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Prepared by Florida Climate Center
The Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL

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Average temperatures in December were below normal across the state, finishing the year on a slightly cooler note. Departures from normal across the state ranged from +0.6 ̊F in Pensacola to -5 ̊F in Titusville (see Table 1 and Appendix 1 for select cities). Average maximum temperatures were near or slightly below normal across much of the state, while average minimum temperatures were well below normal, as much as -5 ̊F to -6 ̊F in central Florida. Many records were set for lowest daily maximum temperatures during the month, as well as lowest daily minimum temperatures (Appendices 2-3). Only one daily high maximum temperature record was set and that was in Ft. Lauderdale Beach with a record 85 ̊F set on the 1st of the month (beating the previous record of 84 ̊F set in 2016); no daily high minimum temperature records were set.

Table 1.  December average temperatures and departures from normal ( ̊F) for selected cities.

Station Mean Temperature Departure from Normal
Pensacola 54.1 +0.6
Tallahassee 51.2 -2.0
Jacksonville 52.7 -2.5
Orlando 59.4 -3.2
Tampa 61.2 -1.9
Miami 69.4 -1.1
Key West 70.0 -1.4  


Rainfall totals in December were slightly below or below average across most of the state. Monthly departures from normal ranged from approximately -0.5 inches in Jacksonville and Gainesville to -1.85 inches in Melbourne (Table 2 and Appendix 1). While December was dry overall, there were exceptions. The southwestern peninsula experienced a surplus of precipitation, with departures from normal ranging from +0.5 inches in Fort Myers to +1.5 inches in Punta Gorda. Pensacola also recorded a surplus of precipitation with +0.21 inches. Despite below normal precipitation in most areas, several daily rainfall records were set, mostly on the 7th, 16th, and 17th of the month.

Table 2. December precipitation totals and departures from normal (inches) for selected cities.

Station Total Rainfall Departure from Normal
Pensacola 4.76 +0.21
Tallahassee 3.17 -0.73
Jacksonville 2.34 -0.46
Orlando 1.04 -1.54
Tampa 2.79 +0.32
Miami 1.60 -0.44
Key West 1.45 -0.77 


Figure 1. A graphical depiction of the monthly rainfall departure from normal (inches) for December (courtesy of NOAA, NWS).

Figure 1.  A graphical depiction of the monthly rainfall departure from normal (inches) for December (courtesy of NOAA, NWS).


La Niña Conditions in the Pacific.

La Niña conditions persisted in the tropical Pacific in December, as indicated by well below-average sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean. La Niña is forecasted to continue through the winter and early spring from January to March (~95% chance) with a potential change in spring (~50% chance of Neutral during April-June). As La Niña conditions persist, above-average temperatures and drier than average conditions are expected to continue across the southern tier of the U.S. over the next few months.


Hazardous Weather Events in December.

There were 169 individual local reports of hazardous weather events recorded in Florida during the month of December (see Table 4 for a breakdown by event type). A strong cold front moved through the state on the 24th and 25th, bringing thunderstorms and strong winds with reports of wind gusts as high as 40+ mph across much of the state ahead of the front. There were multiple reports of downed trees across northern Florida. Tornadoes were also reported mid-month in the Tampa and Lakeland areas.


Table 4. Breakdown of storm reports submitted in Florida during the month of December (compiled from Iowa State University/Iowa Environmental Mesonet).

Report Type Number of Reports
Marine Thunderstorm Wind 36
Non-Thunderstorm Wind Damage 1
Non-Thunderstorm Wind Gust 22
Tornado/Waterspout/Funnel Cloud 13/1/0
Thunderstorm Wind Damage 44
Thunderstorm Wind Gust 51
Hail 0
Rip Currents 1


Drought-Related Impacts.

