Florida is one of the hottest places in the United States year-round- especially during the summer months. The state’s tropical location on the southeastern coast of the United States makes it one of the states closest to the equator. On top of its location, Florida is also extremely humid. This makes outside temperatures feel even hotter than dry heat in places like California. Florida temperatures in June often exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius), which is much hotter than many northern states. While Florida is always hot in June, one heatwave during the month caused the highest recorded temperatures of all time in the state. Keep reading to learn more about the worst June heatwave to ever hit Florida.
Heatwaves in Florida
Florida is no stranger to heatwaves. A heatwave is when an area experiences a prolonged episode of extremely hot weather that exceeds the expectations of temperatures for that time of year. While there have been many heatwaves in Florida in the past, there are few that have been documented and recorded. However, the state is heating up. Currently, South Florida is expected to experience the largest increase in hot days each year. By 2053, it is estimated that the seven hottest days of the year could increase to 34. These days are defined by temperatures that feel like 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius) or more.
What Causes Heatwaves?
Heatwaves are caused by irregular atmospheric pressures. While hot air typically rises, high pressures in the atmosphere occasionally force it downwards. When this happens, the compressed air continues to heat up, increasing temperatures on the ground. The vertical pressure of this system offsets typical weather patterns, shifting winds, and dissipating cloud cover. This only furthers the heat, leading to an extended period of extremely high temperatures.
Because Florida is a coastal state, it is even more susceptible to heatwaves. As the oceans warm up due to climate change, hot air rises off of the water. Winds blow this air toward land, where the air is trapped by atmospheric pressure. This phenomenon is known as a heat dome, and Florida’s proximity to the ocean makes the state especially susceptible.
The Worst June Heatwave to Ever Hit Florida
While temperatures in Florida are steadily increasing and heatwaves are becoming more prominent, the worst heatwave actually occurred almost a century ago. In June of 1931, Florida experienced its worst heatwave to date. On June 29, 1931, the hottest temperature in Florida’s history was recorded. This occurred in Monticello, a small town in North Florida just outside of Tallahassee. The small town experienced a recorded temperature of 109 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius). This is almost 10 degrees higher than the hottest temperatures typical for Florida in June.
There are few accounts of this day in Florida and how it affected the community, but it was part of a much larger heatwave. In fact, this sweltering temperature was due to a heatwave that affected most of the United States. By the end of June, over 600 deaths were reported throughout the country. In farm states like Indiana and Illinois, it was reported that livestock was dropping dead in fields and crops were withering. While little is known about how this heat affected Florida, its unprecedented warmth was definitely uncomfortable to all and detrimental to several.
Why Was This Heatwave So Severe?
The June heatwave that caused Florida’s highest-ever temperature happened at a very pivotal part of United States history. During the 1930s, the United States experienced the Great Depression. This was a time of great financial unrest and poverty in the country. The Depression was worsened by the weather of the time. The agricultural industry took a devastating hit due to the numerous droughts that parched the soil and created massive dust storms. Dry soil and hot temperatures were made worse by high-pressure systems across the country, resulting in a number of heatwaves such as the one that turned Florida into a natural sauna.
How to Prepare For a Heatwave
Heatwaves are often unexpected and cause many illnesses and even deaths in the areas they affect. So, it is important to know how to best prepare for a heatwave.
While air conditioning is a wonderful feature that can save lives, many homes do not have it. In addition, heatwaves can cause power outages that eliminate air conditioning. It is important to know of places with air conditioning to go if yours fails. Also, spray bottles and portable fans are extremely helpful in the absence of air conditioning.
It is also a good idea to avoid physically demanding activities that could deplete your energy and make you more susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Wearing loose, cool clothing and staying away from direct sunlight are great ways to avoid losing energy to heat.
Finally, stock up on water. Water can be used to cool you down, as well as keep you hydrated and replenish the moisture lost from your body due to sweating. Because heatwaves often are accompanied by droughts, having an alternative water supply is one of the best things you can do to prepare.
Heatwaves are dangerous but with the proper preparation, their effects can be minimalized and even avoided.
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