TAMPA — Tampa Bay area residents like to tell their friends and relatives shivering up North about the 80-degree weather down here, just to hear the groan and occasional hissing curse.
On Sunday, those with relatives in North Dakota could point this out: At noon, there was a 91-degree difference between the temperature there of minus 10 degrees and the temperature here of 81 degrees.
With the exception of a couple cool mornings last week, the weather in Tampa has been unusually warm for December. In fact, the high temperature Saturday was 84 degrees, nearly tying the record of 85 degrees set in 1990.
The average temperature in Tampa for December is 69 degrees, said meteorologist Richard Rude with the National Weather Service in Ruskin, “and we're five degrees above normal for the month.”
High temperatures here have approached, but not quite broken any records, he said, though records were broken Saturday in Sarasota, Bradenton and in Lakeland, where the high temperature of 85 degrees recorded at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport broke the previous record of 82 degrees last set in 1998.
“We've been close in Tampa,” he said. “Over the past two or three days, we've been in the lower 80s. Our normal is 71.”
The reason for the unseasonably warm temps, he said, is a bubble of high pressure that has settled over most of the state.
“For much of the month, Florida has been dominated by an area of high pressure,” he said, “and this tends to keep the atmosphere warm and stable. It also prevents any fronts from entering the Gulf of Mexico or coming over Florida.”
The area of high pressure, he said, is keeping the cold temperatures from penetrating the Sunshine State.
“It happens occasionally,” he said, “and it just happened to occur this year.”
What it translates to is sunny skies, balmy breezes and short-sleeve shirts, shorts and flip-flops.
But not all good things or warm subtropical weather stay around forever, he said, and a front is pushing across the Gulf of Mexico that over the next few days may change things quite a bit. That warm weather braggadocio could come to an end on Christmas morning.
Monday will be cooler by a degree or two, Rude said, but the front is moving over northern Florida on Monday and slowly will work its way down the state.
“There will be a slight chance of showers or thunderstorms probably beginning in the north (Monday) and spreading to the south across the Tampa Bay area in the late afternoon,” he said. “It'll continue into Monday night.”
On Christmas Eve morning, Tampa residents could wake up to find temperatures in the 60s, Rude said, and that isn't the worst of it.
“Wednesday morning,” he said, “we may see lows in the mid 40s, slightly warmer near the coast.”
That would be good news for folks like Barb Bouchard who owns Woodpile, a business that sells firewood on East 128th Avenue in Tampa, though, she said, warm or cold, the demand for firewood is robust year 'round.
Most of the wood goes to restaurants, which use it to fire up wood-fired grills or barbecue pits and those demands don't drop with warm weather. The icing on the firewood cake comes when a cold snap hits and then everyone with a fireplace in their house or fire pit in their backyard, stops by for wood, she said.
She's been in the business for 10 years and warm or cold, Christmas time is good for sales.
“With the cold spell we've had last week,” she said, “we're selling firewood like mad.”
The warm weather during these days before Christmas means nothing to Ken Bosanko, owner of Bo's Ice Cream, Seminole Heights' signature emporium for shakes, dipped cones and upside-down banana splits.
“Before Christmas, the weather doesn't make any difference,” he said. “People are at the malls, they're shopping and doing other things.
“The weather could be perfect,” he said, “but we won't see an increase in business until after Christmas.”