West Central and Southwest Florida is located in what is referred to as the Subtropics, between the Temperate Zone to the north and the Tropical Zone just to the south. During the late spring and summer months of June through September, the tropical climate shifts north. When combined with the influence of the surrounding oceans and daily sea breezes, this leads to our thunderstorm season.
The National Weather Service Tampa Bay Area (Ruskin), Florida evaluated local thunderstorm science and climatology to define the rainy season for West Central and Southwest Florida and to increase public awareness of the associated hazards. The rainy season runs from May 15 to October 15 for Southwest Florida and from May 25 to October 10 for the rest of West Central Florida. The graph below illustrates how the rainfall coverage quickly increases for all of West Central and Southwest Florida in June and continues into early October.
The rainy season can begin abruptly in some years and the onset can take weeks to develop in other years. As described in the image below, there are several factors that need to come together in order for daily thunderstorms to occur. Therefore, the beginning of the rainy season is usually a transition period rather than a single date. Similar to hurricane season, the rainy season may occur before or after the aforementioned dates.
In general, the rainy season is characterized by warm, humid conditions with frequent showers and thunderstorms. The start date of the rainy season varies from year to year and is largely determined by the onset of almost daily showers and thunderstorms over the Florida peninsula, as well as late night and morning showers and thunderstorms over the waters of the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
As described in the graphic above, this is typically accompanied by an increase in humidity with persistent dew point values above 70°F, daily low temperatures in the 70s to around 80°, and high temperatures in the upper 80s to middle 90s. To determine if and when moisture aloft is increasing, meteorologists with the National Weather Service Tampa Bay Area turn to Precipitable Water (PWAT or PW). In general terms, PW is all of the moisture that could be squeezed out in a vertical column of the atmosphere up to about 30,000 feet over a given location. The PW value is measured in millimeters or inches and is usually calculated from the twice daily upper air balloon soundings, participating Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) or Aircraft Meteorological Data Relay (AMDAR) aviation partners, satellite-derived total PW values, and/or from weather models. The values of PW range from 0 to about 76 millimeters (or up to around 3 inches), but can vary greatly depending on the season and location. For West Central and Southwest Florida, typical values during our thunderstorm season range from around 43 to 48 mm (1.7 to 1.9 inches). When values fall to around 38 mm (1.5 inches) or less, thunderstorm coverage is usually very limited.
The rainy season usually has three phases:
- Late May through June is the period when severe storms are most likely. Hail, damaging winds, and waterspouts are common, in addition to heavy rainfall and frequent lightning.
- July through early September is when the rainy season peaks. While the overall threat for severe weather diminishes, heavy rainfall and seasonal river flooding remain significant hazards, along with frequent lightning.
- Mid-September through early October is the “wind down" phase and tends to have higher rainfall variability due to potential tropical systems and early-fall cold fronts.
During the rainy season, the location and timing favored for thunderstorm development on any given day changes based on the position and strength of the Bermuda High. The National Weather Service Tampa Bay Area, FL has evaluated the climatological placement and strength of this semi-permanent high pressure feature to define eight varying subtropical ridge wind “regimes" (with a ninth sub-regime of regime eight) to aid in daily thunderstorm forecasting. For more information on the differences seen in daily thunderstorms associated with these differing positions of the subtropical ridge (Regimes 1 - 8) visit https://www.weather.gov/tbw/ThunderstormClimatology. Here you will find the thunderstorm climatology for your Florida city, county, region, or media market.
