Weather Blog: Weather on Thanksgiving in Tampa for the past 68 years

tampa thankgiving graphic

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Over the years I have had people say things to me, such as, “I can remember when I was younger that it was warmer / cooler on [insert holiday]. ‘

In other words, it’s the usual ‘water cooler’ conversation about what we remembered when we were younger about the past.

So I thought we’ll go back and look at the last 68 years of Thanksgiving data in Tampa. I found some interesting information, but I also found some data that you probably expect.

The unsurprising stuff

First, for what most of us would expect: Thanksgiving in Tampa is typically comfortable.

In the past 68 years, the most common high temperature on Thanksgiving has been in the 1970s. In the minority of times, we have an occasional high on Thanksgiving in the 1960s.

About 20 to 30 percent of the time, we peaked in the 80s. And only once in the past 68 years had we peaked in the 50s – that was 56 degrees in 1984.

Consistent regardless of other factors

Now for the interesting nuggets of info.

There didn’t seem to be a major correlation with weather patterns about what the temperature would be like on Thanksgiving. In other words, it didn’t seem to matter if there was an El Nino, if it was a busy or calm hurricane season, or if it was a warm or cool October.

Every late November that I looked at had high temperatures everywhere, with 70s and 80s very common and occasional 60s sprinkled in. Since Thanksgiving doesn’t fall on the same date every year, I also figured I’d find a trend that the later Thanksgiving dates would show ‘cooler’ highlights, but that didn’t seem to be the case.

There were countless years when we had a cool moment just before Thanksgiving and then it was warm on Thanksgiving. There were also countless years when it was a little cooler for Thanksgiving, only to be back in the 1980s a few days later.

Interesting ten-year trends

I averaged all high temperatures from Thanksgiving from 1950 to 1983 and it came in at 75.6 degrees. I then averaged from 1984 to 2018 and came out at 75.7 degrees. That’s a great consistency!

So over the course of several decades, you begin to realize that the climate in Florida is quite predictable and somewhat boring (that’s not a bad thing, which is why many of us love Winter in Florida). My main point is that there did not seem to be any long-term trends that deviate from the general average that were visible at the end of November.

The most interesting piece of information, however, was that there seemed to be ten-year trends. It may be purely a coincidence, or it may be that a deeper inspection of the data could show that large-scale global patterns are making some warmer some decades while cooler in Florida other decades.

For example, I have broken down the figures per decade and found slight fluctuations. For each decade listed below, the average peak for Thanksgiving is during that ten-year period.

  • 1950 to 1959 was 74.2 degrees.
  • From 1960 to 1969 it was 77.1 degrees.
  • 1970 to 1979 was 74.7 degrees.
  • 1980 to 1989 was 75.4 degrees.
  • 1990 to 1999 was 78.3 degrees.
  • 2000-2009 was 73.8 degrees.
  • 2010 to 2019 was 76.7 degrees.

It may just be a coincidence, but I found it interesting that each ten-year period alternately increased and decreased slightly, and has been repeated over the past seven decades.

That’s all I have now. Maybe I’ll look at Christmas next to see if I find any interesting data that month.