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

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Key Points:

  • Monthly average temperatures in May were generally near or above normal.
  • Monthly precipitation totals for May were generally above normal for much of the state.
  • With increasing rainfall, drought conditions improved across the state during the month, and 74% of the state was drought free by the end of the month. Drought removal is likely over the coming weeks as the rainy season becomes fully underway.
  • A transition to El Niño is likely this summer with fairly high forecast confidence.
  • A surface low formed in the Gulf at the end of the month and developed into a tropical depression on June 1, kicking off the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season.


Average monthly temperatures in May were generally near to above normal across the state. Average temperature departures from normal ranged from -1.1 ̊F in Melbourne to +2.0 ̊F in Fort Myers for the month (see Table 1 and Appendix 1 for select cities). While the middle of the month was generally warmer than normal for much of the state, the month began and ended with below normal average temperatures in most places. Thus, monthly departures from normal were not as warm as in previous months for most places. However, these first five months of the year, January-May, have been the warmest start to the year on record for many locations across the state, including Miami, Fort Myers, Key West, Sarasota, Tampa, Melbourne, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Ocala, Tallahassee, and Pensacola. Select daily high maximum temperature records tied or broken during the month are provided in Appendix 2.

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

Station Mean Temperature Departure from Normal
Pensacola 76.5 +0.5
Tallahassee 75.9 +0.7
Jacksonville 74.2 -0.7
Orlando 78.2 +0.9
Tampa 79.6 +0.1
Miami 81.2 +1.1
Key West 82.0 +0.9 


Monthly rainfall totals were generally above normal across the state in May. The monthly precipitation departures from normal ranged from -1.82 inches in Venice to +6.18 inches in Ocala (see Table 2 and Appendix 1 for select locations). Naples had its 4th-driest May on record, and some places are experiencing one of their driest starts to the year on record, January-May, including Naples with 3.08 inches this year (1st-driest), Tarpon Springs with 3.32 inches (2nd driest), and Venice with 5.00 inches this year (4th-driest). On the other hand, several locations experienced one of their wettest Mays on record including Fort Lauderdale (5th-wettest), Lakeland (5th-wettest), Bradenton (6th-wettest), Orlando (8th-wettest), Ocala (9th-wettest), and Jacksonville (9th-wettest). As such, drought conditions improved across the state by the end of the month (see drought information below).

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

Station Total Rainfall Departure from Normal
Pensacola 5.19 +1.29
Tallahassee 2.84 -0.52
Jacksonville 5.68 +2.26
Orlando 6.37 +2.35
Tampa 4.11 +1.51
Miami 5.92 -0.40
Key West 3.97 +0.85 


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

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


El Niño Watch.

A transition from ENSO-neutral to El Niño, the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation, is expected in the next couple of months. There is a greater than 90% chance of El Niño persisting into the Northern Hemisphere winter. Above-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) expanded westward to the east-central equatorial Pacific Ocean during April and there are now widespread positive temperature anomalies below the surface of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. At the end of the year (November-January), the range of possibilities includes an 80% chance of at least a moderate El Niño (Niño-3.4 ≥ 1.0°C), about a 55% chance of a strong El Niño (Niño-3.4 ≥ 1.5°C), and a 5-10% chance that El Niño fails to materialize, according to the Climate Prediction Center at NOAA.


Hazardous Weather Events in May.

According to the Local Storm Reports issued by the local National Weather Service offices serving Florida, there were 267 individual local reports of hazardous weather events recorded across the state during the month of May (see Table 4 for a breakdown by event type). As the rainy season begins, reports of heavy rainfall and thunderstorm activity have begun to ramp up. One lightning fatality occurred when a man was struck while on a roof on the 22nd in Volusia County. An injury was reported on the 25th when a short-lived EF0 tornado knocked a semi-tractor on its side, injuring the driver. Several reports of pea to golf ball sized hail were made throughout the month.

Table 3. Breakdown of storm reports submitted in Florida during the month of May (compiled from Iowa State University/Iowa Environmental Mesonet).