Some other helpful links are listed below:
SPC Observed Soundings:
SPC Sounding Climatology:
SPC Observed Surface and Upper Air Maps:
During the late spring and summer months of June through September the tropical climate shifts north into our area and this combined with the oceans surrounding the Florida peninsula and daily sea breezes leads to our Thunderstorm Season.Will Florida have a wet summer 2023? ›
May 19, 2023: The National Weather Service outlook for the 2023 South Florida rainy season calls for slightly enhanced probabilities for wetter than normal conditions through June, then trending towards equal chances of above or below normal by August and continuing through the remainder of the wet season.Does Florida get thunderstorms every day? ›
No other part of the nation has more thunderstorm activity than Florida. In the western half of the peninsula in a typical year, there are over 80 days with thunder and lightning.What month has the most thunderstorms in Florida? ›
Late May through June is the period when severe storms are most likely. Hail, damaging winds, and waterspouts are common, in addition to heavy rainfall and frequent lightning. July through early September is when the rainy season peaks.Why Florida has so many thunderstorms? ›
Replacement of the warmer air pushes the sea breeze inland. In Florida, we have a sea breeze that develops along both the east and west coast. With both of the sea breezes moving inland, they eventually collide. The collision causes the air to rise even more and creates thunderstorms.Why does Florida get so much thunderstorms? ›
Because Florida is surrounded by water, there are plenty of sources of water vapor to feed thunderstorms. Florida receives plenty of sunlight, which warms the air near the ground and causes the air to become unstable.How hot will Florida be in 20 years? ›
Historical and Projected Temperature Trends in Florida
In the next 20 years, average summer temperatures are projected to rise above 83°F under both moderate and high emissions scenarios.
Locally, the researchers found that locations in Florida and the Gulf Coast "are likely to experience over 30 additional days" over 100 degrees Fahrenheit indices by 2053.How hot will Florida be in 30 years? ›
According to the foundation, this means that 1,023 counties across the US will experience "feels like" temperatures above 125 degrees by 2053. This prediction includes several Florida counties, like Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.Which part of Florida has the most thunderstorms? ›
With an annual average of 89 thunderstorms, Fort Myers, Florida, is the thunderstorm capital of the U.S. And that's not some climatic anomaly, either.
Four Corners is an unincorporated community just west of Walt Disney World and spans portions of Lake, Orange, Osceola, and Polk counties. Four Corners, Florida saw more lightning in 2022 than any other community in the United States.How long do Florida thunderstorms last? ›
The rain (or thunderstorm) usually lasts for about 30 minutes, then moves on. If you're at a theme park, they WILL shut down rides until lightning has passed. This is a great time to get a snack, or check out the gift shops or indoor attractions.What months have the worst rain in Florida? ›
Heavy rainfall events have fallen due to stalled fronts near the state as well, and occur during the March through May and October through November timeframe.What month has the worst thunderstorms? ›
While severe thunderstorms can occur any month of the year, the peak Severe Weather Season is during the spring months of March, April, and May. Alabama, Mississippi, and northwest Florida also have a secondary Severe Weather Season in the fall that typically runs from November through December.Which state has the most thunderstorm days? ›
The most frequent occurrence is in the southeastern states, with Florida having the highest number of "thunder" days (80 to 105+ days per year).Which part of Florida gets the most thunderstorms? ›
On average, the interior sections of central Florida receive the most thunderstorms with nearly 100 plus days per year. However, thunderstorms are also frequent along coastal areas which average 80 to 90 days per year.What month are thunderstorms most common? ›
Across the region, severe thunderstorms typically occur during the late afternoon and evening hours but can develop at any time. While severe thunderstorms can occur any month of the year, the peak Severe Weather Season is during the spring months of March, April, and May.What city in Florida gets the most thunderstorms? ›
Wide temperature variation is necessary for a good thunderstorm to get going. In fact, the answer might surprise you. With an annual average of 89 thunderstorms, Fort Myers, Florida, is the thunderstorm capital of the U.S. And that's not some climatic anomaly, either.Do thunderstorms last long in Florida? ›
Most thunderstorms last about 30 minutes and are typically about 15 miles (24 km) in diameter. The two biggest threats associated with most thunderstorms are lightning and flash floods. To understand why thunderstorms occur more often during the warm months requires some understanding of thunderstorm basics.