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It hasn't been this hot in Florida to start the year since 1895, report says

Children cool off at the Curtis Hixon Park  fountains in Tampa.
Children cool off at the Curtis Hixon Park fountains in Tampa.
Published May 17, 2017

Florida is hot.

This may sound obvious, but it's never been more true. Well, at least for the past 122 years.

Florida recorded its hottest average temperatures for the first four months of the year since 1895, according to a climate report by the National Centers for Environmental Information.

NOAA

Another record was shattered Tuesday with a high of 96 degrees in Tampa, according to the National Weather Service.

And the scorching temperatures come amid a drought that has led to Florida's most active wildfire season since 2011.

In April alone, nearly 600 wildfires broke out and burned more than 32,500 acres across the state, the report states. Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency on April 11.

RELATED: More than 100 wildfires scorch Florida, a sign of how dry we are

Pasco County has been beset by several fires, including the wildfire that scorched more than 2,275 acres in the Starkey Wilderness Preserve earlier this month, leaving a plume of smoke that could be seen across the bay area.

"It's kind of like an ugly cycle. Hot breeds dry and dry breeds hot," said 10Weather WTSP meteorologist Grant Gilmore. "We will get some rain this weekend, but it doesn't look like the cycle breaks in a big way any time soon."

Florida is only one of 14 states, stretching from the Southwest to the Mid-Atlantic, that experienced record-breaking temperatures in the first period of 2017, according to the report from NCEI, the federal agency that stores environmental data for the nation and world.

January through April 2017 also unveiled the second-warmest average temperatures for the United States overall, falling closely behind 2012.

Little rainfall and overly dry conditions haven't been particularly troubling for most of the country, with precipitation levels above normal for large swaths of the country.

Florida Forest Service

Not so in Florida. The central-southern portion of the state, as well as parts of southern Georgia, are among the driest areas in the United States.

Rainstorms left the Tampa Bay area alone this winter, so the area stayed dry, said meteorologist Andrew McKaughan of the National Weather Service. That, combined with near-constant high pressure and clear skies, has helped the heat build.

Plus, an easterly wind flow has kept the Gulf Coast sea breeze mostly offshore, he said.

"We tend to warm up pretty significantly because the sea breeze can't come in to moderate the heat," McKaughan said.

Those who find these temperatures unbearable can look forward to the summer, when afternoon showers and thunderstorms help break the oppressive heat.

Gilmore said that stormy pattern should return in June, when the average amount of rainfall jumps from May's 2.1 inches to 6.8 inches.

Until then, temperatures in the mid-90s are threatening to tie or break record highs, like Tuesday's record in Tampa.

"That's a huge spike and it indicates that we are moving in the direction of breaking into the rainy season — slowly," Gilmore said.

Until then, experts caution the public to drink plenty of water, wear sunscreen, limit time outside, and especially be careful when it comes to open flames. There is a statewide burn ban in effect from the Georgia border all the way south to Collier and Palm Beach counties.

Until the rains bring the Tampa Bay area some relief, all it takes is a lit cigarette thrown from a car window to start a raging brush fire.

Contact Samantha Putterman at sputterman@tampabay.com. Follow her on Twitter @samputterman. Contact Claire McNeill at cmcneill@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8321.

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