Both Arizona and Florida are known for extreme heat, although for different reasons. Out of these two, which state is hotter year round? Which state has the worst summer heat? And which one has cooler temperatures in the winter? Is Arizona hotter than Florida or is it the other way around?
I’m going to compare these two states in the summer and in the winter. This will help you better understand which state is better for you depending on your own climate preferences.
Arizona vs Florida Weather Year Round
Both Arizona and Florida are some of the hottest states in the United States. But if we look at the states as a whole, Florida is much hotter than Arizona.
Arizona has much more varied geography with various elevations and climate zones. This includes some very cold cities. For example, despite being mostly a desert, Arizona is home to Flagstaff, one of the snowiest cities in the United States.
The average temperature in Yuma, the hottest city of Arizona, is 75.95 °F. Meanwhile, the average temperature for Flagstaff, the coldest city of Arizona, is just 46.85 °F. The difference is 29.1 °F.
Florida is more uniform in its landscape and climate zones. It doesn’t have any higher elevations. The highest point is at barely 345 feet compared to 12,633 feet in Arizona. Florida has nowhere near the diversity of Arizona. While there are climate differences between cities in the south and the north, they aren’t that huge.
The average temperature in Key West, the hottest city of Florida, is 78.85 °F. Meanwhile, the average temperature for Milton, the coldest city of Florida, is 65.25 °F. The difference is only 13.6 °F compared to 29.1 °F in Arizona.
Arizona has some cities with four seasons. Even the warmest cities have cooler periods with colder temperatures at night, possibly even dropping near freezing. Meanwhile, Florida stays warm throughout the year, even in the coldest months.
Arizona is home to a variety of climates:
- hot desert (for which it’s most well-known),
- cold desert,
- hot semi-arid,
- cold semi-arid,
- hot-summer Mediterranean,
- warm-summer Mediterranean,
- humid subtropical,
- warm-summer continental,
- dry-summer subarctic,
In comparison, Florida has only four climates:
- humid subtropical (in most of the state),
- tropical rainforest,
- tropical monsoon,
- tropical savanna.
As you can see, climates in Arizona range from some of the coldest in the world (subarctic) to some of the hottest in the world (hot desert). In Florida, climates range from warm ones (humid subtropical) to some of the hottest in the world (tropical ones).
Comparing the entire area of one state to the entire area of the other state, Florida is hotter than Arizona if we judge by annual temperatures. Now let’s see how the states compare in the summer.
Arizona vs Florida in the Summer
Both Arizona and Florida experience extreme heat in the summer. There’s one key difference between them, though.
Arizona has dry heat while Florida has humid heat. Most people can tolerate dry heat much better than they can tolerate humid heat.
Arizona heat, due to low humidity, allows you to sweat and cool off this way. Florida heat, due to high humidity, is muggy and feels like a sauna. The body can’t effectively cool itself off because the air is too saturated with water (and so the heat remains in your body).
But at some point, extremely hot days in Arizona, lower humidity notwithstanding, will feel worse than hot and humid days in Florida.
Summers in Arizona, due to intense heat waves with temperatures climbing above 110 °F, pose a big risk of heat exhaustion. Air conditioning is not just a necessity but a matter of survival. It’s a constant battle to stay hydrated. Going outside at midday is not just not recommended: it’s a terrible idea. With global warming, Arizona may become unlivable for all but the most heat-tolerant people over the next few decades.
Florida, while still undoubtedly infamous for its muggy summer heat, is not as extreme due to the moderating impact of the ocean. Locals in Florida can still, for example, bike to work in the summer, while attempting the same feat in Arizona would causes a heat stroke.
Of course, if you absolutely hate humidity and how it seems to permeate everything, then Florida will still be worse for you despite Arizona having objectively more extreme weather (I’ll share one grim piece of proof later in the article).
Let’s now look into the specifics of the climate of Phoenix and Miami.
