It’s Summer – Essentially – in Florida

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Memorial Day is over. The day is known to some as the “unofficial start of summer.” Everyone will be getting their fix of hot dogs, baseball, beach, watermelon, and sun.

In Florida, those aforementioned things will be the desires of most residents and tourists. But the summer also brings sunburns, thunderstorms, lightning strikes, ruined afternoon plans, terrible summer blockbusters, and people sweating their [insert desired body part]s off.

The summer time is also the time of the year when I became interested in the field of meteorology. The curiosity came about through my annoyance of having outside playtime being disrupted because of afternoon thunderstorms.

So, what changes?

1) Upper-air influences decrease. Put simply, the jet stream that we are used to hearing about in the winter, spring and fall makes a trip back to the north. This decreases any upper-air influences and keeps the winds aloft pretty light. Because the jet stream is petty far north, you usually don’t see many fronts impacting Florida.

There are times during the summer where Florida could get some mid and upper-level shortwave troughs, which help initiate lift beyond the normal sea breeze scenarios (to be explained). These types of troughs are usually weaker than what you would see in other seasons and usually don’t accompany any fronts.

2) Sea breezes become commonplace. With the lack of major upper-level, baroclinic influences, we usually experience sea breezes in the state.

(Source: NOAA)
(Source: NOAA)

The sea breeze begins when land near a body of water (whether its the Gulf or the Atlantic) begins to heat up.  The water is cooler than the land, causing air from the water to rush inland. This push causes the air to rise. When the air rises, it cools, creating a relative high aloft. The air then flows back towards the water aloft and creates a relative low. The air sinks down, creating a relative high. This high-to-low cycle feeds the sea breeze.

Depending on the overall weather pattern, thunderstorms could develop along the sea breeze boundary as it moves inland. The large-scale wind direction and speed could also determine which sea breeze (the east or west in Florida) is more predominant and how far inland it goes. For instance, stronger winds can hamper sea breeze development.

3) Tropical-based features also have influences. As the summer moves on, we could also experience westward-moving tropical waves. These waves aren’t quite tropical cyclones as they aren’t that intense or have a closed center, but these tropical lows can create enough lift, along with bringing additional moisture, to enhance showers and thunderstorms.

These are some of the atmospheric effects that impact the Sunshine State’s weather in the summer. So, when you are wondering why it’s raining at your barbecue, wedding, or even your divorce proceedings, these can be the likely culprits. Thanks, Mother Nature.