Climate of Miami

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Typical summer afternoon shower rolling in from the Everglades.
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches
Source: NOAA/NWS

Miami has a tropical monsoon climate[a] (Köppen climate classification Am)[1] with hot and humid summers and short, warm winters, with a marked drier season in the winter. Its sea-level elevation, coastal location, position just above the Tropic of Cancer, and proximity to the Gulf Stream shape its climate. With January averaging 68.2 °F (20.1 °C), winter features mild to warm temperatures; cool air usually settles after the passage of a cold front, which produces much of the little amount of rainfall. Lows sometimes fall to or below 50 °F (10 °C), with an average 10 such occurrences annually,[2] but very rarely 36 °F (2 °C); from 1981 to 2010, temperatures reached that level in only eight calendar years.[3] Highs generally reach 70 °F (21 °C), and fail to do so on an average 12 days annually.[2] The wet season begins some time in May, ending in mid-October. During this period, temperatures are in the mid 80s to low 90s (29–35 °C), accompanied by high humidity, though the heat is often relieved by afternoon thunderstorms or a sea breeze that develops off the Atlantic Ocean, which then allow lower temperatures, but conditions still remain very muggy. Much of the year's 61.9 inches (1,570 mm) of rainfall occurs during this period.

Extreme temperatures range from 26.5 °F on February 3, 1917,[4] to 100 °F on July 21, 1942, (−2.8 to 38 °C), the triple-digit (°F) reading on record;[5] the last freezing temperature seen at Miami Int'l Airport was on Christmas Day 1989.[6] The highest daily minimum temperature is 84 °F (29 °C) on August 4, 1993 and September 7, 1897 (although the corresponding record for Miami Beach is 90 °F or 32 °C on July 17, 2001), and conversely, the lowest daily maximum temperature is 45 °F (7 °C) on February 19, 1900. Miami has never recorded any accumulating snowfall although there were dubious claims of snow flurries on January 19, 1977[7] during the cold wave of January 1977. Weather conditions for the area around Miami were recorded sporadically from 1839 until 1900, with many years-long gaps. A cooperative temperature and rainfall recording site was established in what is now Downtown in December, 1900. An official Weather Bureau Office was opened in Miami in June 1911.[8] Heavy snow squalls with accumulations that lasted for a few hours after the snow had stopped falling in February 1899 were reported, but these are not official since there is no written record of it.

The 1997 Miami tornado just north of the downtown CBD.

Miami receives abundant rainfall, one of the highest among major US cities. Most of this rainfall occurs from mid-May through early October. It has an average annual rainfall of 61.9 inches (1,570 mm), whereas nearby Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach receive 66.5 inches (1,690 mm) and 51.7 inches (1,310 mm), respectively, which demonstrates the high local variability in rainfall rates.[6]

Miami reports more thunderstorms than most US cities, with about eighty days per year having thunder reported. These storms are often strong, with frequent lightning and very heavy rain. Occasionally, they can be severe with damaging straight line winds and large hail. Tornadoes and Waterspouts sometimes occur, although violent tornadoes of the type seen in other parts of the US are rare in Florida.

During El Niño events, Miami becomes cooler than normal during the dry season with above average precipitation. During La Niña, Miami becomes warmer and drier than normal.

Tropical vs subtropical[edit]

The 2012 USDA map shows the Miami area as hardiness zone 10b, surpassed only by small microclimates in the continental United States.
Unlike the rest of the state, the southern tip consists of various equatorial or tropical climates, according to Köppen.
2015 was a record-breaking year for the southern part of the state, with four cities breaking records by a wide margin. It was also an El Niño year that ended with a December several degrees above normal.

