Last Updated on January 23, 2023

Florida does not have any deserts because it is located in a humid subtropical climate zone, which means it has hot, humid summers and mild, dry winters.

Deserts are characterized by very low humidity and minimal rainfall, which is not conducive to the lush vegetation and abundant moisture that are found in Florida.

The state is home to a variety of ecosystems, including swamps, marshes, forests, and beaches, but it does not have any areas that meet the climatic and geographic criteria for a desert.

Florida is positioned in the Northern Hemisphere Desert Belt, but does not have any deserts.

A Green Oasis in the American “Desert Belt”

Florida is sometimes referred to as an oasis in the Northern Hemisphere “desert belt” because it is located in a region that is generally characterized by hot, dry conditions.

The Northern Hemisphere desert belt extends from the Mojave Desert in the western United States to the Sahara Desert in Africa, and includes many other desert regions in between.

These areas typically experience hot temperatures and minimal levels of rainfall, which can make them inhospitable to certain types of vegetation and wildlife, and are thus classified as a desert.

Florida, on the other hand, is located in a humid subtropical climate zone, which means it has hot, humid summers and mild, dry winters.

The state’s abundant rainfall and relatively high humidity levels create a more hospitable environment for a wide variety of plant and animal life.

In this sense, Florida can be seen as an oasis in the midst of the Northern Hemisphere desert belt, providing a contrast to the surrounding dry and arid regions.

Florida is hot, but humid, and home to swamps and marshes filled with vegetation and wildlife.
Florida is hot, but humid, and home to swamps and marshes filled with vegetation and wildlife.

Florida Sand Dunes

Sand dunes can be found along many of the coastal areas in Florida, including the eastern and western Panhandle, the Atlantic Coast, and the Gulf Coast. Some specific locations in Florida where you can find sand dunes include:

  1. St. George Island: Located off the coast of the panhandle, St. George Island is home to miles of white sandy beaches and tall sand dunes.
  2. Gulf Islands National Seashore: This national seashore, which stretches along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, is home to several sand dune systems, including the large dune fields on Santa Rosa Island.
  3. Ocala National Forest: Located in central Florida, the Ocala National Forest is home to a number of sand dunes, including the Sand Pine Scrub area, which is home to several threatened and endangered plant species.
  4. Canaveral National Seashore: Located on the Atlantic Coast in central Florida, the Canaveral National Seashore is home to several sand dune systems, including the dunes along Apollo Beach.
  5. Fort De Soto Park: Located on an island in the Gulf of Mexico near St. Petersburg, Fort De Soto Park is home to miles of sandy beaches and sand dunes.

Could Florida Become a Desert?

As desertification becomes more of a threat and the effects of climate change continue to worsen, the state’s water managers are scrambling to prevent the Sunshine State from turning into a desert.

Among the most vulnerable areas is Tampa Bay, located on the line of the Sonoran Desert, which has a history of water shortages. In the past, the area relied solely on groundwater for their water supply and experienced a drought in the 1990s due to population growth and urban development. But now, Tampa Bay Water is using seasonal forecasts to reduce vulnerability during dry years and maximize benefit during wet years.

Tampa Bay Water, the region’s water provider, has since diversified their water supply to include surface and desalinated seawater. However, with a changing climate, the threat of desertification in Florida remains. Summer is the rainy season in Tampa, with nearly 28 inches of rain falling from June through September. But Florida State climate modeler Vasu Misra’s research suggests that a warming climate may affect the afternoon thunderstorms that the Tampa Bay region is so reliant on for water.

The research indicates that the atmosphere will warm considerably, which will make it less conducive for the afternoon thunderstorms. Misra’s work also suggests that rain will fall less frequently but when it does, it will be in stronger bursts. This presents a problem for Tampa Bay Water as they may have to increase storage and be more adaptive and responsive to changes in rainfall patterns.

By sharing her lessons learned, Alison Adams hopes that more Florida water utilities will see how climate information can be used for risk assessment and planning, not just for surface water flows, but also for issues that affect other Florida water planners, including sea level rise and salt water intrusion into aquifers.

50 years from now, if the current trajectory of climate change and desertification continues, Florida could be vastly different from what it is today. The state may experience more frequent and intense droughts, leading to water shortages and increased competition for resources. The once lush and green landscape of Florida may become more arid and barren, with wetlands and lakes disappearing due to over-extraction of groundwater.

Coastal areas, which are vital to the state’s economy, could be heavily impacted by sea-level rise, resulting in flooding and erosion. The state’s population may also be affected, with many people moving away from these areas. The tourism industry, which is a major contributor to Florida’s economy, may also be affected by the changes in the environment, as beaches and coastal regions become less attractive to visitors.

Read also: Deserts of the United States logo icon

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