The state of Florida is the southernmost state on the continental United States, boasting both peninsula and panhandle landforms. Due to its location as the closest U.S. state to the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, Florida is renowned for its exceptionally sunny, but humid, tropical climate. Known by other state nicknames such as "Alligator State," "Orange State" and "Everglade State," the nickname "Sunshine State" was officially adopted by the Florida Legislature in 1970. The nickname appeals to "snowbird" tourists who, especially during cold winters in the northern climates, visit Florida for its spectacular weather and warm beaches. In 2011, tourism is the largest industry in the state and one of the top domestic and international destinations in the world.
Spanish explorer Ponce DeLeon was the first European to explore Florida. He named it Pascua de Florida or "Feast of Flowers" for the succulent flora and abundant flowers. Florida has a humid subtropical to full tropical climate, with abundantly sunny days and a mean daily temperature of 71°F (22°C). Despite its wide variety of temperatures of near 100°F (38°C) to sub-zero temperatures throughout the year, Florida is the warmest state in the United States, on average.
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According to weather data, some areas of the "Sunshine State" receive sun for nearly three-fourths of the year. Key West, the string of tropical islands at the southernmost tip of Florida, receives an average of 76 percent partly sunny skies over the year. Southern cities also partake in sunny days, with Apalachicola, Jacksonville, Miami and West Palm Beach receiving 60 percent or more. Even so, Florida is not the sunniest state, as many states in the western U.S. produce even more sunshine. Florida also ranks as one of the wettest states in the U.S., surpassed only by Louisiana.
Summers in Florida are hot and humid and sometimes plagued with torrential rainstorms, thunderstorms and violent hurricanes from the turbulent Atlantic Ocean. Winters are milder and more seasonable, and are the preferred season for tourists and northern snowbirds. The nickname "Sunshine State" entices winter-weary visitors to Florida, more so than "Alligator State" or swampy "Everglade State" ever could. It is in Florida's best interest to be considered the "Sunshine State" since so much of its economy relies on tourists expecting fair southern weather during dreary northern winters.