The Climate of Coastal Florida

Coastal Florida's year-round mild temperatures and almost constant sunshine lure families weary of the gray skies and cold of the north. The Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean alternately provide cool breezes in summer and warm ones in winter. Winters are usually dry and mild while summers are wet. Sea breezes help to alleviate the summer heat and humidity. Florida's coastal areas remain slightly warmer in winter and cooler in summer than inland destinations. The Gulf Stream, flowing around the western tip of Cuba through the Florida Straits and northward along the lower East Coast, makes southern Florida one of the warmest places in the continental United States during the winter.

Frequent afternoon thunderstorms temper the summer heat. In fact, Florida has more thunderstorms than any other state. On the positive side, thunderstorms can lower temperatures as much as 20°. You'll find that these summer thunderstorms most frequently occur in an area from Tampa east to Daytona Beach, then south to Cape Canaveral and west to Fort Myers, which averages 100 days of lightning per year. Overall, Florida receives 50 to 65 inches of rain per year, but that amount can vary from 80 inches in Pensacola to 40 inches in Key West. The Panhandle has two rainy seasons, one from late winter to early spring and another during summer. Statewide, April and November are the driest months. Generally, more than 50 percent of the total annual rainfall for the state falls between June and September. Add to that the average of thirty tornadoes that touch down each year from April to June.

Average Temperature Range

The hottest months along Florida's coasts are June through August, when the daytime temperature can soar to 95°. Daytime winter temperatures average between 45° and 70°, dropping to as low as 40° in northern Florida and 70° to 80° in the southern half. Springtime has the lowest relative humidity, between 65 and 70 percent. Summer temperatures are more or less uniform throughout the state, with average highs around 90°. and lows seldom falling below 70°. While summer can bring hot afternoons, offshore breezes keep life comfortable in most regions near the coast.

Hurricanes

The hurricane season lasts from June through October, with most of the hurricanes occurring in September or October. As this could put a damper on your vacation plans, you should check the Weather Channel (www.weather.com) or the National Weather Service (www.nws.noaa.gov) before your departure in case you have to reschedule your visit. Miami's National Hurricane Center tracks storms by radar and satellites. If you're already in Florida, tune in to local radio or television stations for up-to-the-minute advisories and evacuation warnings. Most storms that enter Florida approach from the south or southwest, entering the Keys, the Miami area, or along the west coast.

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