Climate of Extreme South Florida Truly Tropical?

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I know there have been similar topics discussed on Palmtalk in the past. My recent visit to the Miami area, however, has compelled me to want to explore it further.

It is usually stated and written that South Florida's climate is subtropical. I would argue that extreme South Florida (and at the very least the coastal Miami/Ft. Lauderdale areas) has a fully tropical climate. Note, the FL Keys tend to be considered truly tropical already, so I won't include the Keys in this discussion.

I contend that, based on my first-hand observations of the area's vegetation and weather, as well as climate data available, extreme SE Florida meets all different definitions of a tropical climate except the definition that relates to latitude (Since all of Florida is north of the tropic of cancer). By the Koppen climate classification definition of a tropical climate, much of extreme South Florida (and certainly the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale areas) is tropical. This is because the average temperature of every month of the year in much of extreme South Florida is 64F or higher. For example, Miami's average January temperature is 67F, which is several degrees above the minimum temperature required to be considered a tropical climate.

The vegetation of extreme South FL ranges from predominantly tropical in much of the region to almost exclusively tropical in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale as well as their adjacent barrier islands. Miami Beach looks every bit as tropical as the Bahamas and Cozumel. On the other hand, areas of South Florida such as Fort Myers and West Palm Beach have predominantly temperate native vegetation. Temperatures in these areas are right on the borderline of qualifying as tropical by the Koppen definition. Of course, these areas are more prone to killing freezes as well.

It is true that extreme South Florida does occasionally experience chilly weather and even frost and freezing temperatures from December through February. There are many other tropical areas worldwide that can experience the same level of cold weather on occasion. This mainly applies to areas on the southern portions of continents where particularly potent cold waves can surge relatively unmodified all the way to tropical regions. Even Cuba, an undoubtedly tropical island had killing frost and freezing temperatures in certain areas during the 1989 cold wave. This is just one of many examples I am familiar with. While Miami and Ft. Lauderdale proper have rarely experienced freezing temperatures, Miami Beach has never officially recorded a below freezing temperature.

One final thought. I feel an area's climate should be classified by averages not rare extremes. This does not mean, however, that an area's flora and fauna will not be dictated by the extremes as well as averages.

What are everybody's thoughts on this? Can extreme South Florida be considered tropical. If not, why?

-Michael

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I agree, it's tropical. Many will disagree, some using the latitude argument which is really lame BTW, but seriously, as stated above, it easily falls within Koppen limits to be classified tropical, the predominant vegetation in clearly tropical. Having said that though, tropical does not mean that's it's the warmest place ever, Cyrtostachys doesn't do well there, neither does Pigafetta. Just because some of the most sensitive tropicals don't do well there doesn't mean that it isn't tropical.

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One thing that has not been considered in this discussion is the microclimates created by proximity to the Gulfstream. There are a number of private gardens here in PB with Cyrtostachys. Mine was mashed by Wilma not cold. My Licula grandis survived Wilma and now has over a foot of trunk adjacent to that beautiful red stuff. Definite Tropical Savannah per Koppen but the Stream is only 2 miles off shore and that means a steady 85 degree F. heater two miles off shore. The Stream is 10-12 miles off shore in MB. This stuff becomes horseshoes and hand grenades. I can show you a 40 foot Areca catchetu and I have not seen one that big at Fairchild.

Even pockets in the Glades on the NE side of Lake O near Pahokee are virtually frostless with rare bananas grown mysteriously. Last year that same area was the only place in the continental US with sweet corn in Jan. It was zapped by frost all the way South of Homestead.

That stated, other than the Keys Drive, for pure tropical feel, I would suggest the Tamiami Trail to Naples. Can only imagine the tough ones that dredge trenched that roadway back in the day. I bet they could tell you some stories that would smell "tropics".

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Close, but not quite.

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Miami is only slightly cooler than Honolulu in an average winter...more deviation but less than places of equivalent latitude on the Gulf coast of Mexico.

Edited by Xenon
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Close, but not quite.

Breadfruit don't make it here. May survive 10 years - then some cold front does it in. Most tropical stuff will survive in microclimates since the cold fronts are usally brief. About every 10 or 15 years we get a reality check. We are tropical 363 of 365 days on average, Plants don't care about stats and Data - if they are too cold - they croak.