There is some contention over whether or not Miami (and other parts of southeast Florida) has a fully tropical or subtropical climate such as humid subtropical. Many tropical flora grow there, as well as tropical animal species. However, cyclical cold spells that occasionally bring temperatures in the 30s kill particularly sensitive species. A record setting 12-day cold snap in January 2010[9] killed a significant population of the invasive iguanas, which took more than five years to recover.[10] During the cold wave of January 1977 that saw snowfall over the majority of the state, major crop losses occurred to the citrus and vegetable industries all the way to south Dade. The climate regime for much of the state is humid subtropical (Köppen Cfa), though portions of the Gold Coast (southeast Florida), as well as all of the Florida Keys, qualify as one of several tropical classifications (Köppen Aw, Am, or Af). Coastal South Florida falls into USDA zone 10b for plant hardiness,[11] where annual extreme low temperatures range from 30 to 40 °F (−1 to 4 °C), versus zone 9 in Central Florida, and zone 8 in northern Florida.[12] The Köppen climate classification only takes into account monthly mean temperature, which much be over 64 Fahrenheit (18 Celsius) every month of the year. Miami and the rest of southern Florida meet this criteria though this belies the occasional extreme cold spells to much lower temperatures that often only last a day during short-lived cold fronts.[citation needed] With the urban heat island effect, as well as Biscayne Bay as a buffer, the waterside downtown area and the barrier islands including Miami Beach made it into hardiness zone 11a by 2012. Miami Beach has virtually no freezing weather in its history and very few sub-40 °F (4 °C) weather in recent history[13] (USDA uses data from 15 to 30 years prior to year of updates, and disclaims that zones reflect possible single outlying extremes).[14] For perspective, major cities in California such as San Diego, Los Angeles, and even San Francisco are in plant hardiness zone 10, though their generally Mediterranean climate is far from tropical. Roughly 70 miles (110 km) north of Miami, West Palm Beach is at the threshold of southern Florida's tropical climate designation, with January having an average high of about 74 °F (23 °C) and low of 57 °F (14 °C), giving a daily average just over the 65 °F (18 °C) "tropical threshold". There, they have had several instances of sub-30 °F (−1 °C) weather from December through March, with an all-time low of 24 °F (−4 °C) in December. Southeastern Florida is also the only area in the continental United States to be in Zone 1 for Energy Star recommended insulation levels, with Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.[15]


This chart shows the average coastal ocean water temperature by month in degrees Fahrenheit for Miami Beach based on historical[when?] measurements.[19]

January February March April 1−15 April 16−30 May 1−15 May 16−31 June 1−15 June 16−30 July 1−15 July 16−31 August 1−15 August 16−31 September 1−15 September 16−30 October 1−15 October 16−31 November December
71 °F (22 °C) 73 °F (23 °C) 75 °F (24 °C) 78 °F (26 °C) 78 °F (26 °C) 80 °F (27 °C) 81 °F (27 °C) 84 °F (29 °C) 85 °F (29 °C) 86 °F (30 °C) 86 °F (30 °C) 86 °F (30 °C) 84 °F (29 °C) 84 °F (29 °C) 83 °F (28 °C) 83 °F (28 °C) 79 °F (26 °C) 76 °F (24 °C) 73 °F (23 °C)


The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through November 30, although hurricanes can develop beyond those dates. The most likely time for Miami to be hit is during the peak of the Cape Verde season which is mid-August through the end of September.[20] Due to its location between two major bodies of water known for tropical activity, Miami is also statistically the most likely major city in the world to be struck by a hurricane, trailed closely by Nassau, Bahamas, and Havana, Cuba. Despite this, the city has been fortunate in not having a direct hit by a hurricane since Hurricane Cleo in 1964.[21] However, many other hurricanes have affected the city, namely the Great Miami Hurricane in 1926, Betsy in 1965, Andrew in 1992, Irene in 1999, and Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in 2005. At least 35 direct and 26 indirect deaths in Florida were attributed to Wilma.

In addition, a tropical depression in October 2001 passed over the city, causing record rainfall and flooding. Locally, the storm is credited as the No Name Storm of 2000, though the depression went on to become Tropical Storm Leslie upon entering the Atlantic Ocean.