Drought did not impact any part of the state in December. However, by the end of December, 10.7% of the state was experiencing abnormally dry conditions (D0) compared to 0.8% at the beginning of the month, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The abnormally dry conditions impacted parts of the Panhandle and northwestern portions of the peninsula. The seasonal drought outlook indicates that drought development is likely through March 2021 in north Florida, including the Panhandle.

As of December 31, the Lake Okeechobee water level was at 15.81 ft. above sea level (Feet-NGVD29), which is above average for this time of the year. At the beginning of December, the water level was about 16 ft. above sea level.


drought monitor


Agriculture-Related Impacts.

The weekly Crop Progress and Condition reports published by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service are produced during the growing season months only, from April to November. The Crop Progress - State Stories, produced monthly December through March, indicate that pasture conditions remained mostly fair to good throughout the month. In early December, frosts caused damage to several pastures in the Panhandle and parts of the northern peninsula. Cattle conditions were good or excellent throughout the month, and cotton harvesting finished later than normal during the final week of December. Citrus activities were normal.


Appendix 1
Additional December departures from normal data for select Florida locations (Source: NWS).

Station Average Temperature (˚F) Departure from Normal (˚F) Total Rainfall (in.) Departure from Normal (in.)
Gainesville 53.2 -2.9 1.89 -0.49
Sarasota 62.7 -0.8 1.93 -0.6
Melbourne 61.1 -1.9 0.72 -1.85
Fort Myers 64.8 -1.7 2.24 +0.53


Appendix 2
Select daily record low maximum temperatures tied or broken during December (compiled from NOAA).

Location Date Record (˚F) Broken/Tied Last
Miles City 1 67 Broken 71 in 1999
Tallahassee 1 51 Tied 51 in 1964
Fort Lauderdale 2 65 Broken 66 in 1925
Hialeah 2 66 Broken 67 in 1965
Perrine 2 66 Broken 69 in 2008
Sanford 2 57 Broken 58 in 1979
Stuart 2 62 Broken 67 in 1999
Vero Beach 2 60 Broken 64 in 1979
Wauchula 3 58 Broken 63 in 2010
Tampa 8 57 Broken 59 in 2010
Miles City 8 64 Broken 66 in 2010
Orlando 8 57 Broken 60 in 2010
Miami 8 64 Broken 65 in 1973
West Palm Beach 8 63 Broken 65 in 1973
Ft. Lauderdale Beach 9 63 Broken 66 in 2010
Perrine 9 63 Broken 66 in 1997
Marianna 17 46 Tied 46 in 1953
Titusville 19 56 Tied 56 in 1974
Bradenton 26 52 Broken 53 in 1989
Stuart 26 54 Broken 56 in 1983
Fort Pierce 27 53 Broken 56 in 1983
Fort Pierce 27 53 Broken 54 in 2001
Naples 27 60 Broken 61 in 2010
Perrine 27 62 Broken 64 in 1995
Stuart 27 59 Tied 59 in 1995


Appendix 3
Select daily record low minimum temperatures tied or broken during December (compiled from NOAA).

Location Date Record (˚F) Broken/Tied Last
Mountain Lake 1 29 Broken 31 in 1945
Tarpon Springs 2 30 Broken 33 in 1957
Marianna 2 28 Broken 29 in 1999
Lakeview 2 38 Broken 39 in 1960
Crestview 2 23 Broken 24 in 2002
Jacksonville 2 33 Broken 34 in 1957
Tarpon Springs 3 30 Tied 30 in 1910
Tarpon Springs 9 30 Tied 30 in 1984
Vero Beach 9 38 Tied 38 in 1984
West Palm Beach 9 44 Broken 45 in 1968
Orlando 9 37 Broken 42 in 2017
Perrine 10 39 Broken 42 in 1996
Tarpon Springs 10 30 Broken 31 in 1955
Tarpon Springs 18 26 Broken 27 in 1901
Marianna 25 28 Broken 29 in 2000
Marianna 26 25 Broken 26 in 1999
Orlando 26 34 Tied 34 in 2010
Gainesville 27 24 Broken 25 in 1985

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