Climate zones of Florida

Florida is the warmest place in the continental United States. The main reason is the latitude of the peninsula, which lies between 24°30’N and 31°N in the southeastern part of the country. Due to its relative proximity to the Tropic of Cancer (The Northern Tropic), Florida enjoys relatively warm weather throughout the year. At the same time, the climate is dramatically different in the different parts of the state.

South Beach Miami

South Beach Miami by David Trawin

Climate zones

Florida falls within the borders of two climate zones – tropical and subtropical. Although they are very different from each other, in general, there are some common features. For example, summers on the entire territory of the state are very hot, humid, and quite rainy.

Another common feature is the sunny weather throughout the year. Besides the large number of similarities, however, there are also many differences.

For example, in the south of the state winters are very warm and some days are even hot. At the same time, in the northern parts of Florida winters are changeable and range from mild to quite cool.

For example, while the residents of Miami Beach and Key West enjoy plenty of sunshine and summer temperatures on the beach in January and February, the weather in Northern Florida can be quite chilly, with temperatures sometimes falling even below 5°C!

The species of plants are another difference between the tropical and subtropical climate zones.

While many plants lose their leaves during the winter months (although many species are evergreen) in North Florida, this is not typical in the southern parts of the state, where most of the vegetation is evergreen.

Subtropical climate zone of Florida

The Subtropical climate zone of Florida covers most of the territory of the state. It stretches north from the line Tampa – Palm Bay.

Art Deco Historic District, Miami Beach

Art Deco Historic District, Miami Beach by Dennis Trigylidas

The northern you travel, the easier you distinguish the features of the subtropical climate. This basically finds expression into colder winters and greater temperature difference between summer and winter temperatures but also into the changing landscapes.

And while winter temperatures in the north of Florida are significantly lower, summers are generally the same in the whole of the state.

The subtropical climate zone here actually has a very pleasant climate – warm and sunny, with long summers and short winters.

However, local subtropical climate is not a Mediterranean type, and its features are significantly different from what you can find in Southern California or along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and Spain.

Local climate is of oceanic type and is strongly influenced by the surrounding water basins.

peaceful sunset florida beach

Peaceful sunset on the beach, Florida by Chris Martin

For example, while the Mediterranean type of climate is characterized by hot and dry summers and short, mild and wet winter, here, in the northern half of Florida, is just the opposite – summers are also long and hot but very humid and rainy while winters are also short but very dry and sunny.

Temperatures along the coast of Northern Florida are about 16 – 18°C in January and reach to about 32 – 33°C on average in August.

Although most of the days are pleasantly mild even in the midst of winter, the night temperatures can be quite cold and in rare cases even drop to about 0°C.

Some cities of North Florida even have experienced snowfalls in the past, although the snow cover always melts almost immediately.

Tropical climate zone of Florida

The tropical climate zone of Florida brings some typical oceanic features such as the abundance of rainfall throughout the year.

The summer months receive most of the annual precipitation, and sometimes it rains every day, especially in the afternoon.

south beach in winter

South Beach in winter by n kw

The weather in winter is nice because of the smaller number of rainy days. In addition, the weather is sunny, and the humidity of the air is considerably lower.

Temperatures in the tropical climate zone of Florida are high throughout the year, ranging around 23 – 24°C on average during the day in January and about 31 – 32°C on average during the day in August.

Night temperatures are also warm, ranging between 16°C in January and 26°C in August (data for Miami Beach). The combination of warm temperatures and less rainfall turns winter into the most attractive season to visit South Florida.

Sometimes, in very rare cases, are possible cooler and cloudy days with rainfalls during the winter months, which is generally typical for almost all destinations located beyond the North or South Tropic.

Transitional zone between tropical and subtropical climate zones

Because of the specific location of Florida, part of the state falls within the influence of both climate zones.

This is the territory between the lake of Okeechobee to south and the line Tampa – Palm Bay to the north. For example, in the area of Tampa Bay winters are very mild, sunny and resemble late spring, which is typical for areas located in tropical latitudes.

However, sometimes are possible cold waves and lower temperatures in the region, causing locals to go outside with warm clothes and jackets.

Meanwhile, to the south, in the area of Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Florida Keys, this is not very common and happens very rarely.

Factors that modify the climate of Florida

Although the latitude of Florida is the most important factor for the formation of local climate, in fact there are many other specifics that are not less important.

Oceans and other water bodies

The climate of Florida is heavily influenced by the surrounding waters, which is not surprising, especially given the fact that the state is surrounded by water on three sides.

Summer storm, Navarre

Summer storm, Navarre by M.M.Meeks

West of the state extends the Gulf of Mexico whose waters absorb a huge amount of heat during the long and hot summer months. East of Florida extends the Atlantic Ocean.

Its water temperature is generally quite warm all year round, so the ocean strongly influences the climate, both in summer and in winter. To the south is the warm Florida Strait.

It separates the United States from the Caribbean Islands, which are known for their warm weather and tropical climate.

Although less influential, there are numerous small water bodies on the territory of the state, and they modify the climate of the peninsula at a local level.

As you will be able to realize if you see Florida from above, the state is a mosaic of lakes, marshes and river canals.

They undoubtedly influence the climate, making it milder but also much more humid and unbearable during the hot summer season.

Influence of the Gulf Stream

The warm Gulf Stream is a very strong factor too. It has a huge impact not only over the climate of Florida but also the climate of our planet as a whole.

It transports warm waters from the tropical latitudes of the Caribbean Sea all the way to Northern Europe across the Atlantic, where it heavily modifies the climate of Northern Europe, especially of Iceland, the British Isles and Scandinavia.

The influence of the Gulf Stream on the climate of Florida is even bigger because the state is located near the tropics where the temperature of the current is highest, and for this reason, its climate-modifying power is stronger.

florida tropical storm

Florida tropical storm by Mike Miller

The current runs in a southwest-northeast direction, gradually  increasing the distance from the east coast of Florida.

Running along the shores of the state, the Gulf Stream affects the climate mainly increasing the average temperature throughout the year and bringing heavy rainfalls.

It is also among the reasons for the frequent tropical storms in the area. Here we should note that Florida is the state with the greatest number of thunderstorms a year, and Miami falls among the top places as one of the rainiest cities in the continental United States.

Influence of the relief

Florida has an extremely flat terrain with no mountains or high hills. The absence of climate barriers means that the warm and cold air masses can freely move north or south depending on the season.

This is the main reason why sometimes the north of the state experiences very high temperatures during the winter months, but on the other side, it is also the reason for colder waves reaching South Florida in the same season.

The state is strongly influenced by the fact that Florida is a peninsula surrounded by water on three sides. This causes a fundamental influence by making the state’s climate mild and protecting for extreme temperatures, with no mater too high or too low.