The average annual temperature in Tampa has been creeping up for years, resulting in nine of the 10 warmest years on record occurring over the last decade.
Last year was no exception: The weather in Tampa in 2022 was the warmest on average in recorded weather history, which goes back to the 1890s.
That’s according to a climate summary recently released by the National Weather Service’s Tampa Bay office.
Tampa had an average temperature of 76.4 degrees last year, a nearly 2-degree “departure from normal,” the report states.
The previous hottest years were 2017 and 2020, when the average temperature was 76.3 degrees. The difference in temperature comes down to a tenth of a degree but the slight increase is in keeping with a steady upward trend, said Nicole Carlisle, a meteorologist with the Weather Service’s Tampa Bay office.
“We’ve gone up about 2½ degrees since 1891,” Carlisle said. “So, there’s just been a steady increase.”
Carlisle said there are fluctuations every few years, but the trend has been for temperatures to increase little by little each year. The only year in Tampa’s top 10 warmest that is not in the last decade was 1990, which was the eighth-warmest in the city’s recorded history.
Other cities in the Tampa Bay area and across Florida had some of their warmest years as well. St. Petersburg had its 12th-warmest year at 75.4 degrees. Most temperatures across the area were at least 1 to 2 degrees above normal. The one anomaly was Tarpon Springs, which was nearly 1 degree below normal.
The Weather Service’s Tampa Bay office also released a report on urbanization in our area. The report says urbanized areas of West Central and Southwest Florida have increased in temperature by about 2.5 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 100 years. Buildings, roads and other infrastructure absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat more than naturally occurring environments like forests or bodies of water, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
In addition, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service announced Monday that last year was the fifth-hottest year on the planet, according to reporting from The Washington Post.
“2022 was yet another year of climate extremes across Europe and globally. These events highlight that we are already experiencing the devastating consequences of our warming world,” Samantha Burgess, the deputy director of Copernicus, said in a news release.
While the planet has experienced climate change before, like during the ice ages, overall global temperatures are increasing faster than the planet’s natural cycles, the Weather Service said.
The global temperature has increased about 2 degrees since 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The increase might seem small, the agency said, but it’s a significant rise in accumulated heat.
“That extra heat is driving regional and seasonal temperature extremes, reducing snow cover and sea ice, intensifying heavy rainfall, and changing habitat ranges for plants and animals — expanding some and shrinking others,” the agency wrote in 2021.
Rising heat comes with complications that affect daily life in Tampa Bay, including water supply, roads, jobs and health. A 2022 study that shows how heat will change over 30 years by First Street Foundation, a nonprofit that analyzes the country’s climate risk, found that Florida will have the largest increase of any state in the number of days when the heat index reaches at least 100 degrees.
The National Weather Service said one of the biggest effects climate change will have in Florida is heat-related illnesses spurred on by hotter days.
A 2021 study from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council said heat-related deaths in the Tampa Bay area would reach nearly 250 a year by 2030. In another 30 years, the number of heat-related deaths will rise to about 1,000 annually.
The Weather Service’s summary comes just a few weeks after a cold snap over the Christmas holiday weekend dropped temperatures dramatically, and just days before another cold front expected this weekend. The extreme dip at Christmas caused December’s average temperatures across the area to be slightly below normal.
It’s possible to have these instances of cold temperature, Carlisle said, even as average temperatures trend upward.