TAMPA, Fla. — We are more than halfway through the winter season and so far it’s been a mild one around Tampa Bay. We’re lucky to have such mild winters compared to the rest of the United States but this season has shaped up to be exceptionally warm. 

However, the term “warm” is subjective and relative to location. What’s warm for New York City is not the same as “warm” for Tampa. 

One way we measure what’s been “warm” or “cool” is comparing the observed temperature to that of the average temperature. 

The average temperature for Tampa in December is 63.1 degrees and this is based on the high and low temperature of the day. The average temperature in Tampa of December 2019 was 67.6 degrees which is 4.5 degrees above average. So relatively speaking, it was warm!  



While the daytime temperatures have been warmer than average, the overnight temperatures have been much warmer than average. 

This trend continued through January. In fact, the average temperature in Tampa placed 8 degrees above average through the first three weeks of the month until the coldest air of the season arrived. 

The cold snap that arrived later in the month delivered subfreezing temperatures to parts of the area, especially the Nature Coast and near freezing temperatures for Tampa Bay. It didn’t last long enough to offset the mild month and January finished well above average. 

A few mechanisms have driven the warmth so far such as the warm ocean temperatures and the global pattern that has set up this winter. The ocean temperature has been warmer than average. A warm ocean will moderate any cold air mass coming in from the north, keeping our temperatures mild. 

A much larger player is the global pattern that has dominated the eastern United States. A massive ridge has been in place, forcing the jet stream well to the north and locking the cold Canadian air mass to the north. The storm track has been displaced north so any cold air coming into the United States has had a hard time making it to Florida. 

There’s no sign this will change much for the Sunshine State as we finish out the winter season. There will be the occasional burst of cold air but a warmer pattern will likely continue heading through February and into March. 

Here are the top 5 Things You Should Know about Tampa’s Exceptionally Warm Winter:

  1. December and January were 4-5 degrees above average
  2. Sea surface temperatures are warmer than average
  3. Eastern U.S. under ridge, keeping warmth locked in place
  4. Storm track displaced to the north
  5. Cold Canadian air having hard time pushing into Florida