Your comment is spot on Keith

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Just because a place has a lot of tropical plants, doesn't make it the tropics. I would disagree and say that while Miami is a great place to live weather wise, and there is a lot that you can grow there, it does have frosts, freezes and even snow once-I was there when it happened. You will never, ever see any frosts/freezes/snow in the real tropics. There is also a definite seasonal change in the temps that is much more extreme in Miami that is not definitive in the tropics. You don't need to depend on micro climates in the tropics either to grow certain plants. Yes-it snows on the Big Island-but only at 13,000 ft altitude, but I think that everyone would agree that that is not what we are referring to. Hawaii is not even considered "tropical" . Its considered "subtropical" and it's climate is too cool to grow coconuts on a commercial level. I remember when I lived there that I wanted to move to the tropics where it was warmer.

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Close, but not quite.

Breadfruit don't make it here. May survive 10 years - then some cold front does it in. Most tropical stuff will survive in microclimates since the cold fronts are usally brief. About every 10 or 15 years we get a reality check. We are tropical 363 of 365 days on average, Plants don't care about stats and Data - if they are too cold - they croak.

Your comment is spot on Keith

ha ha, breadfruit is a good indicator, it gets frost burn at 50F and below. :)

I think it dropped below 50F on Kauai in the 1930's, the record is 46F.

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Just because a climate falls within the spectrum of tropical does not mean that some areas in the margins and/or located at the southern ends of large continents which extend to the arctic will not experience the occasional cold spell/frost etc. It is about averages. At the other extreme are ultratropical climates, most common in equatorial regions or on islands within warm oceans throughout the tropics. It is in these regions that even the most tender plants will never be challenged by cold. I think it is these regions many think of as tropical, when in reality, the areas further from the equator that meet the definition are still tropical (such as Miami, Tampico, Havana (saw 39F a couple years ago), Rio de Janeiro, etc.

Miami's vegetation is almost entirely tropical and even once a decade when it gets to 30-33F, most of the tropicals survive. That's not going to kill the tall Ptychosperma elegans, Roystonea, Cocos, ficus that are everywhere throughout the Miami area. Even the extended cold of 2010 only killed a small minority of Miami's tropical vegetation and this type of event is quite rare. The ultratropical stuff may die, but hey, Miami isn't equatorial.

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Also, Hawaii's climate is easily tropical at lower elevations, it just lacks the extreme heat due to being a chain of the islands in the open ocean (a warm ocean, but not hot like, for example the Caribbean in summer) with constant trade winds. It is not equatorial either, but certainly tropical. The vegetation and temperature averages back that up.

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I don't live in So. Florida and never have, but I have read enough books about Florida gardening history to stand by my statement of "Close, but not quite." Yes, many tropical things grow there, but not nearly all of them. And while the cold does not happen often, it does happen cyclically. It has happened before, several times in the last 100 years, and it will happen again.

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Just because a climate falls within the spectrum of tropical does not mean that some areas in the margins and/or located at the southern ends of large continents which extend to the arctic will not experience the occasional cold spell/frost etc. It is about averages. At the other extreme are ultratropical climates, most common in equatorial regions or on islands within warm oceans throughout the tropics. It is in these regions that even the most tender plants will never be challenged by cold. I think it is these regions many think of as tropical, when in reality, the areas further from the equator that meet the definition are still tropical (such as Miami, Tampico, Havana (saw 39F a couple years ago), Rio de Janeiro, etc.

Miami's vegetation is almost entirely tropical and even once a decade when it gets to 30-33F, most of the tropicals survive. That's not going to kill the tall Ptychosperma elegans, Roystonea, Cocos, ficus that are everywhere throughout the Miami area. Even the extended cold of 2010 only killed a small minority of Miami's tropical vegetation and this type of event is quite rare. The ultratropical stuff may die, but hey, Miami isn't equatorial.

In 2010, there were "not ultra tropical" palms that did not make it. Most and even old Latania (al species) carked. Saw many specimen Licuala grandis get BBQ'd. Multiple days hovering in the 40's often never warming over 50 just did these palms in. Mix in some overnight lows in the 30's - well it was a reality check that we are not a tropical climate. Had 4 different Seychelles palms planted at the time. A string of mild winters had me convinced that I could get these established in my microclime. Did well until 2010. Actually 3 did survive into 2011, but never recovered from the cold damage. And that was with no frost in my garden.

Yes many palms can endure a cold snap, with the temps returning to the 70's in a day or two. There has been times when it got into the mid to low 30's in the past, but was warmed up to mid the 70's within 48 hours. These kind of events tropicals can usually endure.

