Orlando, Florida, home of Walt Disney World, has very interesting weather, consisting of two major seasons. The two seasons can really be summed up by saying one is hot and one is dry. Due to the city’s proximity to the Tropic of Cancer and its low elevation, it is generally fairly warm all year around – boasting an average annual temperature of 22.4°C. Orlando is affected by the Gulf Stream current, which is a powerful Atlantic Ocean current that causes warmer waters to be brought up from the tropics and creates warmer winter temperatures than the rest of the south east of the United States during the same period.
Orlando has a sub-tropical climate which is warm and humid. Morning humidity stays at above 85% all year round with humidity at its highest during June to October. Because of the extreme humidity, it often feels hotter than it actually is. This is because humidity upsets your body’s cooling system by stopping sweat from evaporating, so you will find yourself hotter than if you were experiencing dry heat. Due to the year round warmth, swimming pools, fun parks and other aquatic activities generally run all months of the year.
Nowhere is entirely predictable; in 1998 the El Nino weather phenomenon brought to Orlando an unusually wet January and February which led into a summer drought, followed by a record wildfire season.
It may be true that Orlando sees very little variation between seasons, with only two real main seasons: the hot and the dry. But this does not mean that it doesn't have a spring and autumn too, however brief they may be.
Spring is a particularly fleeting season, arriving roughly around March time in Orlando. While the weather is fine and likely to be enjoyable, especially if you're not used to such a hot climate as Florida's, Orlando is likely to be busier at this time of the year, with many of the schools broken up for the holidays. This is likely to affect you particularly if you are planning on visiting the theme parks, so be prepared for some queues for your favourite rides.
Though the high humidity of the summer and hurricane season have yet to hit Orlando during the spring, the weather is still hot and the sun fierce, so be sure to protect your skin with the correct clothing and plenty of sun cream. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated at all times as well, to avoid getting ill. This is particularly necessary if you are spending a lot of time queuing up for rides at the theme parks.
The summer months are the rainy season. The mercury begins to rise in May, with average daily highs rising above 30°C and daily lows hovering around the low twenties. The rainy season really begins to kick-in in June and lasts through until September and early October. There is extreme humidity during this period and heavy rain. Most notoriously, Orlando is hit almost daily by strong afternoon thunderstorms which often consist of high wind, fierce lightning and sometimes hail.
During the months from June to August, Orlando averages a monthly rainfall greater than the whole of the United Kingdom during winter! Orlando averages 540 mm of rain during June to August whereas the UK averages 440 mm during the winter months of December to February. July and August are very hot and humid, with 95% humidity and day time highs of 32°C – 36°C. Orlando rarely gets hotter than this however, with the highest ever temperature recorded in 1998 measuring in at 39°C.
Orlando Lake Eola.
Orlando, like the rest of Florida, is subject to hurricanes. However, due to its location inland from the Gulf of Mexico, hurricanes have a tendency to weaken before hitting the city. The city does however experience strong hurricanes with the worst being the three strong hurricanes which hit Orlando in 2004. Hurricanes Charley and Danielle, and the slightly weaker tropical storm Bonnie, caused widespread havoc and millions of dollars of damage. Hurricane season lasts from June till November. Risk levels peak in mid August and September.
The peak of the wet summer season is considered off-peak and so is cheaper than the dry winter season. It is actually quite a bit sunnier than the dry season with an average of nine hours of sunshine per day as storms often clear the sky of lingering clouds. Because of this, some will see summer as the preferable time to travel, but the trade-off might not be worth it. Wet weather is an unavoidable feature, temperatures and humidity are at their peak, and dangerous hurricanes are relatively likely.
It is also important to take into consideration the strength of the Floridian sun and the intense heat. This is especially important if you're not used to such hot weather. Protect yourself from the possibility of sun damage, sun or heat stroke by wearing light layers of clothing, a hat and sunglasses at all time, not to mention a decent sun cream with a high SPF. It is also important to make sure you keep hydrated, so it is advisable to carry around a bottle of water at all times with you. This is especially the case if you plan on hitting the theme parks and will thus be standing around for long stretches of time under the hot sun as you wait in the queue for the rides. The water rides will never look so appealing, though!
Discovery Cove, Orlando. Photo by VISIT FLORIDA.
As with spring, autumn in Orlando is equally fleeting. Despite this, many visitors will argue that the autumn, generally falling across late October to November, is one of the best times of the year to visit Orlando. During this season, the weather remains warm but is much less humid than in the tropical summer months. As well as this, autumn is outside of the hurricane season, so you're far less likely to get caught in any dangerous, extreme weather conditions.
And, with the kids back at school, visiting the theme parks is sure to be a more enjoyable experience too, with fewer crowds and shorter lines for all the rides. Not to mention the fact that you won't be standing under the burning sun in such intense heat.
And of course, a visit here at this time of year will mean you get to take part in the many and varied Halloween celebrations. If you're not at the Disney theme park to enjoy the park's own numerous celebrations, there are sure to be plenty of others to get involved in. Or just go out trick or treating.
Orlando is very pleasant in the winter, and, much like many subtropical/temperate European cities, it is a favourite winter getaway for those who want to escape the cold, bitter winter harshness of home. The most popular time to visit is Christmastime, a peak period, with pleasant days at around 23°C and chilly evenings around 10°C. January and February are typically the coolest months, however in saying this, the average maximum ranges from 21°C to 22°C, and the average minimum ranges from 10°C to 11°C - so it’s hardly unbearably cold! March to April is another peak season with average highs rising to a blissful 25°C in March and 28°C in April, so you will pay a premium.
Sunshine levels decrease from the summer months but are still good at an average of seven hours per day for most of the season. While you can have some overcast periods, rainfall is dramatically lessened. The lowest rainfall is typically between November and January and in April. Orlando is subtropical so rainfall can be expected at any time, but during this season it is infrequent. The lower humidity in winter means that temperatures are more susceptible to fluctuation, and the temperature drops to a slightly greater extent at night. Very occasionally cold fronts bring freezing temperatures to this subtropical city. In 1977 a rare snowfall fell on the state. More than two inches fell on some isolated towns, whilst most areas recieved up to a maximum of 25mm.
December to May is also the period that Orlando is particularly prone to wildfires, particularly in March through until May.
Welcome to downtown Orlando sign on Lake Eola.