Tampa Bay winter is coldest it's been since poodle skirts were in

On Jan. 8, 1958, some of Cypress Gardens’ hoop-skirted Southern belles, JoAnn Huggins, Joan Peterson and Anne Larson, greet a flurry of record-breaking snow. That was the bay area’s coldest winter. (The theme park is now slated to become a Legoland.)

Times files (1958)

On Jan. 8, 1958, some of Cypress Gardens’ hoop-skirted Southern belles, JoAnn Huggins, Joan Peterson and Anne Larson, greet a flurry of record-breaking snow. That was the bay area’s coldest winter. (The theme park is now slated to become a Legoland.)

The National Weather Service record books make it official: This really has been a long, cold winter.

Unless you lived in the Tampa Bay area in the 1950s, this is the longest winter you've ever experienced here.

So far this season, Tampa and St. Petersburg have had 26 and 28 days respectively that haven't climbed above 60 degrees — the second-highest number in recorded history. And we're only a few days away from the record, which was set in 1958 when St. Petersburg had 31 days below 60 and Tampa had 30.

The cold snap continues this week as highs today and Thursday will struggle to reach the high 50s.

Many Floridians are hoping this is the last chilly spell before we get back to more normal, warm temperatures.

"At least in the short term, it looks like the end," said National Weather Service meteorologist Ernie Jillson. "We've got the last of the cold fronts coming through for a while this week."

After that, we should see drier conditions and a warming trend, Jillson said. But the occasional March cold front isn't unheard of, so we're not in the clear just yet.

Meteorologists can't say for sure what has caused the unusual stretch of cold weather in Florida, but they do point to a phenomenon called arctic oscillation as a possible cause.

The fluctuating sea-level atmospheric pressure in the arctic has been higher than normal in recent months. That pressure has shoved cold air deep into the middle and eastern part of the United States. This is what has caused sporadic heavy snowstorms in the east and the colder Florida weather.

As spring approaches — the first day of the season is March 20 — it appears temperatures may start to stabilize. Monday will reach the low 70s and Tuesday is projected to be even warmer.

"This is definitely a pattern change," Bay News 9 meteorologist Mike Clay said. "We will start to act more like March now."

Enjoy the pleasant temperatures while they last, said Clay.

Thanks to the possibility of El Niño giving way to La Niña this year, climatologists are already predicting an unusually hot summer.

Emily Nipps can be reached at nipps@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8452.

Tampa Bay winter is coldest it's been since poodle skirts were in 03/02/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 2, 2010 11:18pm]

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