Mangosteen is another we can't grow for too long. The 'Carrie' mango is another tough grow.

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I definitely see where you are coming from Moose. While averages can be tropical, certain areas at the margins which are technically tropical can occasionally/rarely experience cold temperatures and even frost that limits the flora to varying degrees. Maybe these areas could form a narrow region between the true tropics and subtropics at the base of certain large continents called "continental tropical"? This climatic region would likely exist in North America, South America, Australia, Asia (possibly Africa) but not Europe.

Perhaps it would be useful (as well as more realistic in describing an area's flora) in defining tropical climates, to have a minimum all-time record low threshold, below which a climate is not considered fully tropical, even if an area's long term averages support classification as tropical. For example, if this was set at 32F, this would exclude all of the FL Peninsula, including Miami, as the city has historically seen as low as 28F (Miami Beach would be borderline, since it has reached, but not gone below 32F). It could even be set at 40F, in which case even the upper FL Keys (Tavernier has hit 37F) and Havana, Cuba would not qualify.

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To me Florida and the Southeast US in general seems a little "ripped off" climatically. Generally low latitude, low elevation, warm gulf waters, several native palm species, all of the heat and nighttime bug and frog sounds of the tropics, yet the cold fronts still reach the region. Could really use a huge mountain range similar to the Himalayas to block the cold. Too bad the Appalachians are so worn down. I remember an alternative climate classification scheme which had more zones and referred to s.FL as "semi-tropical" to better describe it's transitional location. The Koppen zones are broad and maps "humid subtropical" from FL to the southern tip of New Jersey. Nature's gradations and ebb/flow patterns don't entirely cooperate with the lines we try to put on it.

On a tangent, Tampico, Tamaulipas is said to be the furthest south that snow has fallen at sea level in N. America. Anyone know the record location for other continents?

I wonder about how far frost reaches into the tropics at sea level?

Just my impression, but, Hawaii temps actually seems a little on the cool side some times. I always notice how many palm-o-philes are wearing blue jeans in photo tours of Big Island gardens. That outfit will take you out of the game in S FL. I actually love steamy, Caribbean weather and miss warm rain. But I also love California's dry Med. summers. And also love Hawaii's "easy going" climate. Hmmm, sure are a lot of nice places to live on the planet.

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I believe that Tampico has recorded possibly the lowest latitude snow and lowest temperature (27* F, I believe is the record for. Tampico) at that latitude at sea level anywhere in the world, not just N. America. I would be interested to hear similar latitude records, I'm thinking China might have some contenders since it is connected by landmass to the arctic with impediments much like the lower latitudes of N. America. Anything in the Southern Hemisphere would be more mild, although I hear there can be strong cold fronts coming down from the Andes into Chile that can produce colder temps at low latitudes.

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Hawaii is cool sometimes-I have plenty of pictures of me wearing sweatshirts in the winter etc. But bear in mind that after living in a warm place like Hawaii, it will thin your blood out and the weather feels cooler than to someone who lives in a cooler climate. But there are definitely two seasons there. I don't think that there are really seasons in the tropics, but I have never lived there so don't know for sure. It also doesn't get the higher temps of inland southeastern US in the summer-but its also overall warmer in the winter. The key part to remember is that the tropics never, never , never get frosts/freezes/snow. Thats one big factor that takes a lot of warm places out of the equation -like Miami

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Hawaii is cool sometimes-I have plenty of pictures of me wearing sweatshirts in the winter etc. But bear in mind that after living in a warm place like Hawaii, it will thin your blood out and the weather feels cooler than to someone who lives in a cooler climate. But there are definitely two seasons there. I don't think that there are really seasons in the tropics, but I have never lived there so don't know for sure. It also doesn't get the higher temps of inland southeastern US in the summer-but its also overall warmer in the winter. The key part to remember is that the tropics never, never , never get frosts/freezes/snow. Thats one big factor that takes a lot of warm places out of the equation -like Miami

The tropics generally have two seasons, the dry season and the wet season, later called the monsoon season is some places.

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Thanks Keith for that info. Like I said above, I always wanted to live closer to the equator that Hawaii, but never have. But I was thinking about temp differences more so than amounts of rain. In the winter, Hawaii is definitely cooler (esp at night) than in the summer and I was wondering if there was that cooler night temps in the tropics.

