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

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Key Points:

  • With wide temperature swings throughout the month of December, monthly average temperature departures ended up near normal across the state.
  • Monthly precipitation for December was generally below normal, with exceptions in the western Panhandle and southern Peninsula.
  • Drought conditions persisted across the Panhandle throughout the month, and about 32% of the state remains in severe (D2) or moderate (D1) drought as of the end of December.
  • We are in the third winter in a row with La Niña conditions in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, though chances for a transition to ENSO-neutral increase to 71% during February-April 2023.


December brought large swings in temperature but, overall, the average monthly temperatures in December were near to above normal across the state. Average temperature departures from normal ranged from -1.3 ̊F in Melbourne to +2.7 ̊F in Pensacola for the month (see Table 1 and Appendix 1 for select cities). The month started out warmer than normal, with record warm temperatures across the Panhandle during the first half of the month. A shift in the weather pattern brought a return to more seasonal temperatures mid-month, while the last week of December was much colder than normal. Many locations experienced frigid temperatures on the order of 20 ̊F or more below normal during the last week of December, including over Christmas. Many places in the Panhandle saw minimum temperatures in the teens, with wind chills in the single digits, including Tallahassee, which reached a low of 19 ̊ F and 18 ̊ F on the 25th and 26th, respectively; Crestview recorded a low of 18 ̊ F on the 24th; and Niceville got down to 17 ̊ F on the 24th and 25th. Select daily high maximum and low minimum temperature records tied or broken during the month are provided in Appendices 2 and 3, respectively.

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

Station Mean Temperature Departure from Normal
Pensacola 58.2 +2.7
Tallahassee 55.9 +1.5
Jacksonville 56.3 -0.4
Orlando 64.2 +0.9
Tampa 64.7 -0.2
Miami 72.3 +1.1
Key West 73.5 +0.5 


Monthly rainfall totals in December were below to near normal for much of the state. The monthly precipitation departures from normal ranged from -2.53 inches in Jacksonville to +2.02 inches in Key West (see Table 2 and Appendix 1 for additional locations). Over the past three months, below normal rainfall has led to precipitation deficits across the Panhandle and north Florida and the expansion of drought.

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

Station Total Rainfall Departure from Normal
Pensacola 5.61 +0.21
Tallahassee 2.09 -2.15
Jacksonville 0.25 -2.53
Orlando 0.95 -1.53
Tampa 2.35 -0.21
Miami 1.73 -0.71
Key West 4.18 +2.02 


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 Advisory.

La Niña is expected to continue into the winter, but there are equal chances of La Niña and ENSO-neutral conditions during January-March 2023. In February-April 2023, the chance for ENSO-neutral conditions increases to 71%, reflecting higher confidence that ENSO-neutral will emerge during Spring 2023. Below-average sea surface temperatures persisted in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean over the past month, but negative subsurface temperature anomalies weakened in November 2022.


Hazardous Weather Events in December.

According to the Local Storm Reports issued by the local National Weather Service offices serving Florida, there were 111 individual local reports of hazardous weather events recorded across the state during the month of December (see Table 4 for a breakdown by event type). There were several reports of damage from strong wind gusts during the middle and end of the month, along with waterspouts and tornados reported in the central Panhandle area on the 14-15th.

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
Heavy Rain 9
Flood 0
Coastal Flood 1
Hail 1
Marine Thunderstorm Wind 21
Non-Thunderstorm Wind Gust 32
Non-Thunderstorm Wind Damage 3
Tornado/Waterspout/Funnel Cloud 9/5/2
Thunderstorm Wind Damage 11
Thunderstorm Wind Gust 13
Rip Currents 3
Sleet 1


Daily Record Events in December.

Table 5.Summary of daily records broken or set in Florida in December (source: NCEI Daily Weather Records).

Category Number of Records
Highest daily max. temp. 20
Highest daily min. temp. 15
Lowest daily max. temp. 38
Lowest daily min. temp. 13
Highest daily precipitation 5
Total 91


Weather/Climate Highlight of the Month:

It was a very cold but dry Christmas across Florida – nearly every station in the state recorded one of their top 5 coldest Christmases on record, based on daily average temperatures.


Drought-Related Impacts.

By the middle of December, severe drought had expanded across the Panhandle and extended east to parts of Hamilton, Suwannee, and Dixie counties. About 26% of the state was in severe drought (D2) and 6% was in moderate drought (D1), according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. By the end of the month, 22% of the state was in severe drought (D2), 10% was in moderate drought (D1), and 8% was abnormally dry (D0) (Figure 2 below).

As of December 31, the Lake Okeechobee water level was 16.36 ft. above sea level (Feet-NGVD29), which is above average for this time of the year. At the first of the month, the water level was 16.48 ft. above sea level.


Figure 2. A graphical depiction of the current 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.

During the month of December, Florida pasture conditions were mostly fair to good but the cold spell at the end of the month led to damage to pastures across the state. There were some reports of cattle deaths due to the cold spell. Little precipitation fell during the month, which worsened drought conditions in the northern part of the state. Sugarcane planting and harvest progressed well during the month, and citrus crops not damaged by the hurricanes in the fall were shipped out. Several vegetable crops were planted and harvested. For more information, consult the Crop Progress - State Stories reports, which are produced monthly December through March by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.


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 57.7 +0.4 1.64 -1.24
Sarasota 65.1 -0.1 2.63 +0.30
Melbourne 64.9 -1.3 2.30 -0.06
Fort Myers 68.8 +1.5 1.10 -0.80
West Palm Beach 70.2 +1.8 3.51 +0.03


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

Location Date Record Broken/Tied Last
Fort Lauderdale Beach 1 85 Tied 85 in 2020
Key West 1 89 Broken 85 in 2019
Key West 3 88 Broken 87 in 1994
Key West 6 89 Broken 86 in 1994
Marianna 7 82 Broken 80 in 2004
Crestview 7 84 Broken 83 in 1951
Pensacola 7 81 Broken 80 in 1951
Niceville 8 81 Broken 79 in 1951
Pensacola 8 81 Broken 80 in 1998
Tallahassee 8 82 Broken 81 in 2013
Cross City 10 85 Broken 82 in 2013
Key West 11 88 Broken 87 in 2021
Key West 30 89 Broken 86 in 2021
Vero Beach 31 87 Broken 85 in 2021


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

Location Date Record Broken/Tied Last
Marianna 23 21 Broken 23 in 2000
Fort Lauderdale 24 45 Broken 50 in 2012
Niceville 24 17 Broken 20 in 1960
Tarpon Springs 24 24 Broken 25 in 1906
Marianna 24 17 Broken 29 in 2005
Cross City 24 22 Broken 24 in 2010
Orlando 24 30 Broken 36 in 1963
Daytona Beach 25 28 Broken 31 in 1961
Marianna 25 19 Broken 28 in 2020
Cross City 25 19 Broken 27 in 2020
Orlando 25 28 Broken 31 in 1963
Daytona Beach 26 29 Tied 29 in 1963
Wewahitchka 26 17 Tied 17 in 1985
Marianna 26 18 Broken 25 in 2020
Cross City 26 20 Broken 22 in 2020
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Florida Climate Center