The first 11 days of autumn have felt more like the dog days of summer in the Tampa Bay area.
Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Ruskin, led by Meteorologist-in-Charge Brian LaMarre, have watched numerous temperature records shatter.
“We saw during the month of September, there were actually nine different locations across the area that were ranked number one as the hottest temperatures in the month of September,” said LaMarre.
Tampa’s main weather observation site lies at Tampa International Airport. The collection of sensors sits along the southern end of 19R/1L, the airport’s longest runway.
It is common to see abnormally high temperature readings at Tampa International Airport thanks to a phenomenon called the Urban Heat Island.
This term describes metropolitan areas that run significantly warmer thanks to human activity.
When the wind flowing over the Tampa Bay area is aligned in just the right way, the heat island effect becomes evident.
“We see easterly winds, so that could be wind from the northeast, east, or southeast. It’s blowing off all of the pavement and concrete, especially with the expansion of Tampa International Airport and all the development over the eastern side of that area is allowing the heat to build up and move over the temperature sensor, which is on the southern end of the runway at Tampa International Airport,” LaMarre added.
On Wednesday, staff meteorologists from the National Weather Service installed a new sensor and will work to calibrate it over the next 3-4 days.
Even with this change, LaMarre explained that so long as the city continues to urbanize and develop, the heat island effect will likely become a more common occurrence.
He referred to the time when the land where the airport currently sits was home to the United States Army Air Forces.
“The weather instrumentation was there when it was called Drew Field. Drew Field looked a lot different than what Tampa International looks like today. There was a lot more vegetation back then. And now, we have a lot more pavement. So the official temperature is getting warmer because of that real-time expansion of the urban area.”