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There is a clear definition of what a Tropical Climate is. William already mentioned it - average temperature of the coldest month over 18C (64F). Miami clearly falls there and is officially described as having a Monsoon Tropical climate. Occasional extremes may affect what you can grow but do not define climate. Latitude also has nothing to do with it. Tropical location and tropical climate are NOT one and the same.

Don't forget that it went down to 39F in Havana in Jan of 2010 and highs stayed below 67F for 5 straight days (including a high of 60F on 1/11/10). Are we now going to challenge Cuban climate as being tropical?

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Interesting how this argument goes back and forth without getting anywhere. To take out part of the to and fro the discussion should be divided into 2 parts. Firstly is Florida in the tropics. Answer is an indisputable no.

Now, is the climate (in the extreme south at least) tropical (which is what the original question asks)?

But when comparing you have to keep in mind that part of Cuba isn't in the tropics either. Then there's the ocean currents, Florida has the warm Gulf Stream whereas Hawaii has the cold California current. Florida also has a continuous continental land mass between it and the polar region, Hawaii has a lot of ocean (even if on the cooler side) around it.

You can define "tropical" whichever way you like, it's a man-made concept. Nature doesn't operate along rigidly defined lines. The whole planet blends into a system that we then try to pigeon-hole or compartmentalise. Of course that's done in a biased way anyway.

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Interesting how this argument goes back and forth without getting anywhere. To take out part of the to and fro the discussion should be divided into 2 parts. Firstly is Florida in the tropics. Answer is an indisputable no.

Now, is the climate (in the extreme south at least) tropical (which is what the original question asks)?

But when comparing you have to keep in mind that part of Cuba isn't in the tropics either. Then there's the ocean currents, Florida has the warm Gulf Stream whereas Hawaii has the cold California current. Florida also has a continuous continental land mass between it and the polar region, Hawaii has a lot of ocean (even if on the cooler side) around it.

You can define "tropical" whichever way you like, it's a man-made concept. Nature doesn't operate along rigidly defined lines. The whole planet blends into a system that we then try to pigeon-hole or compartmentalise. Of course that's done in a biased way anyway.

Which part of cuba isn't in the tropics?

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Interesting how this argument goes back and forth without getting anywhere. To take out part of the to and fro the discussion should be divided into 2 parts. Firstly is Florida in the tropics. Answer is an indisputable no.

Now, is the climate (in the extreme south at least) tropical (which is what the original question asks)?

But when comparing you have to keep in mind that part of Cuba isn't in the tropics either. Then there's the ocean currents, Florida has the warm Gulf Stream whereas Hawaii has the cold California current. Florida also has a continuous continental land mass between it and the polar region, Hawaii has a lot of ocean (even if on the cooler side) around it.

You can define "tropical" whichever way you like, it's a man-made concept. Nature doesn't operate along rigidly defined lines. The whole planet blends into a system that we then try to pigeon-hole or compartmentalise. Of course that's done in a biased way anyway.

Which part of cuba isn't in the tropics?

Lol that's what I thought, last I checked the Tropic of Cancer runs pretty much right in between Key West and Havana, making the entire island of Cuba within the tropics, unless there is something I'm missing.

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To me Florida and the Southeast US in general seems a little "ripped off" climatically. Generally low latitude, low elevation, warm gulf waters, several native palm species, all of the heat and nighttime bug and frog sounds of the tropics, yet the cold fronts still reach the region. Could really use a huge mountain range similar to the Himalayas to block the cold. Too bad the Appalachians are so worn down. I remember an alternative climate classification scheme which had more zones and referred to s.FL as "semi-tropical" to better describe it's transitional location. The Koppen zones are broad and maps "humid subtropical" from FL to the southern tip of New Jersey. Nature's gradations and ebb/flow patterns don't entirely cooperate with the lines we try to put on it.

On a tangent, Tampico, Tamaulipas is said to be the furthest south that snow has fallen at sea level in N. America. Anyone know the record location for other continents?

I wonder about how far frost reaches into the tropics at sea level?

Just my impression, but, Hawaii temps actually seems a little on the cool side some times. I always notice how many palm-o-philes are wearing blue jeans in photo tours of Big Island gardens. That outfit will take you out of the game in S FL. I actually love steamy, Caribbean weather and miss warm rain. But I also love California's dry Med. summers. And also love Hawaii's "easy going" climate. Hmmm, sure are a lot of nice places to live on the planet.

I raise commercial mangosteen, rambutan, and other fruits here in HI. But I never wear shorts much cuz I HATE getting chomped by mosquitos and I'm not crazy about the smell of most bug sprays.

There is a good book called "Humid Tropical Environments" (Alison Reading, Russell Thompson, Andrew Millington, pub. by Blackwell) that discusses the "tropics." It points out areas up as far as 28 degrees n. lat in, I think, southern Asia that have tropical climates despite their latitude. OTOH, Hong Kong, which is below the Tropic of Cancer, has certainly experienced temps in the 30s. Its higher elevations may have experienced frost.

Hawaii is cool for the tropics. Here on the east side of the Big Island, it is amazingly cool for a tropical climate. I think the near-14,000' mountains behind Hilo send cool air down at night that keeps our lows in the upper 60s even in mid-summer (except for this past summer, which was durn hot by Hilo stds).

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Interesting how this argument goes back and forth without getting anywhere. To take out part of the to and fro the discussion should be divided into 2 parts. Firstly is Florida in the tropics. Answer is an indisputable no.

Now, is the climate (in the extreme south at least) tropical (which is what the original question asks)?

But when comparing you have to keep in mind that part of Cuba isn't in the tropics either. Then there's the ocean currents, Florida has the warm Gulf Stream whereas Hawaii has the cold California current. Florida also has a continuous continental land mass between it and the polar region, Hawaii has a lot of ocean (even if on the cooler side) around it.

You can define "tropical" whichever way you like, it's a man-made concept. Nature doesn't operate along rigidly defined lines. The whole planet blends into a system that we then try to pigeon-hole or compartmentalise. Of course that's done in a biased way anyway.

Which part of cuba isn't in the tropics?

Lol that's what I thought, last I checked the Tropic of Cancer runs pretty much right in between Key West and Havana, making the entire island of Cuba within the tropics, unless there is something I'm missing.

My mistake, I knew there was a place around there that was typically associated with the tropics but wasn't entirely within the tropics. Checked again and it was the Bahamas I mixed it up with. But still, the bane of those places is their proximity to the North American continental land mass which allows severe freezes to get closer to them than would otherwise occur. But then again, the Gulf Stream is a moderating influence. Win some, lose some.

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Lots of interesting contributions to this thread, which is just what I had been hoping for. Thanks everybody, and keep it going if possible.

A few thoughts off the top of my head:

-Hong Kong's winter averages are a couple degrees too cool for it to qualify as tropical. Its all-time extreme lows are the same as tropical Miami Beach though

-Cuba is most certainly tropical by all measures, as Zeeth pointed out.

-I've never seen a definition of tropical that specifically excludes frost/<32F/snow in its definition, except to mention that it is extremely rare or tends to be absent in tropical climates.

-A climate like lowland Hawaii that features average lows between 62-72F and highs 77-86F may certainly feel cool at times, especially to residents, but in the scheme of things is plenty tropical (just without really hot weather).

-Most tropical climates do feature a noticeable seasonal variation, many even concerning temperature, though it tends to be less pronounced due to proximity to the equator. More of a contrast is usually seen with respect to any combination of: humidity, rainfall, sunshine, cloud cover, winds.

-Tropical climates are not necessarily wet/rainy or humid. The measure of a tropical climate is based on temperature and seasonal temperature variation.

-Many/most ultratropical plants/palms/trees were exterminated from the greater Miami area during the extended 2010 cold wave. Aside from these extra sensitive ones, most of the region's predominantly tropical vegetation survived (I'll bet you close to 99% of the total number of plants/palms/trees of every kind in the area in question (not way west of the city in rural areas) survived).

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Tampico, Mexico-Latitude 22.29 North-accumulating snowfall in Feb. 1895

Hong Kong, China-Latitude 22.15 North-accumulating snowfall in Jan. 1893

Nanning, China-Latitude 21.29 North - accumulating snowfall in 1654: near present day coastal city of Beihai, China

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1654! I wish we had records that far back, that's amazing. It might change our views both of what is normal and what is truly possible. We only have sketchy details about what was probably the worst freeze in recorded Florida history in 1835. I have a feeling that that year might hold a lot of records, but three just wasn't anyone around to record it, except for around St. Augustine.

And back to Nanning China, 21.29 N! Now that's a loooow latitude for snow, and on the coast!

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Tampico had two days back to back failing to go above 42F in February 2011.

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Just because a climate falls within the spectrum of tropical does not mean that some areas in the margins and/or located at the southern ends of large continents which extend to the arctic will not experience the occasional cold spell/frost etc. It is about averages. At the other extreme are ultratropical climates, most common in equatorial regions or on islands within warm oceans throughout the tropics. It is in these regions that even the most tender plants will never be challenged by cold. I think it is these regions many think of as tropical, when in reality, the areas further from the equator that meet the definition are still tropical (such as Miami, Tampico, Havana (saw 39F a couple years ago), Rio de Janeiro, etc.

Miami's vegetation is almost entirely tropical and even once a decade when it gets to 30-33F, most of the tropicals survive. That's not going to kill the tall Ptychosperma elegans, Roystonea, Cocos, ficus that are everywhere throughout the Miami area. Even the extended cold of 2010 only killed a small minority of Miami's tropical vegetation and this type of event is quite rare. The ultratropical stuff may die, but hey, Miami isn't equatorial.

In 2010, there were "not ultra tropical" palms that did not make it. Most and even old Latania (al species) carked. Saw many specimen Licuala grandis get BBQ'd. Multiple days hovering in the 40's often never warming over 50 just did these palms in. Mix in some overnight lows in the 30's - well it was a reality check that we are not a tropical climate. Had 4 different Seychelles palms planted at the time. A string of mild winters had me convinced that I could get these established in my microclime. Did well until 2010. Actually 3 did survive into 2011, but never recovered from the cold damage. And that was with no frost in my garden.

Yes many palms can endure a cold snap, with the temps returning to the 70's in a day or two. There has been times when it got into the mid to low 30's in the past, but was warmed up to mid the 70's within 48 hours. These kind of events tropicals can usually endure.

Mangosteen is another we can't grow for too long. The 'Carrie' mango is another tough grow.

Days with lows in the 30's and highs between 45F and 50F aren't unusual in our Winters, at my elevation I get at least a handful of these every year. I can't imagine growing any palm that couldn't take that for at least a few days. Since we get plenty of chill on our way to Winter, palms here acclimate and don't really care, if they can't handle it, they get selected out anyway.

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In perusing some climate data, I just came across this on Wiki, "Despite being located more than three degrees north of the Tropic of Cancer, West Palm Beach has a tropical rainforest climate (Köppen Af) with mean temperatures in all months above 64.4 °F (18 °C).[9][10]

This is simply not true, as West Palm Beach's yearly annual rainfall is not 80" or greater. Sheesh. That needs to be updated to "tropical monsoon climate".

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In perusing some climate data, I just came across this on Wiki, "Despite being located more than three degrees north of the Tropic of Cancer, West Palm Beach has a tropical rainforest climate (Köppen Af) with mean temperatures in all months above 64.4 °F (18 °C).[9][10]

This is simply not true, as West Palm Beach's yearly annual rainfall is not 80" or greater. Sheesh. That needs to be updated to "tropical monsoon climate".

According to their definition, the driest month has to have a mean of 60 mm of rain or greater, and it seems to fall under that. I don't think that's a good definition though.

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Someone stated that West Palm and Fort Myers have native temperate vegetation that the Miami area does not. I live on the southwest Florida coast and I can say that we grow, for the most part, the same vegetation in landscapes that the southeast coast does. The southwest coast tends to landscape more with natives more for the environment....animals, water conservation, etc. But we have coconuts, christmas palms, veitchia, etc. all over this side. We get a bit colder at night in the Winter but when a real cold comes, Miami area has been hit as hard as us in 2010. That winter was cold but we only lost a few coconuts here and there. Christmas palms, veitchias and all the others survived. Pretty much all the zone 10 palms survived just fine. I had no issues at all in my yard.

Garrett

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Hawaii is cool sometimes-I have plenty of pictures of me wearing sweatshirts in the winter etc. But bear in mind that after living in a warm place like Hawaii, it will thin your blood out and the weather feels cooler than to someone who lives in a cooler climate. But there are definitely two seasons there. I don't think that there are really seasons in the tropics, but I have never lived there so don't know for sure. It also doesn't get the higher temps of inland southeastern US in the summer-but its also overall warmer in the winter. The key part to remember is that the tropics never, never , never get frosts/freezes/snow. Thats one big factor that takes a lot of warm places out of the equation -like Miami

The tropics generally have two seasons, the dry season and the wet season, later called the monsoon season is some places.