A hurricane, known as the "Great Miami Hurricane of 1926," caused catastrophic damage to the heavily developed Miami and Miami Beach area. Hurricane Betsy passed over Key Largo, south of the city, but did cause hurricane-force winds and very heavy rainfall there. Hurricane Andrew in 1992 also struck south of city and caused extensive damage and flooding in the Homestead area suburbs. Hurricane Wilma in 2005 caused severe damage to many high-rise buildings in the downtown area as it broke many windows out, which in turn caused bad water damage on the insides of the buildings. It also caused at least 35 direct and 26 indirect fatalities in Florida.

Miami has been identified as one of three cities in the United States most vulnerable to hurricanes, mainly due to its location and it being surrounded by ocean and low-lying coastal plains, the other two cities being New Orleans and New York City.[22]

Typical winter day in Miami

See also[edit]


  1. ^ According to Köppen, southern Florida meets the basic criterion of a tropical climate by having a monthly average of at least 65 °F (18 °C) for every month. Miami experiences occasional low temperature extremes in January in February, which kill several tropical species. Any freezing temperatures, or sustained temperatures below about 40 °F (4 °C), as occur in Miami's hardiness zone 10b, will kill several species. Extreme coastal Miami abutting Biscayne Bay in the downtown area as well as the islands, including Miami Beach, are in hardiness zone 11a, with virtually no freezing weather in recent history.
  2. ^ Official records for Miami were kept at the Lemon City from September 1895 to November 1900, the Miami COOP from December 1900 to May 1911, the Weather Bureau Office from June 1911 to February 1937, at various locations in and around the city from March 1937 to July 1942, and at Miami Int'l since August 1942. For more information, see ThreadEx.


  1. ^ "World Map of Köppen−Geiger Climate Classification" (PDF). 
  2. ^ a b "Station Name: FL MIAMI INTL AP". NOAA. Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  3. ^ "Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Equals All Time High Temperature Record June 22; Daily Records Fall at Miami and West Palm Beach" (PDF). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  4. ^ David Fairchild (October 1, 1918). "Cold Resistance of a Hybrid Anona" (PDF). USDA National Plant Germplasm System. Retrieved December 29, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Lowest Temperature of Record". National Weather Service. 
  6. ^ a b c d "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  7. ^ Howard Kleinberg (December 30, 1989). "The Great Miami Snow Job". The Dispatch. Retrieved September 23, 2010. 
  8. ^ "History of National Weather Service Forecast Office-Miami, Florida". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2007-08-19. 
  9. ^ "Summary of Historic Cold Episode of January 2010 Coldest 12-day Period Since At Least 1940" (PDF). NOAA. January 14, 2015. Retrieved December 21, 2015. 
  10. ^ Fleshler, David (October 9, 2015). "Five years after lethal winter, iguanas are back in force". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved December 21, 2015. 
  11. ^ "USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map" (PDF). NOAA. Retrieved December 21, 2015. 
  12. ^ Kridler, Chris (5 March 2011). "Freeze-frazzled Brevard County gardeners seek hardier plants". Florida Today (Melbourne, Florida). pp. 1D. Retrieved December 22, 2015. (subscription required (help)). 
  13. ^ "Interactive Florida 2012 USDA Plant Zone Hardiness map". Plantmaps. Retrieved December 29, 2015. 
  14. ^ "About - Maps & Gardening". United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved December 29, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Recommended Levels of Insulation". Energy Star - Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved January 5, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Station Name: FL MIAMI INTL AP". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  17. ^ "WMO Climate Normals for Miami, FL 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved October 31, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Monthly Averages for Miami International Airport". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 
  19. ^ Charles Sun. "US NODC Coastal Water Temperature Guide". Retrieved 2011-06-09. 
  20. ^ "Vulnerable cities: Miami, Florida". The Weather Channel. Archived from the original on 2006-04-27. Retrieved 2006-02-19. 
  21. ^ "Miami, Florida's history with tropical systems". Hurricane City. Retrieved 2006-02-19. 
  22. ^ Tidwell, Mike (2006). The Ravaging Tide: Strange Weather, Future Katrinas, and the Coming Death of America's Coastal Cities. Free Press. ISBN 0-7432-9470-X.