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Tampa Bay weather came in withering bursts in 2012

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Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 07:58 PM

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TAMPA -

The touch of cold that settled over the Sunshine State during the last days of 2012 did little to take away from the fact Florida sweltered through the second-hottest season on record.

In a year marked mostly by rain, Tampa had its share of heat. The average high temperature for the year was 74.9 degrees, said Robert Garcia, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin. That ranks second only to 1990, when the average high temperature was 75.3 degrees.

"It's chilly now, but in general trends it was a warm year," Garcia said.

The reason behind the heat was a prevailing weather pattern that parked on top of Florida for most of the year, he said. "A solid high that built over the Atlantic," he said, "stayed over us."

Tropical storm systems that moved near and past Florida also kept the temperatures and humidity high, he said. All that "helped to keep us somewhat warmer."

"No cold air made it down here," Garcia said. With different patterns and air current oscillations and El Niño, he said, there always is a chance of a cold, extended winter. "When we get those things going right," he said, "it can get really cold."

What people might remember most about 2012, though, is the rain. The first half of the year was relatively dry, as were the last few months.

June, July and August more than made up for the dry months.

Those three months saw enough precipitation to make the summer of 2012 the second-wettest in state records.

Among the rainfall records: On June 24, Tampa International Airport logged a record 7.11 inches, breaking a record of 5.29 inches set in 1995. The airport saw seven days with more than 2 inches of rain during June, July and August.

By the end of the year, Tampa notched 55.9 inches of rain. The record rainfall year was 1959, when a little more than 76 inches of rain fell, he said.

Much of the rain that fell on Tampa this past summer was the result of tropical storms Debby and Isaac.

Debby swept through the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall as a tropical storm north of Tampa at the end of June.

At the end of August, Tropical Storm Isaac lumbered its way to landfall as a hurricane on the shores of Louisiana. During those three months of summer, 36.13 inches fell on Tampa, 14.61 inches more than normal and 13.62 more than last year, according to weather service records.

The rest of the summer rain came from a seemingly nonstop parade of thunderstorms and afternoon showers.

The results were a full aquifer and reservoirs brimming with water. Rivers flowed strongly and lakes swelled. With that came canceled or postponed high school football games and closures at some low-lying public parks that were shut down for weeks at a time as standing water covered paths through the woods.

Golf courses roped off some holes, and mosquitoes flourished.

So, what's in store for 2013?

Hard to say, Garcia said.

"Our climate prediction center in Washington predicts out to three months," he said, "and they're thinking we have equal chance of being around normal for temperatures and rainfall over the next few months."

The Old Farmer's Almanac fell on the dry side.

According to the almanac's annual weather summary for Florida in 2013: "Winter will be colder and drier than normal. The coldest temperatures will occur … early and mid-January and early February. April will be warm and dry; May will be cooler and much rainier than normal."

The almanac said summer 2013 "will be rainier than normal with near-normal temperatures."


kmorelli@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7760

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