FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The license plates proclaim Florida the Sunshine State, but the National Weather Service says five other states catch more rays.
Arizona is No. 1, followed by California, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas, according to the weather service, which monitors about 265 weather stations nationwide.
“We ought to call ourselves the Partly Cloudy State instead of the Sunshine State,” Miami-based meteorologist Jim Lushine said. “But it probably wouldn’t get the Chamber of Commerce’s vote.”
Florida has more days where between 20 to 70 percent of the sun is blocked by clouds than anywhere else in the continental United States, weather officials said. Weather experts said warm water surrounding the state, high humidity and a long rainy season make for cloudy skies.
Apalachicola, the sunniest spot in Florida, sees an average of 128 clear sunny days per year and Miami has 74. For comparison, Yuma, Ariz., has 242.
The Miami-Fort Lauderdale area averages 175 partly cloudy days per year and West Palm Beach, 159. Outside of Florida, the closest partly cloudy skies contender is Denver, with an average of 130.
But Florida still gets its fare share of sun. Key West sees sun an average 76 percent of its available daylight hours – the most in the state – followed by Miami with 70 percent.
Those cities still trail Yuma, which sees 90 percent sun; Redding, Calif., 88 percent; and Reno, Nev., 85 percent.
No need to get glum though – South Florida is consistently warmer than anywhere else in the continental United States, weather officials said.
Over the course of a year, Key West has a mean temperature of 78.1 degrees, Miami, 76.7 and West Palm Beach, 75.3.
Outside of Florida, the only places that come close are Yuma, with 75.3 degrees, and Brownsville, Texas, 73.3, the weather service said. Most of the nation hovers between the 50s and 60s.
Florida’s sunshine is also strong, because the state is in the subtropics. Rays arrive at a steep angle, bringing a high degree of ultraviolet radiation.
“It may not be sunny all the time in Florida,” Lushine said. “But what sun we do get is very intense.”
That could be a factor in Florida’s high rate of skin cancer. It ranks in the top five nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Intense sunlight can also make people look older than their age, said Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, a dermatologist.
“It’s a general belief that about 80 percent of our aging process is due to sun exposure and 20 percent is due to genetic factors,” she said. “I can tell where my patients grew up, Michigan or Miami, just by looking at their skin.”
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