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Climate and Weather Variations in California

Susan Helene Kramer


North, south, east, west, central - one thing you can be sure of in California is that there are climate and weather variations depending on where you are.

Along the coast in Santa Barbara - between San Diego and San Francisco you’ll enjoy a Mediterranean climate with moderate temperatures summer and winter. Most of your average of 18 inches of rain will fall in winter. This area relies on water for drinking and living to be piped in from Lake Cachuma in the Santa Ynez Valley, which is fed by the Santa Maria River and the coastal branch of the aqueduct that has other lines in central and southern California.

The hottest place in the western United States happens to be in California and this is Death Valley in the south-eastern corner of the state. Hot and arid, you’d think you were in the Sahara desert in Africa. Average high temperature in winter is 67 F. and in summer approaching 120 F.

Though the temperatures may be moderate right against the coast just a short distance inland in summer the heat starts accumulating.

In the photo which was taken in September I am looking out from the Sierra Mountains in Central California.

The temperature rises once you are beyond the effects of the cool Pacific Ocean waters and the breezes blowing inland from it. This moderation of harsh temperature extremes may help explain why the cost of real estate is higher on the coast than 20 miles or more inland.

Temperature and precipitation variations throughout California

Here are examples of four cities in different climate areas of California: Los Angeles on the coast in southern California, San Diego on the coast in the most south-western corner, San Francisco on the coast in northern California, and Sacramento which is north and about 90 miles inland from the coast.

Winter average high temperatures in Fahrenheit: Los Angeles - 67, Sacramento - 55, San Diego - 65, San Francisco - 57. Summer average highs: Los Angeles - 81, Sacramento - 91, San Diego - 74, San Francisco - 64. This shows that the inland city of Sacramento has the largest variation between winter and summer temperatures.

Yearly rainfall inches vary, also: Los Angeles - 14, Sacramento - 17, San Diego - 10, San Francisco - 21. The driest city in this lineup is San Diego in the south western corner of the state.(1)

I lived on the central California coast for 25 years and to me it was worth it to reside in milder temperatures without the need for air conditioning. On the downside, one does not have so much diversity in weather as in the inland northern, central and eastern areas of the state.

But at least California is a state where there is a diversity of climates and lifestyles. To some it may be more important to be able to go skiing nearby in winter than to live without air conditioning in summer.

Heading out for a road trip around the state at different times of year is one way to experience the diversity of climate and weather before putting down roots in an area.

(1) Rand McNally Road Atlas for winter and summer temperature and rainfall statistics.

Article and photo by Susan Helene Kramer; the Sierras

Copyright 2012-2015 Susan Helene Kramer
Santa Barbara, California USA
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Published by Creations in Consciousness
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page created May 4, 2013