Why Does Florida's Summer Always Bring Thunderstorms?


Oh, how I love a good thunderstorm in the summer!! If there is one thing we can count on during the summer season in Naples, FL, it is a dark sky in many afternoons filled with rain and lightning, and the heart-thumping boom of the accompanying thunder. I'm sure most of you have heard that no other part of the nation has more thunderstorm activity than Florida. But why?

The environmental factors necessary for thunderstorms to form are the same elements we love about Florida - warm temperatures and plenty of water. To be more specific, thunderstorms need three conditions to form:

  1. Moisture to form clouds and rain. While Florida is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the west, we have an abundance of moisture.
  2. Warm air that can rise rapidly. Florida's summer days that consistenly reach close to 90 degrees provide a bounty of warm air.
  3. Conditions that lift air, for example warm fronts, sea breezes, or even the sun's heat are capable of lifting air.
On most typical afternoons in Naples, you can look to the east, and see the tall and fluffy cumulus clouds starting to build - these are the beginning of thunder clouds. These clouds are simply formed by the warm, moist air being lifted higher and higher into the air. When these moist air updrafts reach cooler temperatures at higher altitudes, the water vapor condenses into small water droplets, building the cumulus clouds. The clearly defined shapes and curved lines of a cumulus cloud represent that the cloud is primarily filled with water. When the small water droplets have reached a significant size within the clouds, gravity will take over and downdrafts will form, also causing precipitation. The simultaneous presence of both updrafts and downdrafts marks the mature stage of the storm, and produces cumulonimbus clouds.

How is lightning formed? Lightning develops during the violent circulation of air within the cumulonimbus cloud. Just as rubbing a balloon on your head can cause static electricity, the updrafts and downdrafts of water particles in the cloud cause friction that results in electrictiy. Lightning is the huge discharge of this electricity.

What is thunder? Thunder is the sound of lightning. The discharge of electricity that passes through the cloud pushes air and water molecules out of the way, and causes these molecules to vibrate. These vibrations are heard as a sound - thunder. Lightning also heats the air around it up to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot air expands, and in this case very quickly, pushing apart the air molecules with great force, causing greater vibrations and thus a louder sound. In fact, when you are very close to a lightning strike, you may have heard thunder as a really loud crack. This is the direct sound of lightning near us. The more common loud, long rumble occurs when the sound of thunder echoes off of buildings, trees, or even the ground.

Some interesting facts about thunderstorms:

  • A single lightning bolt unleashes as much energy as blowing up a ton of TNT.
  • The average length of cloud to ground lightning is 2-10 miles, but only one centimeter wide.
  • From a mathematical point of view, and considering the speed of sound, it has been calculated that it takes 5 seconds for thunder to travel 1 mile. So, for every 5 seconds between the flash and the rumble, the thunderstorm is 1 mile away.
  • The "lightning belt" in Florida is an area from between Orlando and Tampa to south along the west coast to Fort Myers and east to Lake Okeechobee.
  • Florida's afternoon thunderstorms typically appear June through September.
I hope that you enjoy these wonders of nature as much as I do. Just remember to enjoy them from inside an enclosed space! Of course, if you are in search of a beautiful, luxurious enclosed space in the Naples area, don't hesitate to give me a call! :) Tricia Raynor at 239-961-1801.


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