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Climate of the Tampa Bay Area: Map

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High resolution image of Tampa Bay region
The Tampa Bay areamarker has a humid subtropical climate (Koppen Cfa), with warm temperatures and the threat of thunderstorms during the summer and the winter frost about every 2-3 years. Tampamarker itself experiences a summer wet season, where nearly two-thirds of the annual precipitation falls in the months of June through September. The area is listed by the United States Department of Agriculture marker as being in hardiness zone 10, which is about the northern limit of where coconut palms and royal palms can be grown. Highs usually range between 65 and 95 °F (18 and 35 °C) year round. Surprisingly to some, Tampa'smarker official high has never reached 100 °F (38 °C) – the all-time record high temperature is 99 °F (37 °C). St. Petersburg'smarker all-time record high is exactly 100 °F (38 °C).

Pinellas Countymarker lies on a peninsula between Tampa Baymarker and the Gulf of Mexicomarker, and much of the city of Tampa lies on a smaller peninsula jutting out into Tampa Bay. This proximity to large bodies of water both moderates local temperatures and introduces large amounts of humidity into the atmosphere. In general, the communities farthest from the coast have more extreme temperature differences, both during a single day and throughout the seasons of the year.

Seasonal weather

Precipitation trends

Because of frequent summer thunderstorms, Tampa has a pronounced wet season, receiving an average of about of rain from June and September but only about during the remaining eight months of the year. The historical averages during the late summer, especially September, are augmented by tropical cyclones, which can easily deposit many inches of rain in one day. Outside of the summer rainy season, most of the area's precipitation is delivered by the occasional passage of a weather front.

Tampa's precipitation data falls near the median for the area. Nearby communities to the interior tend to receive a bit more rain every year; those closer to the coast a bit less.

The 1977 snowfall

Winter

In the winter, the low temperature in the Tampa Bay area rarely drops below freezing , an occurrence which happens, on average, once every other year. Since the area is home to a diverse range of freeze-sensitive agriculture and aquaculture, cold snaps are a significant concern. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Tampa was 18 °F (-7.8 °C) on December 13, 1962. Usually, winter highs are near with sunny skies. The occasional passage of a cold front will bring rain followed by a few days of cooler temperatures.

Frozen precipitation is very rare in the area. In the Great Blizzard of 1899, Tampa suffered its one and only known blizzard, with "bay effect" snow coming off Tampa Bay. The last officially measurable snow in Tampa fell on January 19, 1977. The accumulation amounted to only . Many residents of southern Pinellas County reported a light snowfall during a record cold snap on December 23, 1989. However, no snow fell at official weather stations, and the official weather record indicates that sleet fell on St. Petersburg that day.

Spring

Spring in the Tampa area is usually mild and dry, with highs in the 70s (around 25 C) and lows in the 50s (around 13 C). However, the calm is occasionally disturbed by the arrival of late-season cold fronts. The clash of a strong cold front against warm and humid local air can cause squall line to develop and cause wind damage across the area. The most dramatic example of this was the Storm of the Century in 1993, but other smaller-scale events (such as the storm which caused a freighter to strike and partially collapse the original Sunshine Skyway bridge in May 1980) occur every few years.



Summer

Temperatures are hot from around mid-May through mid-October, which coincides approximately with the rainy season. Summertime weather is very consistent, with highs in the low 90s °F (around 32 °C), lows in the mid-70s °F (around 24 °C), accompanied by high humidity and an almost daily chance of afternoon thundershowers.

The typical summer weather pattern is for heat-produced thermals, powered by either the Gulf or Atlanticmarker sea breeze (and occasionally both simultaneously), to build puffy white cumulus clouds into threatening thunderheads over the interior of the Florida peninsula. Usually, the resulting storms drift slowly westward to the bay area, though they may rain themselves out before reaching Tampa if the easterly winds are light or the sea breeze from the Gulf of Mexicomarker is too strong. Occasionally, the storms survive to move out over the Gulf of Mexico, where they can be seen at night from the beaches as spectacular light shows.

The afternoon storms typically bring brief periods of heavy rain with frequent cloud-to-ground lightning, and are usually followed by a pleasantly clear and cooler evening. At times, they can grow severe, bringing gusty winds, small hail, and torrential rain. Strong tornadoes are rare, but do occur occasionally. While Florida does rank #1 in the USA in terms of tornadoes per square mile, the majority of the twisters as small, weak, and short-lived . Waterspouts occur in the Tampa Bay and off the Gulf Coast quite frequently during summer thunderstorms and will occasionally move on-shore as a weak tornado.

Though the Tampa Bay area is sometimes referred to as the "Lightning Capital of the World", it is actually the “Lightning Capital of North America” if measured by average number of days with thunderstorm activity per year. West-Central Florida receives as much lightning during its rainy season as the world’s maximum thunderstorm areas such as the Lake Victoriamarker region of Africa and the central Amazon River Basin, but the local lightning rate tails off significantly as temperatures cool in the fall, decreasing the yearly average.

Every year, Florida averages 10 deaths and 30 injuries from lightning strikes, with several of these usually occurring in or around Tampa. University of Floridamarker lightning expert Martin A. Uman has calculated that the average resident is within a half-mile of 10 to 15 lightning strikes every year. TECO Energy, the local electric utility, spends almost USD $1,000,000 annually to repair transformers and other equipment damaged by lightning strikes.

Hurricanes

June through November is hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin, with the most tropical activity occurring between mid-August to mid-October. Rain dropped by tropical systems is an important component of the area's annual precipitation and is vital for replenishing the water supply of communities around Tampa Bay.

