Forecasting Change: Less extreme cold in winter

Lowest temperatures warming

Orlando lowest temperature
Orlando lowest temperature

ORLANDO, Fla. – Temperatures have rebounded nicely from the cold of the last two weeks. Suddenly we are back in the 80s for daytime highs in Orlando, and the sea breezes are kicking in as if it is summer!

Some of you have written to me making it clear that you love the cold we have had this season. Others, with just as much vigor, have written to complain that you do not live here for cold and want the warmth to come back. This week the warm weather lovers win.

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In fact, the warm weather lovers have enjoyed most of our winters lately. You see, things have really changed a great deal since 1970. In the last 50 years, our lowest temperature for the winter has risen. Climate Central looked at 244 locations in the U.S. Of those spots, 98% of them have experienced at least a 1-degree rise in their yearly coldest temperature.

In Orlando, the lowest temp has been on a stock market-style up-and-down ride with the overall trend going up. Since 1970, the average coldest temperature is up nearly 6 degrees.

Orlando lowest temperature

In Gainesville, the rise is not as rapid as in Orlando. But the trend in Alachua county is still going up. The coldest temperature in Gainesville is sitting at only 2.4 degrees warmer.

Gainesville lowest temperature

But Gainesville, while still up, proves to be a “cool” exception in Central Florida. All other areas have warmed even more. Check out Sarasota where the coldest temp is now up more than 8 degrees in the same time period.

Sarasota lowest temperature

And then compare that to Tampa. The lowest temperature in Tampa now sits a full 9 degrees warmer than it did back in 1970.

Tampa lowest temperature

As we have discussed in Forecasting Change, the shorter, warmer winters lead to longer allergy seasons, more insects, more ticks and worse droughts.

So keep in mind that, even when we have a cool run in the winter, overall our winters are warming. And what some call “global warming” can actually be reimagined as “global weirdness” like warming winter lows that sneak up before you notice.


About the Author:

Tom Sorrells is News 6's Emmy award winning chief meteorologist. He pinpoints storms across Central Florida to keep residents safe from dangerous weather conditions.