July heat in Tampa breaks records, becomes hottest month in documented history

·3 min read

Tampa is on a hot streak.

In July, temperatures in the city broke multiple records ― including the hottest month in Tampa’s documented history.

The National Weather Service’s Tampa Bay office recorded an average daily temperature in July of 86.3 degrees at Tampa International Airport, the area’s official climate recording site. The previous record was 85.8 degrees in September 2018.

The difference in the two numbers may seem small, but it’s significant, according to Austen Flannery, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

“It just goes back to what’s already been kind of talked about in terms of climate change and such — that the Earth is warming,” Flannery said.

Why was July so warm?

The higher temperatures are both a product of climate change and seasonal weather patterns, the weather service said in an email Friday. Tampa’s rising average temperature — 2.5 degrees since record-keeping began in 1890 — is on par with the temperature increase recorded globally.

Seasonal weather patterns, such as the location of the subtropical ridge and La Niña, also have played parts in the high temperatures.

The placement of the subtropical ridge changes the direction of the wind, Flannery said. Winds have come from the east this summer, which has limited and delayed cooling air trying to get to Tampa. La Niña brings warmer and drier conditions to the Tampa Bay area.

In addition, a large cloud of dry Saharan dust blew over Central and Southern Florida, essentially stopping any thunderstorms from developing.

“If you don’t get any thunderstorms, you don’t really cool down,” Flannery said.

July broke multiple records, including the hottest average low temperature — 79.2 degrees.

The higher-than-normal low temperatures helped to drive the average temperature higher, Flannery said. It didn’t necessarily feel that much hotter in the afternoon hours, but the mornings felt warmer than usual.

“And that’s really been the more subtle, but significant piece of it all,” he said. “That was kind of the big thing that stood out this summer, so far.”

The rest of the Tampa Bay area did not set the heat records in July that Tampa did, Flannery said. However, according to preliminary data from the weather service, from July 1-28, Plant City had its warmest July on record, with an average of 85.8 degrees.

Other areas, such as St. Petersburg and Lakeland, saw temperatures in July that fell within their own city’s top 10 list of hottest Julys on record, the preliminary data said.

What to expect from August

The record July heat followed June, which was the second-hottest June on record for Tampa. Combined, that makes the two months the warmest consecutive months in the city’s history, according to the weather service. With June and July already in the books, this summer is on track to be the hottest Tampa has ever seen, depending on what August brings.

This week, the Tampa Bay area is expected to fall back into the usual summer pattern of scattered thunderstorms, particularly in the afternoons and evenings, Flannery said.

But it’s going to stay hot in August, he said. There is a 40-50% chance temperatures will be above normal again this month, the weather service predicts. However, rainfall is expected to fall back to normal now that the Saharan dust has blown through.

Heat is the No. 1 killer when it comes to weather hazards, Flannery said. Those of us who live in Florida are accustomed to the heat, he said, but the same can’t be said for those visiting or moving to the state from cooler climates.

“It’s often overlooked because it’s more subtle in nature, but we still have to be doing our part to make sure we’re practicing safety,” Flannery said.

How to stay safe

For more tips and resources on how to stay safe in the heat, visit weather.gov/safety/heat.