As a meteorologist, I know how important it is to understand the myriad weather events that affect our planet. And the media, especially Weatherwise Magazine, has done a superb job focusing on specific types of events. But the relatively recent emphasis on “climate change” requires that people really understand the backdrop of weather, too. And actual local, state, and regional climates get far less attention than they should. To that end, Weatherwise is launching a new series of articles examining the climate and weather of the 50 states. Each will be co-written by myself and a different author from that state. In this first article, “Florida’s Climate and Weather” we explore how the weather patterns of this southern state create such a wide variety of climates. Upcoming articles will examine Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Look for these and other states in future issues of Weatherwise. —H. Michael Mogil
Florida is aptly named “The Sunshine State” because of the abundance of sunshine that characterizes its climate much of the year. Many days start with sunshine, but when afternoon rolls around, especially during the warmer months, you can often count on being hit by thunderstorms that seem to run like clockwork. This regular pattern leads many to believe that Florida’s yearround forecast is highly predictable, when actually, with its span of more than 5 degrees of latitude, the state is subject to a range of climatic variations.
Florida’s geography provides it a wealth of weather and climatic drama. A large peninsula, the state’s southernmost point (also the southernmost point in the continental United States) is a mere 75 miles from the Tropic of Cancer. As a result, Florida’s climate is split into two distinct regions. Under Köppen climate classifications, humid subtropical conditions reign north of Lake Okeechobee, which is in southern Florida, with a warm-cool climate regime. Tropical climes, including a wet-dry oscillation, rule the southern tip of the peninsula. This juxtaposition lends itself to an impressive array of weather, including heat, drought, hurricanes, tornadoes, fog, temperature swings, and thunderstorms.