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Tampa is on track to finish 2023 with a record low rainfall

Mix of brown and green grass
Carl Lisciandrello
WUSF Public Media
According to National Weather Service data, Tampa, Sarasota, Bradenton and Venice have endured their driest years to date.

The U.S. Drought Monitor says that some parts of the greater Tampa Bay region are facing one of their most severe droughts to date.

Despite the recent bouts of rain in some parts of the region, the U.S Drought Monitor continues to show a concerning picture for places in the broader Tampa Bay area, especially those near the Gulf.

The Monitor, which is produced by a partnership between several national weather authorities, recently reported that places in Sarasota, Hillsborough, and Manatee counties are enduring “extreme” or “exceptional” levels of drought — the driest year-to-date in many of these areas.

The record low figures for the Tampa Bay area, Sarasota, Ruskin, and Bradenton, are through Sept. 21.

Graphic of Florida areas impacted by the drought
National Weather Service

Tampa has posted 21.56 inches of rain from Jan. 1-Sept. 21, compared to 32.45 inches in 2000 for the same time frame.

According to NWS’s tracking, Tampa posted a rainfall total of 61.95 inches in 2022 — almost three times the total for the year-to-date.

Rodney Wynn is a National Weather Service meteorologist in Ruskin. He believes that the summer was drier because of changes in wind flows.

"One of the things that made this such a dry summer for us was that we were in an onshore flow, with west-south winds,” he said. “This creates showers and storms early in the day and pushes them over the inland area instead of over the west coast of Florida.”

With the rainy season coming to an end, Winn says that many places in the greater Tampa Bay region will likely end with a major rainfall deficit.

“We’re looking at 13 to 20 inches below average (for the year). It would probably take a major tropical cyclone to drop that amount of rainfall,” he said.

When it comes to the possible impacts of intense droughts, Wynn stressed that people should be prepared for any water shortages, particularly for agricultural activities.

Although this shouldn’t pose a major problem this year, he also brought attention to the possibility of wildfires happening.

“The fire fuels are not as dry during the rainy seasons, but we may see some fire concerns later in the year due to lack of rain over the west coast of Florida,” he said.

João Victor Pina is the WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for fall of 2023.