Florida Weather

Florida weather

A thunderstorm approaches Singer Island

People usually think of Florida weather as quite pleasant. In the tourist brochures, it never rains, the sky is always blue, and the bare necessities for clothing consist of a bathing suit and perhaps a tee shirt. Yet while the Florida weather is often pleasant and comfortable, especially when compared to many other parts of the United States, there occur within this state extremes of weather that can pose a tough challenge to anyone who finds himself in the wilds and unprepared to deal with the situation.

Temperatures in the Sunshine State can range from the single digits in the north during a winter cold snap to just above 100 degrees Fahrenheit,especially in late summer.

Summer Florida weather is generally hot and humid, conditions which easily lead to heat-related illnesses and dehydration.

Wintertime temperatures, on the other hand, can vary considerably from one day to the next. A major cold front moving in from the north can bring first a drenching rain, followed shortly thereafter by heavy wind gusts and subfreezing temperatures, all within the span of a few hours.

With the proper clothing and gear, these weather conditions need pose no real problems to those enjoying the outdoors. But someone temporarily lost or stranded overnight, unprepared, could be in big trouble.

Hypothermia can kill in Florida just as it can in Alaska.

Florida outdoors enthusiasts--especially boaters--should be aware that wintertime water temperatures in the Sunshine State can be in the 50s Fahrenheit. That's dangerously cold.

Immersion hypothermia can take a life in less than an hour. Think how fast a hot frying pan cools in water. That's because water conducts heat 25 to 30 times faster than air. Now, when you're in cold water, you're sort of like that frying pan. You have a little internal furnace--your body's metabolism--pumping out heat to keep you at or around 98.6, but 50-something-degree water can suck the heat and the life out of you in an hour or two. If circumstances--such as a sinking or an accident--cause you to be in the water and out of your boat, you may be dead before you can swim to a distant shore.

Chapter Ten of my book, Surviving the Wilds of Florida , has information on cold-water survival that every Florida boater should know.

Afternoon thundershowers are a common occurrence throughout much of the state during spring and summer. Summer weather patterns, especially in the south, tend to be similar to those found in many tropical areas. The day typically starts out clear and warm, with deep blue skies speckled with a scattering of cumulus clouds. As the day wears on, temperatures rise and the sky becomes increasingly cloudy.

Florida thunderheads

Ominous anvil-shaped thunderheads begin to develop, eventually reaching as high as 40,000 feet, maybe more. Usually by mid-afternoon comes a sudden, heavy downpour accompanied by severe lightning and deafening claps of thunder. Within 30 to 40 minutes, the rain is gone, ceasing as quickly as it began. The skies clear quickly, leaving the air cooler and fresher than it had been before the deluge. That’s the typical pattern and what people have come to expect from summertime Florida weather. Of course, it doesn’t always turn out that way. Summer can also bring extended droughts or wet tropical depressions, not to mention an occasional full-fledged hurricane. If you work or play outdoors in Florida--the nation's lightning capital--you'll want to understand a few pertinent lightning facts, and how best to protect yourself from its deadly power. For a discussion of the 30/30 rule, and other things you should know about lightning, see Chapter Ten of my book, Surviving the Wilds of Florida Enjoy the outdoors in our great state, but know how to protect and care for yourself from the extremes of Florida weather. Hypothermia, hyperthermia, dehydration, and lightning strike are not things to be taken lightly.

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