Average Heat Index in the Summer in Phoenix, Arizona and Miami, Florida
If we look at temperatures alone, Arizona would appear to be much, much hotter than Florida. Phoenix records average high temperatures of 104-107 °F in the hottest months. Meanwhile, Miami records temperatures of about 89-91 °F.
But the average temperature doesn’t tell the entire story. Using the Heat Index Calculator created by the National Weather Service, we can calculate how hot it really feels when we take into account humidity.
For example, Phoenix in June records on average 104 °F with 19% humidity. This results in a heat index of 102 °F. Meanwhile, Miami in June records on average 89 °F with 76% humidity. This results in a heat index of 107 °F. Despite lower temperatures, Miami has a higher heat index in June than Phoenix.
In July, Phoenix feels hotter than Miami because it has a heat index of 118 °F compared to 113 °F in Miami.
In August, Phoenix also feels hotter than Miami: 117 °F compared to 114 °F in Miami.
The situation reverses in September. Phoenix’s heat index is 106 °F compared to 108 °F in Miami, making Miami feel hotter in September.
Maximum Heat Index in Phoenix, Arizona and Miami, Florida
Due to consistently high humidity and high temperatures, apart from July and August, Miami has on average a higher heat index than Phoenix. But apart from the summer months between June and September, Miami doesn’t feel unbearably hot.
For an even fuller picture, we may also compare the mean maximums recorded in Phoenix and Miami. This way, we’ll see which city feels hotter on the days with the highest temperatures.
The hottest days in Phoenix reach 113 °F, 115 °F, and 113 °F respectively for June, July, and August. With average relative humidity of 19%, 32%, and 36% respectively, this translates into a heat index of 116 °F, 138 °F, and 138 °F.
The hottest days in Miami reach 94 °F, 95 °F, and 95 °F respectively for June, July, and August. With average relative humidity of 75%, 76%, and 75% respectively, this translates into a heat index of 124 °F, 129 °F, and 128 °F.
During the hottest days of the summer months, Miami feels hotter than Phoenix only in June. In other summer months, the extremely high temperatures of the desert city bring more extreme heat despite low humidity.
Let the stark numbers speak for themselves. In 2022 in Maricopa County in Arizona there were 425 heat-related deaths. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County reports on average 34 heat-related deaths annually. While Maricopa County has twice as many residents, it’s still six times worse from the perspective of heat-associated deaths.
Is the Sun More Intense in Arizona or Florida?
Arizona is located further north from the equator than Florida. Because of that, the sun is less intense in Arizona than in Florida, even though it may not feel so during the hottest hours of the day.
The southernmost cities in Arizona like Nogales or Sierra Vista are located over 31 degrees north of the equator. Meanwhile, the southernmost cities in Florida like Key West or Marathon are located about 25 degrees north of the equator.
The closer to the equator you are, the longer the sun is overhead year round. This results in stronger UV rays in Florida. While Arizona gets more sunshine, you’ll get a worse sunburn in Florida. You may still get easily sunburned in Miami in October while in Phoenix it’ll be unlikely.
Arizona vs Florida Climate For Everyday Living
From the perspective of heat index, both Arizona and Florida are extremely hot. But Arizona’s oven-like weather appears to be less comfortable than Florida’s sauna-like weather.
Let’s compare climate-related aspects of everyday living in Arizona and Florida.
Arizona Has Easier Access to Cooler Weather
From Phoenix, you can drive two hours to Flagstaff (or any other area at higher elevation) and go from temperatures over 100 °F to temperatures around 80 °F. This is, in fact, what many locals do to escape the most extreme summer heat.
In Florida, driving two hours from Miami in any direction won’t change anything. The entire state has very hot, humid weather, with inland areas even stuffier due to not getting any breeze. Even driving from Jacksonville to Savannah, Georgia (or in any other direction) won’t change the weather at all. You’ll still feel hot.
