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Climate and Weather


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Climate and Weather

California Winter California Winter Photo: Brocken Inaglory CC4.0 International no changes made

California's climate varies greatly, from desert to sub-arctic, depending on latitude, elevation changes, and proximity to the coast. The coastal regions, the Sierra Nevada promontory and the Central Valley have a Mediterranean climate, with warm, dry summers and mild winters, both in temperature and in terms of precipitation.

The influence of the ocean moderates the climate on the coast, making the winters a bit warmer and the summers a lot cooler. Then it could just be that it is 38°C inland and the thermometer on the coast only shows 21°C.

Further inland the climate becomes somewhat more continental and in some areas even a semi-arid or steppe climate with cold winters and hot summers. Here the weather conditions are more like those of the desert regions of Arizona and Northern Mexico.

The mean temperature differences, not far apart, can be quite significant, for example, on the coast it gets on average 4°C warmer than in the low-lying inland, in summer it is on average 14°C warmer in the interior than on the coast. The average daily temperature in San Francisco in July and August is between 17 and 20°C, in Walnut Creek, 20 miles inland, the average is 32°C. Another example is the coastal town of Santa Monica, where the average daytime temperature in August is 24°C, in Burbank, just 10 miles inland, it's 35°C, a temperature increase of two degrees Celsius per mile!

During the winter months, the Coachella Valley regularly has the highest temperatures west of the Rocky Mountains; East Los Angeles, the Gateway Cities and parts of the San Gabriel Valley have the highest winter temperatures in the western United States (22°C), Santa Monica has the lowest winter temperatures (11°C). Palm Springs, a town in the Coachella Valley, has highest / lowest / mean temperatures of 24°C / 10 C / 17°C from November to April.

In the extreme southwest, around San Diego, it has a subtropical semi-arid or steppe climate with very dry winters. The southeastern regions have a hot arid climate similar to the climate of the Sahara. In the north of the Mojave Desert is Death Valley, nestled in the rain shadow of four mountain ranges, where the world's highest temperatures are around 50°C, with the highest temperature being 56.7°C in the shadow on July 10, 1913; the lowest temperature ever recorded, -9°C, was also recorded in that year. Since 2005, temperatures of 54°C or higher have been regularly recorded. The average daily temperature in July is 38.8°C.

Climate types CaliforniaClimate types CaliforniaPhoto: Adam Peterson CC BY-SA 4.0 no changes made

Major westerly winds from the Pacific bring rainfall ashore, more in the north of the state than in the south. The various mountain ranges are also important for the amount of precipitation: moist air from the west cools down and is discharged onto the western flanks of the mountain range.

Northwest California has rainfall levels of 380-1300 mm per year; the Coast Redwood forest receives more than 2500mm per year. The Central Valley has varied precipitation levels: the northern parts receive substantially more rainfall than the southern parts and the Central Valley is regularly covered with a thick layer of fog (local name = tule fog), especially from November to March.

The high mountain ranges, the Sierra Nevada, the Cascade Range and the Klamath Mountains, have a mountain climate with snow in the winters and moderate summers. Ski resorts like Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Lakes and Mount Shasta receive at least three meters of snow in the winter season, often more.

Mount Shasta, California covered in snowMount Shasta, California covered in snowPhoto: Ewen Denney, CC BY-SA 3.0 no changes made

The eastern flanks of the mountain ranges are in the much drier rain shadow, with desert areas east of the Sierra Nevada and the Transverse Ranges and Peninsular Ranges in southern California. The low-lying desert areas east of the southern mountain ranges belong to the Sonoran Desert with hardly any winter frosts. The higher desert areas such as the Mojave Desert, Owens Valley and the Modoc Plateau have more of a continental climate with cold winter nights. During the summer months, from July to the beginning of September, this region is hit by the Mexican Monsoon, which causes heavy thunderstorms and rain showers coming from the Pacific, Gulf of California and / or the Gulf of Mexico. California is virtually unaffected by tropical cyclones, although in 2017 the state was hit by severe storms and very high rainfall in a short period of time.

climate table

Death Valley
max / min19°C / 4°C32°C / 17°C48°C / 30°C33°C / 16°C
rainfall10 mm3 mm0 mm3 mm
max / min13°C / 5°C14°C / 7°C17°C / 12°C16°C / 9°C
rainfall150 mm74 mm5 mm61 mm
Lake Tahoe
max / min5°C / -9°C12°C / -3°C26°C / 4°C17°C / -3°C
rainfall175 mm64 mm13 mm56 mm
Los Angeles
max / min20°C / 9°C23°C / 12°C29°C / 18°C26°C / 16°C
rainfall84 mm20 mm0 mm10 mm
San Diego
max / min19°C / 10°C21°C / 13°C24°C / 19°C23°C / 16°C
rainfall58 mm20 mm0 mm10 mm
San Francisco
max / min13°C / 6°C17°C / 9°C22°C / 13°C21°C / 11°C
rainfall114 mm31 mm0 mm25 mm


BBC - Country Profiles

Benson, Sara / California
Lonely Planet

Benson, Sara / Discover California
Lonely Planet

Uitgeverij Cambium B.V.

CIA - World Factbook

Elmar Landeninformatie

Hansen, Preben / 100% Californië & West-USA

Heetvelt, Angela / Zuidwestelijke staten van Amerika

Mangin, Daniel / Californië : de reisgids voor een actieve & culturele vakantie
Wat & Hoe

Ominalowska, Malgorzata / Californië
Uitgeverij Unieboek/Het Spectrum

The Rough Guide to California
Rough Guides Ltd.

Schmidt-Brümmer, Horst / Lannoo's autoboek Californië en Zuidwest-USA : on the road

Vlahides, John A. / Northern California
Lonely Planet


Uitgeverij Terra Lannoo

Last updated June 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info