Report Type Number of Reports
Heavy Rain 36
Flood 8
Flash Flood 2
Coastal Flood 1
Hail 61
Lightning 2
Marine Thunderstorm Wind 16
Non-Thunderstorm Wind Gust 29
Non-Thunderstorm Wind Damage 0
Tornado/Waterspout/Funnel Cloud 1/22/5
Thunderstorm Wind Damage 36
Thunderstorm Wind Gust 40
Rip Currents 1
Wildfire 7


Daily Record Events in May.

Table 4. Summary of daily records broken or set in Florida in May (source: NCEI Daily Weather Records).

Category Number of Records
Highest daily max. temp. 15
Highest daily min. temp. 8
Lowest daily max. temp. 5
Lowest daily min. temp. 9
Highest daily precipitation 20
Total 57



Drought-Related Impacts.

By the middle of May, extreme drought (D3) had expanded across the west-central Florida Peninsula and severe drought (D2) affected much of the Peninsula. About 9% of the state was in extreme drought (D3), 5% was in severe drought (D2), 30% was in moderate drought (D1), and 14% was abnormally dry (D0), according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. By the end of the month, improvement occurred across the state with ample rainfall and extreme drought (D3) was removed along the west coast. As of May 30, 8% of the state was in severe drought (D2), 6% was in moderate drought (D1), and 12% of the state was abnormally dry (D0) (Figure 2).

As of May 31, the Lake Okeechobee water level was 13.85 ft. above sea level (Feet-NGVD29), which is above average for this time of year. At the first of the month, the water level was 14.30 ft. above sea level.


Figure 2. A graphical depiction of the latest drought conditions in Florida according to the U.S. Drought Monitor (courtesy of the National Drought Mitigation Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln).

drought monitor


Agriculture-Related Impacts.

Much of the Peninsula was in drought during the month, which resulted in increased irrigation throughout the month. Soil moisture remained mixed due to the scattered nature of thunderstorms. In mid-May, topsoil moisture conditions were adequate in 50% of the state, short in 44%, and very short in 5% of the state, while only 1% of the state was experiencing surplus topsoil moisture conditions. By the end of May, topsoil moisture conditions had begun to improve with levels adequate in 69% of the state, short in 20%, and very short in 3% of the state; 8% of the state was in surplus. For more information, consult the Crop Progress and Conditions Report, which is published by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.


Appendix 1
Additional May 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 74.6 -0.4 4.11 +1.03
Sarasota 78.3 +0.5 2.27 -0.31
Melbourne 77.0 -1.1 4.80 +1.27
Fort Myers 81.3 +2.0 5.36 +1.90
West Palm Beach 79.5 +0.8 5.63 +0.72


Appendix 2
Select daily record high maximum temperatures (°F) broken or tied during May (compiled from NOAA).

Location Date Record Broken/Tied Last
Miami 3 91 Broken 90 in 2016
Bradenton 6 91 Tied 91 in 2021
Cross City 10 93 Tied 93 in 2017
Lakeland 10 95 Tied 95 in 2017
Tallahassee 10 96 Broken 95 in 2015
Tampa 11 95 Broken 93 in 2018
Fort Myers 11 95 Tied 95 in 2012
Tampa 11 94 Tied 94 in 2002
Bradenton 12 93 Broken 92 in 2015
Pensacola 14 92 Broken 91 in 2018
Naples 15 92 Tied 92 in 2003
Fort Myers 15 96 Tied 96 in 1990
Pensacola 15 94 Tied 94 in 1998
Vero Beach 17 95 Tied 95 in 1945
Fort Lauderdale 18 90 Broken 89 in 2016
Vero Beach 18 93 Broken 92 in 2008
Miles City 19 98 Broken 97 in 2003
Ochopee 19 94 Broken 93 in 2022
Key West 19 91 Broken 89 in 2008
Key West 21 91 Broken 90 in 1995
Key West 22 92 Broken 90 in 1990
Key West 23 90 Broken 89 in 2008

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