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Climate change is impacting so much around us: heat, flooding, health, wildlife, housing, and more. WUSF, in collaboration with the Florida Climate Reporting Network, is bringing you stories on how climate change is affecting you.

July 2021 In Tampa Was Second Hottest Behind 2020

Sunset at Dunedin Causeway
Carl Lisciandrello
WUSF Public Media

Tampa again experienced a near-record hot July last month, coming in second to July 2020 by just half a degree.

Last month, the city of Tampa had its second hottest July on record, just behind 2020 with an average daily temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 1.2 degrees above normal.

Scientists say the near-record heat is a sign that the planet is warming.

"This is another piece of evidence that shows that climate is changing. We're going to have to adapt,” said meteorologist Sean Sublette, with Climate Central, a science and communications nonprofit based in New Jersey.

But Sublette said this is just one data point in a much longer trend.

"It's very important to realize that we just can't point to one month, one day, or one event and say this is climate change. It is the summation of events,” he said.

Most of the top 10 hottest Julys in Tampa have occurred within the past decade.

A chart ranking the years based on heat in Tampa.
NOAA Regional Climate Centers
This chart shows the 20 hottest Julys on record in Tampa, so far. The dataset goes back to 1939.

Lakeland had its 7th warmest July this year, and the Bradenton-Sarasota area had its 16th warmest.

"I mean, everybody was warmer/hottest, or up in that level, but really, only Tampa was kind of far ahead of everybody else," said Sublette.

One of the reasons Tampa was significantly hotter may have been the lack of sea breezes coming in from the Gulf of Mexico, said Sublette, but that's not the only cause.

"I imagine that the urbanization in Tampa contributes to the rapid ascent in temperatures. It's not the exclusive cause because we see warming in rural location," he said.

Nationally, Sublette said the brunt of the heat wave was really felt across the northern tier of the United States, the Intermountain West, the West Coast, and then down to Florida. Although, a lot of the interior southeast was not as hot.

“We're starting to see more and more very undeniable evidence of a changing climate and multiple locations across the globe. The evidence is clear, it is compelling and is continuing to pile up. So, I think we need to be prepared for a changing climate in Florida and across the country,” he said.

“In Florida, my concern is it's hotter and humid in the summer. I mean, it's already hot, humid to begin with, right? But we're also going to deal with even higher humidity in Florida. That's going to make it even more difficult to be outside during the summer.”

A graph showing the rise in need for cooling in Tampa between 1970 and 2020.
Climate Central
This graphic illustrates how cooling demand is increasing in Tampa due to warmer temperatures.

And as temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, cooling demands will increase as well, according to a release by Climate Central.

"As our global temperature rises, so does our need for air conditioning. The increased demand will pose several challenges like emitting more greenhouse gases, straining our aging power grids, and inflating our energy bills," the release said.

Since 2012, I’ve been a voice on public radio stations across Florida - in Miami, Fort Myers, and now Tampa.
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