The area feels some effect from passing tropical systems almost every year, but direct hits are uncommon. Estimates of the probability of a hurricane making landfall in the Tampa Bay area during any given year range from 1 in 25 to 1 in 50. While the historical record has shown that the area is vulnerable to a large storm (such as the Great Gale of 1848), Tampa Bay has not seen the landfall of any hurricane since 1946, and has not taken a hit from a major hurricane since 1921.

The 2004 Tropical Season

The 2004 Atlantic Hurricane Season was historically busy for the Tampa Bay area. The region was affected by a record four hurricanes that year; Frances, Jeanne, Charley, and to a lesser extent, Ivan. Jeanne and Frances passed over Tampa as tropical storms after making their way across the state from the east coast. Charley was forecast to make a direct hit on Tampa Bay from the south-southwest, which would have been the worst-case scenario for local storm surge flooding. But the storm made a sudden and unexpected turn to the northeast and brought only tropical storm force winds to the region, devastating the Ft.marker Myersmarker/Port Charlottemarker area instead. Ivan also threatened the area as it moved north up the eastern Gulf of Mexicomarker. It remained far to the west of central Florida, however, and brought only a bit of rain and wind to Tampa Bay before eventually slamming into coastal Alabamamarker and the Florida Panhandle.

Autumn

Both temperature and rainfall start a downward trend in early to mid-October as the weather in Tampa turns drier and calm. However, the hurricane season extends until the end of November, and the area is sometimes affected by a hurricane or tropical storm during the fall.

Monthly Climate Summary

Tampa

St. Petersburg

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Rec high °F (°C) 87 (30) 86 (30) 90 (32) 93 (33) 96 (35) 100 (37) 99 (37) 97 (36) 97 (36) 94 (34) 90 (32) 89 (31) 100 (37)
Avg high °F (°C) 70 (21) 71 (21) 76 (24) 81 (27) 86 (30) 89 (31) 90 (32) 90 (32) 89 (31) 84 (28) 77 (25) 72 (22) 81 (27)
Avg low °F (°C) 53 (11) 54 (12) 59 (15) 64 (17) 70 (21) 74 (23) 76 (24) 76 (24) 75 (23) 68 (20) 60 (15) 54 (12) 65 (18)
Rec low °F (°C) 25 (-3) 30 (-1) 32 (0) 41 (5) 55 (12) 54 (12) 67 (19) 68 (20) 61 (16) 43 (6) 29 (–1) 20 (–6) 20 (–6)
Precipitation in. (mm) 2.3 (58) 2.8 (71) 3.4 (86) 1.6 (41) 2.6 (66) 5.7 (145) 7.0 (178) 7.8 (198) 6.1 (155) 2.5 (64) 1.9 (48) 2.2 (56) 45.8 (1160)
Source: Weatherbase


See also



References

  1. Tampa Weather Forecasts on Yahoo! Weather. Weather.yahoo.com. Retrieved on 2009-02-06.
  2. Keith C. Heidorn (2002). Weather Almanac for January 2002: Miami's First Snowfall. The Weather Doctor. Retrieved on 2009-02-17.
  3. Jon Wilson (2007). The Great Tampa Bay snow of '89. St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved on 2009-02-17.
  4. Tampa climate and weather, Florida, Rainfall Temperature Climate and Weather. Wordtravels.com. Retrieved on 2009-02-06.
  5. http://www.tornadoproject.com/toptens/topten1.htm
  6. Jeff Klinkenberg (2008). Meet Thunderman. St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved on 2009-02-06.
  7. St. Petersburg Times (1999). Lightning capital of the nation. Retrieved on 2009-02-06.
  8. Lightning Research Laboratory (UF). Lightning.ece.ufl.edu. Retrieved on 2009-02-06.
  9. National Weather Service Office in Tampa Bay, Florida (2009). Tampa Bay Area Tropical Weather Page. National Weather Service Southern Region Headquarters. Retrieved on 2009-02-06.
  10. Craig Pittman (2009). Tampa Bay Water likely to overdraw from aquifer this spring. St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved on 2009-02-06.
  11. Bob Macpherson (2008). Experts brief citizens on hurricane preparedness. Tampa Bay Beach Beacon. Retrieved on 2009-02-17.
  12. Chris Landsea (2005). Subject: E24) How long has it been since a hurricane or a major hurricane hit a given community in the United States? Hurricane Research Division. Retrieved on 2009-02-06.
  13. Leonora Lapeter (2005). Hurricane season ends, yet lingers. St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved on 2009-02-17.
  14. Jamie Thompson and Chase Squires (2004). 2004 Hurricane Season Ends. St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved on 2009-02-17.
  15. Miles B. Lawrence and Hugh D. Cobb (2005). Tropical Cyclone Report: Hurricane Jeanne 13 - 28 September 2004. National Hurricane Center. Retrieved on 2009-02-17.
  16. John L. Beven II (2004). Tropical Cyclone Report: Hurricane Frances 25 August - 8 September 2004. National Hurricane Center. Retrieved on 2009-02-17.
  17. Richard J. Pasch, Daniel P. Brown, and Eric S. Blake (2005). Tropical Cyclone Report: Hurricane Charley 9 - 14 August 2004. National Hurricane Center. Retrieved on 2009-02-17.
  18. Stacey R. Stewart (2005). Tropical Cyclone Report: Hurricane Ivan 2 - 24 September 2004. National Hurricane Center. Retrieved on 2009-02-17.



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