Arizona thus offers much easier access to cooler weather. But of course, it still requires driving, time, and money.
Warmest Cities in Florida Have Cooler Nights
Despite high humidity, Florida summers bring cooler temperatures at night. For example, Miami records average low temperatures of 76-78 °F and Fort Lauderdale 77-78 °F. Phoenix, in comparison, records average low temperatures of 79-85 °F.
Other hot cities in Arizona are also hotter than Miami at night. Lake Havasu City (the hottest city in the summer in Arizona) has average lows of 76-83 °F and Yuma 75-83 °F.
Tucson is cooler, with lows of 71-76 °F. But so are slightly cooler cities in Florida like Orlando, with lows of 72-74 °F, or Tallahassee, with 70-73 °F.
Granted, Arizona has some cities with much cooler temperatures than in Florida. But these are also cities which have four seasons and/or have cold winters. Flagstaff has cold summer nights with temperatures dropping to 43-51 °F while Prescott is more comfortable with lows of 54-61 °F.
Florida Makes It Easier to Cool Off
Florida makes it easier to stave off heat because of its beaches and cool springs. Arizona, being mostly an arid state, doesn’t offer much in terms of cooler, open bodies of water. Even Lake Havasu City doesn’t offer any respite because the lake reaches temperatures over 100 °F (compared to no more than 88 °F in the Atlantic Ocean in Miami).
Cities on the Atlantic coast in Florida also enjoy an ocean breeze which further helps reduce the stifling heat. The Grand Canyon State in comparison feels even hotter when the wind is blowing (it feels like a hairdryer).
Arizona also doesn’t offer much in terms of trees. Florida, on the other hand, offers plenty of shade. Arizona is sunnier than Florida, getting blue skies almost every single day during the summer. Meanwhile, Florida has some cloudy days and storms that may temporarily cool things off.
All in all, avoiding heat exhaustion is much easier in Florida. True, your body won’t cool off effectively through sweating. The summer heat in Florida is still very intense. But Florida offers breezes, ocean, springs, and potential days with cloudy weather.
I haven’t been to Florida or Arizona in the summer but I’ve been to extremely hot places without open bodies of water, breezes, and without much shade. They were infinitely worse than more humid places where I could start the day with a dip in the ocean and cool off under a dense canopy.
Arizona vs Florida in the Winter
Despite each state having its own kind of hellish weather in the summer, I’d argue that Arizona has worse weather in the hottest months. Some readers may not agree with it but that’s my conclusion (despite not being a huge fan of very humid climates).
I have no doubt, though, that Florida is much hotter in the winter months than Arizona. And all readers will agree with that, too. While Arizona’s winters are mild, the hottest spots in Florida don’t have winters at all. Let the numbers speak for themselves.
The hottest city in Florida in the winter, Key West, records average temperatures of 76-78 °F during the day and 66-68 °F at night. In comparison, the hottest city in Arizona in the winter, Yuma, records 68-73 °F during the day and only 47-50 °F at night.
Even the coldest city in Florida, Milton, still records 60-64 °F during the day and 36-40 °F at night. Meanwhile, the coldest city in Arizona, Flagstaff, records just 43-46 °F during the day and extremely cold 17-20 °F at night.
The Phoenix area attracts many snowbirds in the winter months. But in reality, Phoenix can be cold at night and in the morning, with average lows of 45-49 °F. These cold nighttime temperatures are similar to cities in northern Florida.
Because both Florida and Arizona still have mostly pleasant winter temperatures (except for the coldest cities in Arizona), we don’t need to cover the differences in more detail. You don’t have to worry about extreme heat in the winter.
If you’re a fan of warm weather, Florida’s winters will be excellent for you. They won’t be as stifling hot and humid as in the summer months.
If you want the sunniest winter weather and don’t mind cooler temperatures at night, Arizona will be a great fit for you. In fact, for many snowbirds, Arizona’s prime season is winter due to the mild temperatures.
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