Bartow, like most of Florida, is located in the humid subtropical zone (Köppen climate classification: Cfa). The climate of Bartow and other inland cities is slightly different than those cities on the coasts of Florida. Typically the ocean or gulf tends to moderate the climate of cities on the coast. As Bartow is further from the coast than almost any other city in Florida, it tends to have higher daytime temperatures during the summer and cooler temperatures at night during the winter. Regardless, the climate pattern prevalent throughout central Florida is evident in Bartow: hot, humid summers with frequent afternoon thunderstorms and relatively drier and mild winters.
On average, a tropical system brings hurricane-force winds to the Polk County area less than once every ten years, although the 2004 hurricane season in which three hurricanes hit within 44 days was a case study in the law of averages. Until 2004, the most recent storm to bring hurricane force winds to the Bartow area had been Hurricane Donna in 1960. While Florida’s vulnerability to hurricanes is well known, hurricanes are not the most common severe weather threat seen in the Polk County area.
The area is in the center of “lightning alley”, the most concentrated lightning strike area in the United States. Lightning is not the only threat from central Florida thunderstorms.
The more severe storms bring the threat of tornadoes, although Florida tornadoes very rarely reach the size of those elsewhere in the United States. Even hail is not out of the question; one storm in March 1996 caused a one foot accumulation of hail in areas of Bartow.
Freezes are an occasional occurrence in the Bartow area and can be a problem if temperatures remain below freezing for a sustained period of time. On average, the area can expect freezing temperatures every other winter. Snow is a rare phenomenon in the area, perhaps a few times every century.
Bartow’s annual mean temperature is 72.2 degrees. The daily range between high and low temperatures averages 20.1 degrees in winter and 19.8 degrees in the summer. Average rainfall is 45 inches per year, and the sun shines 72 percent of daylight hours. Bartow’s elevation is 125 feet above sea level.
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