Florida Winter

It doesn’t usually snow in Florida. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a winter. | Florida’s cycle Weather | Wet season | Dry season | Endless summer | Waiting for fall | Coolish winter | Spring drought | Hydrologic holidays

Intro - Yes, Florida has a winter

But is it a season, or just measured in days?

By Robert V. Sobczak

People winter (the verb) in Florida …

To avoid true winter (the noun) up north.

South Florida beckons as a land of perpetual warmth, and eternal green, where you can recreate outside in a bathing suite, and even go swimming placid gulf during the core winter months while everyone else up north is stuck inside staring out at bare branches, snow drifts and leaden skies.

Lost in the shuffle is the plight of the native Floridian. As tourists rejoice in sandals and short-sleeve shirts, year-rounders walk beside them donned in fleeces, scarves and even long pants. Among all the verdant green palms and ample sunshine, the more observant tourists who venture into the interior swamps may be struck by a peculiar site: a forest of trees without any leaves. Not dead at all, the bare branches are just one of many signs of winter in south Florida.

But winter is defined by falling snow, not cypress needles — right? And if south Florida does have a winter, what are the other signs?

Believe it or not, south Florida gets quite a few cold fronts. How cold? And if not snow, what qualifies as a wintery day in a subtropical clime? To answer that question, we go into deep research mode to uncover the meteorological, botanical and cultural clues.

Recent blog posts


Those winter days
And why we love to count them

Typically a three-month season,

In south Florida winter is counted in “days.”

Total days of winter in Naples, Florida (1970-present)

And by winter, I’m not talking snow, or even freezing temperatures for the reason if we used either as a metric winter wouldn’t exist in south Florida. Period, end of the story. But the truth is there are cooler days in south Florida that requires a scarf, a hat and sometimes even, if not a sweater — long sleeves — and possibly even long pants. Those are the days that daytime highs don’t rise above 70° F. By my count, and using air temperature data collected in Naples Florida as a guide, we had 11 such days. The long-term average is 18. The highest in recent memory was almost fifty (almost two months worth) in the winter of 2009. Could we still get another winter day? The odds are low for that, but what I can say is that fronts still break through in April. And that’s no joke.


Last days of winter?

The swamp is still in “winter mode” but if you look closely this key trait of spring is starting to sneak in.

Choices: a. very tiny lubber grasshoppers b. Accelerating drop of the water table c. cypress needles greening out d. Increasing glare on the morning commute e. b and c only f. All of the above

Weather Drop

Dreaded stalled front
And why they are not so dreaded

South Floridians crave cold fronts …

Like a hydrologist craves donuts.

Stalled fronts can bedevil south Floridians

Okay, I’ll admit — that isn’t the best analogy, but you get my point. Then there is the dreaded stalled front. Those occur when cold air stops just short and doesn’t break through, leaving us with a extended period of clouds and humidity. As for the stalled front we’re getting now. I’m actually enjoying it because, in addition to clouds its bringing some much needed rain. Even better, it appears to be bringing in some colder weather behind it, too. So maybe it’s more a “slow front” than a cold front. All good news. Now time for a donut!

This Just In
Groundhog sees shadow, now what?

As usual in south Florida,

The groundhog saw his shadow yesterday.

Shadow confirmed!

As for what it means for south Florida weather patterns with respect to the persistence of winter, or the early arrival of spring is — if not a topic of great debate — certainly one that we have a pretty good idea of what to expect next. More sunshine will prevail, rain will be scarce and daytime highs will generally be in the seventies and low eighties for the next six weeks. After that (starting mid May) look for the swamp to increasingly turn drier and crunchier until the summer wet season starts sometime in May. Where would we be without the Groundhog? I wonder …


Polar express heads to swamp

Winter in SFL is defined as any day that doesn’t rise above 70° F.  
Naples has had 4 so far this winter, with another four in short order and in transit on the way.

Or in other words, get your scarves ready!

Here’s a closer look: