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Matthew92

Orlando Area Winters- Recent Trends and History

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Matthew92

This thread will be to discuss Orlando, FL's winter climate.

Winters have definitely been trending warmer in recent years in Orlando. Vacationing in the area over the last 20 years I've watched the Araucaria get to South FL height and things like bottle palms, rubber plants, and foxtails appear all over the place. Here's an interesting web page that shows the annual low for each year in Orlando back to 1894. The recent warm trend seems to start around 2004, after which getting to the upper 20's or even below freezing (the last 10 years) has become rare (sans a couple notable outliers). Before this period, it appears that one could generally count on getting to at least freezing each winter.

https://www.currentresults.com/Yearly-Weather/USA/FL/Orlando/extreme-annual-orlando-low-temperature.php

a1.thumb.PNG.9f6d63aae12e43d280291ebf16689603.PNG

a2.thumb.PNG.a1e0e8fbf89eaee4ff55a4176d2ac9cb.PNG

January 2018 (around 27 degrees in much of Orlando) finally broke the pattern after an impressive stretch of freeze-free winters since 2011 (the notable brown Dypsis lutescens and Mango trees after Jan 2018 attested to this). That winter is what I imagine being a more typical one this area would experience historically. I had wondered if the 2018 winter was going to be the beginning of a break from this nearly freeze-free pattern, but if this winter doesn't get any colder than it already has (at 39 deg), it looks like that may not be the case. While I know the urban heat island effect has contributed to moderating, I wonder how far out it can protect from closer to the inner part of the city. I think part of this area's luck has been there simply not being a trough that has come far enough south and oriented in the correct way to give a hard freeze south of N. Central FL. A recent good example being this winter with the January Polar Vortex event which indeed gave record breaking temperatures as hadn't been experienced in decades farther north, but was broad and simply didn't stretch out to the south. 

It's been quite interesting moving here from Northwest FL; because there, even in the warmest of winters, it always goes below freezing: frost sensitive annuals and tropicals (planted as annuals) are killed back, and the perennials die down and come back in spring (true to their namesake). But in Orlando, people plant out such tropicals and annuals year round, making the difference between a warmer winter and a colder one much more crucial as it rides along that freezing mark (at least in recent years). That fine line is so much more critical here. Also what makes this area unique is that perhaps more than any other place in the world, a recent 15 year trend of slightly warmer temperatures has such an effect as to bring in plants from a totally different climate zone (at least ones that are truly tropical/largely intolerant of freezing temps i.e. Cocos, Ficus, Hyophorbe, etc...). What makes this occurrence more of a spectacle is seeing such plants next to native vegetation; much of which are the same plants and trees you would see in North FL or even Southern Georgia. To see a royal palm growing next to a Sycamore tree is quite a sight.

And then on the other side, about 40 years ago, the pattern snapped into a cold zone 9 or even 8 climate for around a decade. I'm currently reading John Attaway's book: "A History of FL Citrus Freezes," and still can't get over some of the lows that occurred (for example, 14 degrees recorded on the outskirts of Orlando in 1985). I might share some other interesting excerpts or data from that book as I continue to read it, or maybe do so in another thread.

This area may also win the award for "rollercoaster" temperature swings in the winter months. Looking at daily weather history over the last several decades, so many times there are mid 80's one week and the next dropping into the mid 20's overnight. What struck me after moving here was how quickly the temps skyrocket back to almost summer levels at times as soon as the influence of continental weather systems from up north move away. I do have to admit the climate here is sort of daunting, because it is oh-so-close to being tropical and yet throws out freezes or even very hard freezes very randomly. I've found that one of the best answers for an area's climate lies in the native vegetation. In this case,the longleaf pines, laurel/live oaks, black cherry, Magnolia, and palmetto do give a big clue in the hardiness needed for long term survival.

I'll be very interested to see how the winter trends in this area continue to play out.

Feel free to share your thoughts or info regarding the Orlando area's winter climate here.

Pictures from March 2018 below:

IMG_1240.thumb.JPG.bd62fbe7f80d8514f8cc0a8c1086e29d.JPG

IMG_1242.thumb.JPG.50b87259ccba5afb893c20964857c469.JPG

IMG_1249.thumb.JPG.fbc11b977b9e596bbe34750e9bc413a0.JPG

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Steve the palmreader
5 hours ago, Matthew92 said:

This thread will be to discuss Orlando, FL's winter climate.

Winters have definitely been trending warmer in recent years in Orlando. Vacationing in the area over the last 20 years I've watched the Araucaria get to South FL height and things like bottle palms, rubber plants, and foxtails appear all over the place. Here's an interesting web page that shows the annual low for each year in Orlando back to 1894. The recent warm trend seems to start around 2004, after which getting to the upper 20's or even below freezing (the last 10 years) has become rare (sans a couple notable outliers). Before this period, it appears that one could generally count on getting to at least freezing each winter.

https://www.currentresults.com/Yearly-Weather/USA/FL/Orlando/extreme-annual-orlando-low-temperature.php

a1.thumb.PNG.9f6d63aae12e43d280291ebf16689603.PNG

a2.thumb.PNG.a1e0e8fbf89eaee4ff55a4176d2ac9cb.PNG

January 2018 (around 27 degrees in much of Orlando) finally broke the pattern after an impressive stretch of freeze-free winters since 2011 (the notable brown Dypsis lutescens and Mango trees after Jan 2018 attested to this). That winter is what I imagine being a more typical one this area would experience historically. I had wondered if the 2018 winter was going to be the beginning of a break from this nearly freeze-free pattern, but if this winter doesn't get any colder than it already has (at 39 deg), it looks like that may not be the case. While I know the urban heat island effect has contributed to moderating, I wonder how far out it can protect from closer to the inner part of the city. I think part of this area's luck has been there simply not being a trough that has come far enough south and oriented in the correct way to give a hard freeze south of N. Central FL. A recent good example being this winter with the January Polar Vortex event which indeed gave record breaking temperatures as hadn't been experienced in decades farther north, but was broad and simply didn't stretch out to the south. 

It's been quite interesting moving here from Northwest FL; because there, even in the warmest of winters, it always goes below freezing: frost sensitive annuals and tropicals (planted as annuals) are killed back, and the perennials die down and come back in spring (true to their namesake). But in Orlando, people plant out such tropicals and annuals year round, making the difference between a warmer winter and a colder one much more crucial as it rides along that freezing mark (at least in recent years). That fine line is so much more critical here. Also what makes this area unique is that perhaps more than any other place in the world, a recent 15 year trend of slightly warmer temperatures has such an effect as to bring in plants from a totally different climate zone (at least ones that are truly tropical/largely intolerant of freezing temps i.e. Cocos, Ficus, Hyophorbe, etc...). What makes this occurrence more of a spectacle is seeing such plants next to native vegetation; much of which are the same plants and trees you would see in North FL or even Southern Georgia. To see a royal palm growing next to a Sycamore tree is quite a sight.

And then on the other side, about 40 years ago, the pattern snapped into a cold zone 9 or even 8 climate for around a decade. I'm currently reading John Attaway's book: "A History of FL Citrus Freezes," and still can't get over some of the lows that occurred (for example, 14 degrees recorded on the outskirts of Orlando in 1985). I might share some other interesting excerpts or data from that book as I continue to read it, or maybe do so in another thread.

This area may also win the award for "rollercoaster" temperature swings in the winter months. Looking at daily weather history over the last several decades, so many times there are mid 80's one week and the next dropping into the mid 20's overnight. What struck me after moving here was how quickly the temps skyrocket back to almost summer levels at times as soon as the influence of continental weather systems from up north move away. I do have to admit the climate here is sort of daunting, because it is oh-so-close to being tropical and yet throws out freezes or even very hard freezes very randomly. I've found that one of the best answers for an area's climate lies in the native vegetation. In this case,the longleaf pines, laurel/live oaks, black cherry, Magnolia, and palmetto do give a big clue in the hardiness needed for long term survival.

I'll be very interested to see how the winter trends in this area continue to play out.

Feel free to share your thoughts or info regarding the Orlando area's winter climate here.

Pictures from March 2018 below:

IMG_1240.thumb.JPG.bd62fbe7f80d8514f8cc0a8c1086e29d.JPG

IMG_1242.thumb.JPG.50b87259ccba5afb893c20964857c469.JPG

IMG_1249.thumb.JPG.fbc11b977b9e596bbe34750e9bc413a0.JPG

Where are the official temps are recorded ?

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Eric in Orlando

The core metro Orlando/Winter Park has always been warm. Prior to the first of the 3 mega freezes of the 1980s (83,85,89) there was quite a bit of zone 10 plants around; Ficus, Delonix, Schefflera, Monstera, Dracaena, Pandanus, Spathodea, Casuarina, Mangos, Melaleuca, Araucaria, Ravenala, Dypsis, Caryota, Roystonea, Archontophoenix, big crotons etc. But the 80's freezes also severely damaged or killed  zone 9 plants like Citrus, Jacaranda, Peltophorum, Grevillea, Tabebuia, Syagrus romanzoffiana, Phoenix roebelenii, Rhapis, etc. I have also seen old photos from the 1940s and 50s  of fruiting Coconuts, (this had to be prior to the 1957-58 freeze). I think the urban heat island has expanded out since the 1990s with growth. It still gets cold  just outside of Orlando. I heard from growers west and northwest getting down into the low 20s still and some even having upper teens in the 2009-10 winter.

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Eric in Orlando

I posted this in another thread but here is the lowest temperatures I have recorded in recent years.

Christmas 1989 had 2 nights around 19-20F. Since then the coldest it has been in Orlando is one night down to 26F in Feb. 1996. Dec. 2000 had a night at 27F and one at 28F. Jan. 2003 had a night at 27F. Then there was the long cool winter of 2009-10. Overall lowest temperature was only 28F one night but there were a dozen other nights between 30-32F.  Winter 2010-11 was also a long, cool one but not as bad as the previous. I can't remember the ultimate low, maybe 29-30F.

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palmsOrl

My understanding is that a location’s zone is based on the most recent 30 years of data.  So by this measure, 1990-2019, the average is 32.4F, a very solid zone 10a!  Orlando.  Take a walk around the neighborhoods downtown and in Winter Park and this is very apparent.

That said, I think the zone calculation is updated every 10 years, so I think what you will see on the most recent map is still data from 1981-2010.  So using this set of data, the average is 30.0F, still barely a zone 10.

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Jimbean

I have seen some indicators of a zone 10 in Orlando, but with that said, I will put my money on it that it's only a matter of time when Orlando sees a low of ~20F.

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palmsOrl

True, but even so,  if that hypothetical 20F low is only a rare occurrence, and most years are like they have been recently, we will remain a cold zone 10a.  

I personally believe the days of 18F-22F lows are over for Metro Orlando, except for 100-200+ year cold events.  The coldest it’s ever been officially in Orlando in the past 125 years is 18F and that was in 1894.  Still, 1985 saw 19F.  

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palmsOrl

I took a long walk the other night around the neighborhoods north of Colonial Dr. near Bumby and I saw what must have been well over 100 large trunking crownshaft palms.  Foxtails, Adonidia, a couple Ptychosperma, Dypsis lutescens, some majesty though not as many as expected and even a couple large royals.  Not a single Cocos though.  I also saw a number of traveler’s “palms”, large Caryota clumps, among many other tender tropicals getting large and thriving.  

Winter Park has almost as many of the tropical palms, and what is there is so healthy and well kept due to the wealth of many of the property owners there.

Orlando really needs to plant more royals.  They should be longterm survivors here now.  I know the giant fronds dropping is a consideration though so regular pruning would be needed in common areas.

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Matthew92

Another thing I noticed in looking at Orlando weather records in the last 100 years is that the traditional winter months (late Nov-Feb) had more consistently cooler weather. In recent years so many times there have been extended stretches of mid/high 80's in winter months like February. For example, the last winter that was as mild as this one in Orlando (1997-98) only got to 39 degrees. And yet- that winter had much more consistent cooler temps than this winter. I know comparing to one year is not accurate- but looking though years of records, I seldom saw such widespread long stretches of mid/high 80's for most of the winters in the 1900's. Also, just in the last couple days, Naples broke it's all time February high for February (the previous record being just last year!) at 90 degrees.

February 1998 (Wunderground screenshot)

Date            High    Avg     Low

2098883295_orlandofeb.PNG.d394704989b450c23e7a79e5d5456573.PNG

Current Orlando forecast

Capture.PNG.4201d6df24f598e222b62b0fde23ab08.PNG

Edited by Matthew92
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Jimbean
5 hours ago, palmsOrl said:

True, but even so,  if that hypothetical 20F low is only a rare occurrence, and most years are like they have been recently, we will remain a cold zone 10a.  

I personally believe the days of 18F-22F lows are over for Metro Orlando, except for 100-200+ year cold events.  The coldest it’s ever been officially in Orlando in the past 125 years is 18F and that was in 1894.  Still, 1985 saw 19F.  

If I ever get around to it (doubtful, because of my busy schedule) I want to make a zone map of what I think Florida would look like with a +2F warmup.

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