How hot was 2020? It was Tampa’s second warmest year on record

Tampa was on track for record-heat throughout 2020, until a cool December arrived.
Tampa's skyline as seen on Jan. 7, 2019.
Tampa's skyline as seen on Jan. 7, 2019. [ Tampa Bay Times (2019) ]
Published Jan. 3, 2021

TAMPA — Don’t let the blissful cool of December fool anyone: 2020 was a scorching year for Tampa.

But December is why 2020 didn’t set the record for the warmest year on record.

The average temperature recorded at the Tampa International Airport thermometer was 76.2 degrees for 2020, making it the second-warmest on record by just one-tenth of a degree, according to Spectrum Bay News 9 meteorologists.

Thus the warmest year on record in Tampa remains 2017, which had an average temperature of 76.3 degrees, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Close. What does “on record” mean? That’s how far back the records go, as Tampa has recorded daily temperatures since 1890.

Tampa tied its hottest day on record on June 26, 2020 when the weather service’s thermometer at Tampa International reached 99 degrees. The only other year to have a temperature that high in the city was in 1985.

That same June day, the weather service reported that St. Petersburg’s high was 97, Ruskin was 98 and Lakeland’s was 95. Feels-like temperatures reached as high as 112 degrees in some areas of the region. Highs continued to be in the mid-to-upper 90s for the rest of June and into the start of July.

Tampa had recorded its warmest year on record to date as of Nov. 16, 2020, according to the weather service. But a cold December cooled things down for the region — just barely dropping the average down to second warmest year on record.

Tampa’s average temperature for December 2020 was a chilly 61.5, according to the weather service. It was the coldest December for Tampa since 2010 when the average temperature was 53.2 degrees.

The reason why 2017 remains the warmest year on record is because of the mildly cool December in Tampa that year, when the average temperature was 67.3 degrees.

Still, cold did not mean freezing in December 2020. Tampa escaped the month without temperatures dipping below freezing, according to Bay News 9.