ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Don’t let anybody tell you it doesn’t get cold in Florida.
The highly anticipated cold spell is underway and Floridians are gearing up to layer up for Wednesday morning. It’s the coldest air to invade Tampa Bay since 2018, when many communities, including Tampa, fell below freezing.
While this invasion of cold air will not be as severe as that in 2018, it still poses a threat to vegetation and crops. A freeze warning is in effect for parts of the Nature Coast through Wednesday morning where it will be coldest.
We will be waking up with temperatures in the upper 20's in Citrus County and low to mid 30s elsewhere, including Tampa.
What’s causing the cold air to invade Tampa Bay?
There are a few factors, starting with the upper levels of the atmosphere. The jet stream is a large driver in weather around the world. Whenever we see the jet stream dip to the south over the eastern United States, it usually means colder conditions are in store for Florida.
We have plenty of cold air over the United States and one way it makes its way to Tampa Bay is from a north wind. It pulls in the colder air from the north; we call it cold air advection.
With a low to our east by the Bahamas, it intensifies the north wind over Florida bringing in more cold air.
Air flowing from the north doesn’t have to cross large bodies of water. For instance, a northwest wind means the air mass has to travel over the Gulf of Mexico, moderating the magnitude of the cold air before arriving in Tampa Bay.
A north wind allows most of the air to stay over land and thus keeping its chilly characteristics.
Often times a surge of cold air comes with breezy conditions and this can lead to a wind chill.
This will be the case on Wednesday. It will feel like it is in the 20s across the area first thing in the morning. A wind chill advisory is in effect for this reason as us Floridians are not use to the chill.
Wind chill is not the actual temperature but more so what it feels like to the human body when you steo outside. There’s a complicated mathematic formula to determine wind chill.
Fortunately, we have computers to do most of the math. The bottom line here: bundle up Wednesday because it will get cold in Florida.
It will feel especially cold around here because most of the month so far has been exceptionally warm. As of Tuesday, Tampa has averaged more than 8 degrees above normal for January so far.
Here’s my disclaimer to those from colder climates reading this — I grew up in New England. I will still grab my iced coffee on the way to the office Wednesday morning.
It could be a lot worse and it has been much worse around here. See below.
We have seen temperatures in the teens before. Just remember to cover plants sensitive to the cold and don’t forget about your pets!
After all, it is January and it does get cold around here sometimes.