall
The state's rainfall varies in annual amounts, seasonal distribution, and location. Areas of high annual rainfall are in the extreme northwestern counties and in the southeastern end of the peninsula. Some localities may receive as much as 100 inches in a calendar year, while most localities receive less than 40 inches during a calendar year.
There are two wet periods—late winter or early spring and again during the summer—while there is only one low point—October through November.
There is close to a 50-50 chance that some rain will fall during any given day in the summer "rainy season." Still, the chances are much less during the remainder of the year that some rain would be recorded—likely only one or two days a week.
Localities may experience prolonged rainfalls in excess of three inches and 24-hour amounts to near or greater than 10 inches. Most often this occurs in connection with tropical disturbances or hurricanes.
If you're looking for locations within Florida with the least amount of rainfall? Try the Florida Keys and interior regions of Lee County along Florida's southwestern coast.
Thunderstorms, Lightning, and Tornadoes
Florida is the thunderstorm capital of the United States. The "lightning belt" in Florida is an area from between Orlando and Tampa to south along the west coast to Fort Myers and east to Lake Okeechobee.
Thunderstorms are attributed to hot, wet air close to the ground combined with an unstable atmosphere. Often the resulting thunderstorms occur during afternoons—June through September—and can be as brief as a few minutes or as long as a couple of hours, but seldom longer.
Florida's lightning frequently packs a stronger charge than average—more than 45,000 amperes. Some researchers believe that Florida lightning is particularly powerful because of the tall, more highly charged storm cloud formations. Lightning is the state's leading cause of weather-related death, and the state has the distinction of having the nation's worst record of deaths by lightning.
- The months of April, May, and the summer months are considered peak periods for tornadoes in Florida. Although tornadoes can surpass hurricanes in deadly force, fortunately, many of Florida's tornadoes are the weaker waterspout-type of storm. The more severe tornadoes occur mainly in the Florida Panhandle during February and March.
- A tornado is more often seen in muggy weather when large thunderstorms are brewing. Often rain, hail, and flashes of lightning may precede a tornado.
Hurricane Information and Safety
Hurricanes are violent tropical storms with sustained winds of at least 74 mph. They form over warm ocean waters—usually starting as storms in the Caribbean or off the west coast of Africa. As they drift slowly westward, they are fueled by the warm waters of the tropics. Warm, moist air moves toward the center of the storm and spirals upward. This releases torrential rains. As updrafts suck up more water vapor, it triggers a cycle of strengthening that can be stopped only when contact is made with land or cooler water.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. Here is a list of what you can do to prepare for a hurricane.
If you live in Florida, here is step-by-step hurricane preparation instructions. If you start in early May, you're sure to be ready by the beginning of hurricane season, June 1.
- Sign Up to Volunteer or Donate
- Begin Making a Plan
- Stash Cash
- Ready Your Yard
- Find a Safe Place to Stay
- Tag... You're It! Designate a Contact Person
- Pet Plans
- Important Documents
- Shop for Food
- Items for Infants and Elderly
- Gas Up!
Are you planning a vacation in Florida, but are worried about traveling during the hurricane season? Go ahead and plan that vacation, but follow these helpful tips to lessen the impact if a storm should form.
So you've followed all the preparations—you've made a plan, you've filled up your car's gas tank, you've gathered all the supplies for your disaster kit and your valuable documents are tucked away in a waterproof container. Now what? No one has told you what to do now. How do you keep yourself and your family safe when the hurricane arrives? Here are some basic safety tips on what to do during and after a hurricane.