Why isn’t Arizona the warmest state in the nation?

Dear Tom,
In a recent column you stated that Florida is the warmest state in the nation. Arizona continuously has triple-digit temperatures in the summer and they didn’t even make the list. Why?

Thanks,
Philip Schwimmer

Dear Philip,
The answer is elevation, or in Florida’s case, the lack of it. While Arizona and California both claim intense summer heat in the deserts, both states also have mountainous terrain where summer temperatures are much lower and winter readings fall well below zero. In contrast, most of Florida lies near sea-level with the state’s panhandle high point, Britton Hill, just 345 feet above sea level. So even though Florida temperatures almost never reach triple digits, there are only brief cold air intrusions in winter, nothing like the persistent cold weather found in the Arizona and California mountains where the mercury has dropped as low as minus 40.