temperature check

Climate is south Florida’s cool aid: Once people get a taste of it, they find it hard to leave. But there are aspects (the humidity) that are hard to bear. And yes, we get cooler weather, too. Our temperature charts help complement the 5-day forecast.

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.

temperature check

High humidity blues
And why shade matters

Temperatures don’t rise as high in south Florida …

As they in the Great American Southwest.

Let’s just say both are hot in their own way

But the humidity is off the charts. Actually, technically speaking, it’s still on the chart. But did anybody else notice this week how the wave of heat hits you the moment you open the door. The thing about summer in south Florida — it’s so thick, it almost feels like you’re wearing a sweater, even though you’re only in short sleeves. The caveat is you better keep a sweater handy because it can get cool in the air conditioning inside.

Back to the comparison between Naples and Arizona on the heat index scale. There’s an old wise tale about how in Arizona, yes it’s hot — but its a dry heat, thus its cool(er) in the shade — in contrast to Florida that is so humid that the shade brings no reprieve. This just in: Shade matters in Florida. In fact, that’s exactly how you can spot a native (or a long-time year rounder) in a crowd. All the tourists will be standing int he sun, but the salty and seasoned old-timer will be predictably standing in the sand, no matter how small the sliver. Shade isn’t as cool as AC, but it may be Florida’s only sweater-free zone come summertime.

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Swamp Rules: Count on summer nighttime lows to stay at or above 70° F all summer long. That doesn’t mean it can’t get shivery cold after a June downpour.

Winter blues
Winter strikes South Florida

You know it’s cold in Naples, Florida …

When daytime highs don’t rise above 70° F.

Days of winter so far this year

That’s only happened 4 times so far this year.

The long-term winter average is 18.

A look at the history of cold days in Naples, Florida

Unlike Up North, Winter isn’t a contiguous season in Florida. The saying “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” usually applies. It’s not often that truly cold days persist for more than a few days (and on rare occasions, a week) in a row. And by truly cold, keep in mind that means a scarf and a hat but not necessarily long pants. This weekend I finally succumbed: To cold for shorts I donned my only pair of corduroy pants. Looks like I might need them next week, too.

temperature check

Ode to the sun
And how just a little bit matters

It wasn’t so much the cold …

As it was the lack of sun.

Comparison of day and night temperatures up and down the east coast

While I enjoyed every minute of my winter solstice stay up in Maryland, and the Piedmont Plateau country to be more specific, it was the lack of sun more than the cold that wore me down. On several hikes, despite it being mid day and not rainy, I simply couldn’t find the sun. The clouds and the fog were that dense. Then came the brisker days when sun was out but it didn’t give much warmth. Or more correctly stated, it gave no warmth at all so long as I was walking away from it, leaving me to wonder why I didn’t wear another layer of clothes. Then came the surprise: On the return trip, the shining sun on my face made all the difference. I actually had to strip down a layer.

I know how it all is: It rises, it falls, it rises again. At some point we take the sun for granted. Don’t! The tiniest of sliver made all the difference up north. We most value the things we lack. Living in the land of Florida sunshine I forgot that. Traveling reminds us of the smallest things.