California climate guide

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Below are average maximum temperatures at popular destinations in California for next month - October. Select a destination to see the climate guide for all months of the year.

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The climate guide for California shows long term monthly weather averages processed from data supplied by CRU (University of East Anglia), the Met Office & the Netherlands Meteorological Institute. Find out more about our data sources.

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California climate overview

California on the Pacific West Coast is the third largest state in the United States after Alaska and Texas. It is also the most highly populated with over 37 million inhabitants, 75% of whom live either in Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Diego.

A unique geographical feature of California is its 650 kilometre (400 mile) long Central Valley, an enormous fertile flat expanse completely surrounded by mountains, that was once a vast inland sea. It is one of the most productive agricultural regions of the world, where an enormous variety of fruit and vegetables are grown.

The state's climate is dominated by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east. The Pacific Ocean helps to moderate temperatures near the coast in all months, while the Sierra Nevada Mountains protect the state from extremes of weather on the Great Basin plateau to the east.

The result is very pleasant weather in most places with warm, generally dry and sunny conditions in all months of the year. The exceptions are inland to the east of the mountains where it can be extremely hot in summer and cold in winter, and to the north of San Francisco where winters can be rather wet and foggy in coastal areas.

Apart from the odd thunderstorm summers across the whole of California are virtually free of rainfall. In the extreme south-east rainfall is scarce throughout the year producing desert and desert-like conditions in areas such as Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Park.

In the north rain arrives from October onwards when low-pressure systems migrate southwards from the north Pacific. Rainfall is generally most persistent in December and January in the north, and from mid-January to mid- March in the south. With numerous peaks in the Sierra Nevada Mountains rising to well over 3,000 metres (10,000 ft) much of this falls as snow on high ground.

Although most of the state has less sunshine in the winter, the least sunny time along the coast from Monterey south through Los Angeles to San Diego is actually in May and June when the relatively cold waters of the Pacific generate morning cloud and sea fog. This type of weather is known as the 'June Gloom' when, at coastal places such as Santa Monica, the sun may not break through for days on end.

Earthquakes are common in California especially in western regions, which includes the highly populated conurbations of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

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