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For Tampa Bay, 2010 was a year of extreme weather

This year's weather was unlike anything Tampa Bay has seen in the 120 years records have been kept.

It was an extraordinary year of temperature extremes, with one of the coldest winters on record and the hottest summer. And now we're poised to see one final mercury-defying feat: one of the coldest Decembers in recorded history.

"We had a lot of records fall," said National Weather Service meteorologist Logan Johnson.

Tampa and St. Petersburg recorded the coldest start to December, besting records that stood for more than 75 years.

December's average is lower even than last January's, when a record 11 consecutive days of freezing weather brought massive crop damage.

Those cold spells were bookends for a record summer.

In Tampa, the average temperature for June, July and August was 84.5 degrees, breaking the record of 84.2 set in 1998. In St. Petersburg, the average was 85.6, breaking the old mark of 84.6 set in 1987.

The heat came on the heels of a remarkably cold winter. Some parts of the Tampa Bay area experienced the coldest winter in recorded history. In that period, temperatures averaged 6 to 8 degrees below normal. The cold sent energy bills soaring and prompted strawberry farmers to spray billions of gallons of water to protect their plants.

The chill was largely attributed to El Niño, which usually brings an active winter storm season to west-central Florida.

Meteorologists say massive, stagnant high pressure systems helped fix the weather patterns this year, making the summer so hot and the winters so cold.

Throughout the summer, a large system hovered over the Southeast, blocking other systems from coming to Florida and giving us weeks of painfully hot weather.

A different high-pressure system in the Atlantic Ocean was responsible for the low temperatures last winter and this month.

The blocking system, as meteorologists call it, prevents cooler air from traveling east and instead forces it south to Tampa Bay. "Basically it means you're going to get the extreme cold," Johnson said.

But why such wild temperature extremes?

"The climate wants to get back to normal," said Bay News 9 chief meteorologist Mike Clay. "You have one extreme, and then it usually sweeps back the other way."

Tampa Bay is not alone in seeing these dramatic extremes.

Florida recorded the ninth coldest winter in 116 years followed by the second hottest summer.

"By and large, that's been the case throughout the country," Johnson said.

Forecasters say Tampa Bay will see below average temperatures for a few weeks into January. Beyond that, the forecast isn't clear.

For Tampa Bay, 2010 was a year of extreme weather 12/29/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 29, 2010 10:36pm]
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