The name implies what it should be, right?
The front (or beginning) of a mass of cold air moving through an area.
A cold front is generally shown on a weather map on TV as a curvy blue line with little blue triangles on it. This weather symbol indicates where areas of cold air are located. The line shows the leading edge of the cold air and the blue triangles point in the direction the cold air is moving.
In the wintertime, cold fronts get enough push from the north to make it all the way through Florida. It’s why we have cool (even cold, freezing) days and lower humidity in the winter. Cold air is drier than warm air. In the summer time, cold fronts rarely slide through the state. It’s Central Florida’s biggest indication that our dry season has ended and our wet season (daily afternoon sea breeze storms) has begun. Once cold fronts stop coming south, the tropical air surrounding our state (remember we’re surrounded by water on both sides), dominates from the end of May (on average) to about mid-October.
It’s easier to tell when a cold front arrives in the winter because generally the temperature drop is noticeable. Sometimes, however, a cold front will pass through and the temperatures don’t change at all. That’s when the questions begin: “Why do you call this a cold front when it’s not getting cold?” “Shouldn’t this be a ‘cool’ front?” “Why are you teasing us?” “What happened to the cold air you promised us?”
I realize using the term “cold front” seems deceiving in Florida when it doesn’t always bring cold air. But “cold front” is the correct meteorological term for the weather event of cooler, drier air replacing warmer, wetter air. That’s why you won’t hear me using “cool front.” It might be a better description, but it’s not the proper designation used by meteorologists.
By the way, there are other changes that occur with the passing of a cold front. It’s not just the arrival of colder air. The winds switch direction; the pressure changes; often clouds and rain accompany the front; and the humidity drops behind the front (if only briefly).