Endless Summer

Count on lots of sun and then more sun during Florida’s dry half, and some cooler days, too. | Florida’s cycle Weather | Wet season | Dry season | Endless summer | Waiting for fall | Coolish winter | Spring drought | Hydrologic holidays

Intro - Florida's endless season

Even longer than its 1,350 miles of coastline

By Robert V. Sobczak

Most tourist naturally assume:

Doesn’t summer in Florida last year-round?

Summer view at Naples Beach, Florida

While many a New England town has to wait around until the fourth of July for summer weather to fully take hold, only to watch it rapidly slip away in the weeks following Labor Day, summer in Florida is a solid six month affair.

To quote some of the locals: “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” Anyone visiting Florida is astounded by the crush of super-heated dense air, thus giving rise to the maxim that, unlike the dry heat of the American Southwest where the shade offers reliably reprieve from the midday sun, shade does you no good in the Florida summer sun.

I implore you: Please do not listen to them. Among natives: the common wisdom is the complete opposite, to the point that you can usually tell a native Floridians in a crowd because they are the only ones standing in the shade. The shade makes as huge a difference as taking a dip in a pool or the Gulf or Atlantic coast.

Summer view at Naples Beach, Florida

Summer has personally grown on me over the years. The more I live in Florida, the more my blood has thinned. Or is it that I’m better at staying away from direct midday sun and finding the slivers of shade.

In a way I pity the winter tourists. They completely miss out on Florida’s afternoon summer storms. These events are truly something to behold, three-dimensional full body experience. Even better is the cool downbursts of air they produce, and sometimes even hail-sized raindrops that only melted minutes before they splash ice cold on your skin or down on the ground. Post storm, temperatures are easily a solid 10 degrees cooler, leaving you to ponder if it’s even summer at all.

Long live Florida’s endless summers, they get longer and more pleasant every year.

Recent blog posts

Big Saharan Swamp?
And during soggy season no less

Umbrella be darned,

It’s almost impossible not to get caught in a rainstorm come summer time in the swamp, and getting thoroughly drench.

Available on Apple Podcasts and Podbean

But a dust storm? And from the Saharan Desert, no less? And during the soggy summer season in south Florida? Now that’s something if I were to warn you about, you would find hard to believe, and equally uninterested in preparing for. The good news: The plumes of Saharan-desiccated dust blowing in on the wings of the Trade winds are not on the same scale as an Oklahoman sand storm during the Dust Bowl. But it does give one pause for thought: The weather is south Florida’s famed summer rain machine isn’t as isolated as we think. External forces can both stoke and stymie its might, and sometimes completely shut it down as often happens when a hurricane passes off shore up Florida’s east coast (i.e. pumping down drier northern air).

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Tidbit: The Sahara Desert measure 3,000 miles from east to west (about the distance between New York City and San Francisco) and about 1,000 miles from north to south (the distance between Chicago and Houston). Now that’s one big desert!

Summer’s plateau?
And why the swamp isn't as low as it seems

Starting in late May …

South Florida’s air temperatures plateau.

This hydrograph compares air temperatures in Naples and Gainesville, Florida. Each graph shows the normal (light gray) and record (dark gray) statistics in the background. Despite Gainesville getting colder during the winter, both places lock into the “summer plateau” mode come the end of May. How long will it last? Answer: Into September for Gainesville, and through most of October for south Florida.

By plateau, I mean they flatline, or stay steady, at an elevated height. That height is expressed in two numbers: A daytime high in the high 80s and the nighttime low in the low seventies. So remember that the next time you’re standing knee deep in the summer swamp looking in the distance at a giant mountainous cloud (or range of mountainous clouds) rising up and approaching.

Driving into the cloud on a plateau-like levee called the Tamiami Trail

The swamp isn’t as low as it seems, but rather a summer plateau that gives us expansive views of the cumulonimbus clouds as they rise.

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Swamp History: 10,000 years ago, south Florida was in fact a peninsula, both high and dry and perched 350 feet above sea level.

water table

Rainy season begins on a dry note
As usual (and despite the April rains)

The start of one season …

Usually means the end of the season that came before.

History of drought in Big Cypress Nat’l Preserve

Well, hold your horses. While Memorial Day Weekend does mark the unofficial start of south Florida’s summer wet season, and to be sure from this point on we can expect the regular build up of afternoon clouds and thunderstorms — it may take a few couple weeks before the swamp starts filling up, or it could happen in a day. Until that time and until that day, the swamp is still in a state of drought. Not as deep as last year. But as you can see on the hydrograph above, it wasn’t until early June that the water table bottomed out. June is soaking in and filling up month. What we do know is that probably by July and definitely by August the swamp will get its water back.

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Meteorological Proverb: “All droughts end in flood”

wet season

Mystery: Summer wet season’s botanical clue?
Hint: Think country mouse, city mouse

The start of fall is easy to see in the swamp: Look no farther than the needles of the cypress trees turning brown then falling off. But does the swamp have a similar botanical clue that signals the start of the summer wet season?

a. Pond apples start to ripen and fall

b. Gumbo Limbo’s bark peals

c. Royal Poinciana’s bright orange flowers

d. Sawgrass blooms begin to appear

e. Brazilian Pepper berries turn red

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Click “Read More” to find the answer: “Nearly 97% of the world’s water is salty or otherwise undrinkable.” Overheard

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Summer’s two bookends?
And how they usher in tropical humid and crisp cool air

If summer is a shelf of books …

Memorial and Labor Day are its two bookends.

Available on Apple Podcasts and Podbean

Why?  Up on the continent, the end of summer and Labor Day go hand in hand.  Not that you need go immediately from a swim suit to wearing a scarf from one day to the next, but its pretty close — if not like clockwork.  Labor Day definitely favors on the summer side of the divide, serving as its de facto “last hurrah.”  Then there’s the case of Memorial Day down in south Florida.  Just as Labor Day may usher in a freshet of cooler and crisper air Up North, Memorial Day typically is the tropical (not polar) opposite: greeting south Floridians with a chinook of humid air at their door, suddenly giving urgency to the old expression — “Close the door you’re letting the air out!” — and leaving one to wonder if per chance he or she didn’t mistakenly put on a heavy down sweater instead of a T-Shirt.  Yes, it’s that warm and humid.  There’s another saying in Florida: “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”  Between Memorial Day and a solid six weeks after Labor Day, the expression especially applies.  

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Little Known Fact: Just because it’s humid, doesn’t mean the shade isn’t cool. Says locals