July was the hottest month in Tampa’s recorded history, dethroning a milestone set just last year.
A stubborn westerly wind and steamy overnight temperatures contributed to the scorching month. Tampa’s average temperature was 86.5 degrees, 0.2 higher than the record set in July 2022, according to the National Weather Service.
An abnormally dry pattern was a major factor in setting the record, said Paul Close, a senior meteorologist with the weather service.
Westerly winds have prevented Tampa Bay’s normal afternoon thunderstorm pattern, when summertime heat and air from the Gulf of Mexico clash, cooling down the area with afternoon and evening downpours. The lack of rain has led portions of Southwest Florida and Tampa Bay to fall into a severe or extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
“It’s very unusual to have this extreme drought we’re seeing,” Close said.
Tampa broke another record in July — the average nighttime temperature last month was the hottest ever recorded at 79.7 degrees, also beating last year’s July record.
The high overnight temperatures have led to greater daytime heat. When the day starts out warm, it’s not hard for temperatures to keep climbing, Close said.
Other areas of Tampa Bay also reached record temperatures. Plant City had its hottest month on record in July, and St. Petersburg had its second hottest July, which became its fourth hottest month on record.
Scorching heat has made headlines across the nation and world this summer. June was the hottest June in recorded global history, and a stretch of blistering weather in early July resulted in what may be the hottest days ever recorded in Earth’s modern history.
Across the globe, temperatures have increased by about 2 degrees since 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Since 1981, the rate of warming has increased more than twice as fast, the administration said.
According to a recently released Climate Action and Equity Plan, the average annual temperature in Tampa has increased by 2.5 degrees since records began in 1891.
Last year was the warmest year on record for Tampa. Nine out of the 10 warmest years on record for the city have occurred in the last decade.
Whit Remer, the city of Tampa’s sustainability and resilience officer, said people are beginning to come around to the dangers of heat.
Tampa is experimenting with planting more trees, providing cooling centers and educating the public on the symptoms of heat stroke, Remer said.
“I’ll say we have been working on heat for a better part of the year,” Remer said.
The city has partnered with the University of South Florida and Resilient Cities Catalyst in 2022 to produce a heat resiliency playbook focused on East Tampa. The playbook seeks to find equitable ways to deal with extreme heat, and can later be used in other parts of the city, Remer said.
The region’s blistering heat is likely to continue for the next week or so, according to the weather service’s Climate Prediction Center.
Recently, Tampa Bay has been in a flip-flopping pattern of westerly versus easterly winds, Close said. It’s hard to say just when the area’s usual thunderstorm pattern will settle in, he said. For the rest of the week in Tampa, the weather service is forecasting at least a 50% chance of rain and highs in the mid-90s.