Heat Waves in Florida: Climatology, Trends, and Related Precipitation Events

Shealynn R. Cloutier-Bisbee Meteorology Program, Applied Aviation Sciences Department, Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Florida

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Ajay Raghavendra Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York

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Shawn M. Milrad Meteorology Program, Applied Aviation Sciences Department, Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Florida

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Abstract

Heat waves are increasing in frequency, duration, and intensity and are strongly linked to anthropogenic climate change. However, few studies have examined heat waves in Florida, despite an older population and increasingly urbanized land areas that make it particularly susceptible to heat impacts. Heavy precipitation events are also becoming more frequent and intense; recent climate model simulations showed that heavy precipitation in the three days after a Florida heat wave follow these trends, yet the underlying dynamic and thermodynamic mechanisms have not been investigated. In this study, a heat wave climatology and trend analysis are developed from 1950 to 2016 for seven major airports in Florida. Heat waves are defined based on the 95th percentile of daily maximum, minimum, and mean temperatures. Results show that heat waves exhibit statistically significant increases in frequency and duration at most stations, especially for mean and minimum temperature events. Frequency and duration increases are most prominent at Tallahassee, Tampa, Miami, and Key West. Heat waves in northern Florida are characterized by large-scale continental ridging, while heat waves in central and southern Florida are associated with a combination of a continental ridge and a westward extension of the Bermuda–Azores high. Heavy precipitation events that follow a heat wave are characterized by anomalously large ascent and moisture, as well as strong instability. Light precipitation events in northern Florida are characterized by advection of drier air from the continent, while over central and southern Florida, prolonged subsidence is the most important difference between heavy and light events.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Shawn M. Milrad, milrads@erau.edu

Abstract

Heat waves are increasing in frequency, duration, and intensity and are strongly linked to anthropogenic climate change. However, few studies have examined heat waves in Florida, despite an older population and increasingly urbanized land areas that make it particularly susceptible to heat impacts. Heavy precipitation events are also becoming more frequent and intense; recent climate model simulations showed that heavy precipitation in the three days after a Florida heat wave follow these trends, yet the underlying dynamic and thermodynamic mechanisms have not been investigated. In this study, a heat wave climatology and trend analysis are developed from 1950 to 2016 for seven major airports in Florida. Heat waves are defined based on the 95th percentile of daily maximum, minimum, and mean temperatures. Results show that heat waves exhibit statistically significant increases in frequency and duration at most stations, especially for mean and minimum temperature events. Frequency and duration increases are most prominent at Tallahassee, Tampa, Miami, and Key West. Heat waves in northern Florida are characterized by large-scale continental ridging, while heat waves in central and southern Florida are associated with a combination of a continental ridge and a westward extension of the Bermuda–Azores high. Heavy precipitation events that follow a heat wave are characterized by anomalously large ascent and moisture, as well as strong instability. Light precipitation events in northern Florida are characterized by advection of drier air from the continent, while over central and southern Florida, prolonged subsidence is the most important difference between heavy and light events.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Shawn M. Milrad, milrads@erau.edu
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