FFlorida’s climate has been called the state’s most valuable natural resource. Most of the state has a humid subtropical type of climate, but the southern tip of the peninsula has a more tropical climate. The climate attracts millions of tourists and permanent residents who seek sunshine and warmth all year, but particularly in winter. It is also important to growers of crops that are easily damaged by frost, such as citrus fruit and sugarcane.
In the wintertime southern Florida is one of the warmest places on the U.S. mainland. Average January temperatures there range from about 18° to 21°C (about 64° to 70°F). Daytime temperatures in winter are generally in the lower 20°s C (70°s F) at Miami and other southern coastal resorts. In northern Florida average January temperatures range from about 11° to 13°C (about 52° to 56°F). However, temperatures vary considerably from day to day, occasionally reaching well below freezing.
Summers are hot throughout the state. However, temperatures are generally no higher than in many northern cities, and ocean breezes tend to modify the climate in southernmost Florida. During summer, Miami has an average temperature in the upper 20°s C (lower 80°s F). Although the south is closer to the tropics, it has fewer very hot days each summer than does the north.
Rainfall ranges from more than 1,500 mm (60 in) in the Everglades and the northwest to about 970 mm (about 38 in) at Key West. However, rainfall varies considerably from year to year, and severe droughts and floods often occur. Most rain falls in summer, often during brief but heavy thundershowers. Snow rarely falls in the north and is almost unknown in the south. Hurricanes frequently strike the state. Winds of hurricane force, accompanied by heavy rains and high seas, can cause widespread damage, especially in the south, where so much of the land is at or near sea level.
However, modern construction techniques and an alert weather watch for potentially dangerous storms have helped reduce the losses of life and property caused by hurricanes. The risk is not gone, however; in August 1992 Hurricane Andrew ripped through southeastern Florida, killing 41. Cities in the area reported property damages in excess of $20 billion. In Homestead, near Miami, 90 percent of the city’s buildings sustained damage from the hurricane. In 2004 Florida experienced four hurricanes, the first time that many hurricanes have affected a state in a single season since Texas in 1886, according to the National Hurricane Center. The hurricane season lasts from late June to early November, but hurricanes occur most frequently in September. Florida has one of the longest growing seasons, or frost-free periods, of all the states. It lasts all year at Key West, and it varies between 310 and 365 days on the peninsula south of New Smyrna Beach. Farther north it decreases to about 250 days in the hills of the panhandle. © "United States" © Emmanuel Buchot and Encarta
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