Where I am at, 3.5 degrees south latitude and about 90 feet above sea level there are normally a few times a year when the tail end of a cold front from Antarctica makes it here. The lowest temperture I could find recorded was 57 F. And, that was in the month of July the middle of the southern winter. But, also in the begining of the Amazonian summer, or dry season. I have not seen it that cold. I have seen it maybe just under 70 F. And, when it gets that cold people pull out their jackets and sweaters which are reserved for travels to colder climes. When the daytime temperatures do not pass 80 F the new reports that Manaus is resembling Switzerland. Sort of a stretch of the imagination though. These cold snaps do kill fish sometimes in certain areas. As Keith points out there are ony two seasons wet and dry. But, there are some breaks in this when a continental air mass gets far enough north.

dk

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There is a clear definition of what a Tropical Climate is. William already mentioned it - average temperature of the coldest month over 18C (64F). Miami clearly falls there and is officially described as having a Monsoon Tropical climate. Occasional extremes may affect what you can grow but do not define climate. Latitude also has nothing to do with it. Tropical location and tropical climate are NOT one and the same.

Don't forget that it went down to 39F in Havana in Jan of 2010 and highs stayed below 67F for 5 straight days (including a high of 60F on 1/11/10). Are we now going to challenge Cuban climate as being tropical?

I have lived both in South Florida, Fort Lauderdale, and currently reside in Manaus, AM, Brazil. The big difference in the climates are, 1. there is more than twice the average rainfall here, 2. the dry seaon is the hot season as opposed to S. Florida where the dry season is the cool season, and the wet season is the cooler season as opposed to the hot season in S. Florida. In a lowland equatorial climates cloud cover and rain are the factors that keep the daytime temperatures below 90F. The rainy season has started this year and November is above the normal average already for the month. I guess that being in the middle of the Amazon rainforest the one thing you can expect is rain.

dk

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Where did you find the data for Tampico?

Jeff

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The book "Extreme Weather" as with the other facts. Look it up.

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Speaking of extreme, in my lifetime here in South Florida (way south of Miami) I have seen a few events that have been just that. On Christmas day and for two days after in 1989 my farm froze solid. It was around 24F at one point and below 28 each morning which lasted for more than 4 hours! If you never smelled what near 100% plant death all around you is like you have missed one huge stink! Just about as quick as that happened we all started to grow what we could from what was left and in just a few years the huge fruit groves and tropical gardens were back in order and we have not seen the likes of that since, In 2010 I had very light patchy frost.

The other extreme was 3 years later when I was hit head on by a category 5 hurricane!

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It matters not if a location is outside 23.5 N to 23.5 S to be tropical, as already stated by the Koppen Climate Classification definition (coldest month of year must average above 64.4F/18C). Southeast Florida (coastal, anyway) exceeds the 64.4 degree coldest monthly average, so it's considered tropical by the Koppen system, notwithstanding it lies north of 23.5 degrees.

On the other hand, there are locations on/near the equator that don't meet the Koppen Climate Classification definition of tropical -- that's why there are snow-capped mountains there!

The only thing I would say is that south Florida is only marginally tropical; hence, it gets relatively cold there during the core winter months compared to tropical locations with much high temperature averages for the coldest month of the year.

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This is a fascinating thread, and in my opinion it's a discussion worth having. In the end, though, it will always be a matter of opinion. There are a varying definitions of what is tropical, obviously. As others have stated, trying to pigeonhole nature into a rigid set of limits will eventually result in disappointment.

My opinion, to be taken with reflection and a grain of salt, is that south florida isn't really tropical. I'd say tropical would be an average minimum temperature of 45. Even zone 11 would probably be enough. It's not as important if it sometimes gets into the 30s as it is that it happens rarely. This definition fits well with every area that I consider "tropical."

Ultratropical or Equatorial is even more strict that this, possibly an average minimum temperature of 60. Places like singapore, lowland Costa Rica, Equaltorial Brasil (as was mentioned above) and others clearly fit this criteria. I believe the record low in Singapore is 67F. Well-deserving of the ultra prefix!

To me, the tropics are all about stability and lack of extremes. In Hawaii, Cuba, Costa Rica, and others, the temperature rarely swings more than 20 degrees F, and probably NEVER more than 25 degrees F. Here's one definition I like: "Because of the effect of sun angle on climate most areas within the tropics are hot year-round, with diurnal variations in temperature exceeding seasonal variations." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_climate)

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