The climate of California (United
States of America)
The state of California is the second largest state of the United
States of America. This is also distinctly noticeable in terms of
weather and climate. California has a surface area of 411,049 square
kilometers. Several different climate types can be distinguished in
California. In California large differences in weather may occur at
the same time. During the summer a difference of 30 degrees between
the hottest and the coldest area is not uncommon. While temperatures
in Crescent City in the north may only rise to 20 degrees Celsius
(68.0 degrees Fahrenheit) it may be extremely hot in Death Valley in
the south. Temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit)
in the shade are not uncommon here.
The largest part of California has a Mediterranean
climate. The coastal regions mainly have a moderate Mediterranean
climate (type Csb according to the Köppen Geiger climate
classification). The regions somewhat further into the interior as
well as the southern coastal regions have a warm Mediterranean climate
(type Csa). In the northwestern part of California there is a small
zone (Shasta Cascade) with a moderate continental climate (type Dsb).
This is because the influence of the sea behind the westerly mountain
ridges of the Sierra Nevada rapidly decreases and this region is
located too far to the north to have a desert climate. The eastern
part, especially the regions southeast of Lake Tahoe as well as the
southeastern part of California either have a warm desert climate
(type Bwh) or a cold desert climate (Bwk). This applies to the
southern part of the Sierra Nevada, the Mojave desert and Imperial
Climate information of places in California
The climate information given on this page is only brief. Specific
information on weather and climate can be found on the pages per
region or city. The following climate information is available for
Large differences in precipitation figures can be recorded in
California. The southeastern part of California consists of desert
areas and mountains and is very dry. These regions can only record a
few inches of annual precipitation. This region is among the driest in
the United States of America. Central Valley is dry as well because it
is situated on the leeward side of the Coast Ranges mountain range.
Precipitation figures rapidly increase north of Stockton. The Sierra
Nevada is fairly wet, especially the western strip where rain clouds
that come from the sea remain stationary. The northwestern part of
California is the wettest. Several regions can record more than 3,000
millimeters of annual precipitation.
California is a sunny destination with the exception of the
coastal regions in the northwest. The capital Sacramento is the
sunniest, here the sun shines 73% of the time. The coastal cities of
Los Angeles (72%) and
San Francisco are also sunny. This is why LA has
the image of a very sunny city where the rich and famous enjoy the
weather in their convertibles. A white Christmas in LA is uncommon,
only in the mountains snow may fall during Christmas.
While you can enjoy the winter sun along the southwest coast of
California large amounts of snow may fall in the mountains in the
northwest. The largest amount of snowfall in one month was recorded in
California. In January 1911 Alpine County could record 991 centimeters
(32.5 feet) of snow. In the higher regions in the Sierra Nevada snow
falls on a regular basis during the winter. The highest regions can
record up to 750-1000 centimeters (24.6-32.8 feet) of snowfall per
year. Snow mainly falls from November till March. In the northwestern
part of California snowfall and subzero temperatures are not uncommon
either. However, to a much lesser degree than in the mountains.
Several hundreds of kilometers south of San Diego there is a risk
of hurricanes, tropical storms and tropical depressions during
hurricane season. These phenomena may travel somewhat further to the
north. However, California has no risk of getting hit by a tropical
storm. There is a risk of another phenomenon, which is not related to
the climate: earthquakes. California is situated on an active fault.
Earthquakes can be recorded on a regular basis here. Scientists think
Los Angeles will get hit by a heavy earthquake sometime in the future.
This heavy earthquake will cause so much damage that it may lead to
the bankruptcy of the United States.
The cold Gulf Stream which is known as the California Current
supplies relatively cool sea water. Because of this temperatures are
tempered during the summer. A very characteristic phenomenon for
California is mist caused by the relatively cold sea water. San
Francisco is often shrouded in mist. This mist is caused by
convection; rising warm air in the east causes colder and wetter air
to be drawn in from sea. Differences in temperatures between the air
and the earth cause this mist. This phenomenon occurs along the entire
coastline with the exception of the regions south of
During the summer this mist causes temperatures to be relatively low.
Because of the moist air it may feel even colder.
The southeastern part of California is known for its extremely
high temperatures. During the summer Death Valley is among the hottest
places on earth. This is also why car manufacturers test their
vehicles in these extreme conditions. This is also the reason why this
region was named Death Valley. Without water the heat is unbearable.
Daytime temperatures rising well above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees
Fahrenheit) in the shade cause things to be very unpleasant.
A striking fact is that the difference between the highest and the
lowest temperature on record is exactly 100 degrees Celsius. The
highest temperature on record was recorded on 10 July 1913 in
Valley: 57 degrees Celsius (135 degrees Fahrenheit). The coldest
temperature on record was recorded in Boca which is located in the
vicinity of the border with the state of Nevada on 20 January 1937:
-43 degrees Celsius (-45 degrees Fahrenheit).
Throughout California several climate figures and temperatures can be
recorded. The figures below are for Los Angeles and its surroundings
and cannot be seen as an average for this state. For climate figures
for other places and regions in California please, visit the
individual climate pages.
More climate information
Climate tables are useful but they don’t give an overall picture of
the climate and possible weather conditions during a particular period
of time. How high the chances are of hot or cold weather or hurricanes
can often not be found in these tables. This is why we offer extra
climate information per month. The figures below apply to the
southwestern part of California, between San Francisco and San Diego.
In other regions in California small to large deviations may occur in
the field of chances of warm weather, chances of long lasting
precipitation and guaranteed sunshine. For climate figures on specific
regions and places please, visit the relevant individual climate pages
The information at this site was carefully composed from climate data collected by meteorological services, meteorological offices, climate experts and other sources. “More climate info” is based on statistics, climate data and personal experience. No rights can be derived from this site. Weather has no memory and gives no guaranties. Nothing is as changeable and unpredictable as the weather. The authors of this site feel in no way responsible for any damages caused by misinterpretation or other circumstances that may influence your holiday or trip to a certain destination. We provide information, it’s up to the reader to use it to it’s benefit.