The Weather and Climate in The United StatesAs one of the largest countries in the world by total area, the United States has many different climatic zones. The weather that an individual will experience when visiting America will depend largely on the state or region to which they plan to travel, as well as the specific time of year in which the visit takes place. To help you become more familiar with the many different climates of the United States, below we have outlined the typical weather patterns for the various regions of the country. These areas include the Northeast, Midwest, South, Southwest, and Northwest regions of the U.S., as well as the states of Hawaii and Alaska, both of which have their own unique climate patterns.
United States Climate: NortheastThe Northeastern portion of the United States includes the Mid-Atlantic States and the region known as New England. The states that make up this region are many in number, including New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington D.C., Massachusetts, Delaware, Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island, just to name a few.
The weather in the Northeast United States is characterized by warm and fairly moderate temperatures in the summer, although the southern end of the region can also experience a few very hot and humid days during this season. Winter temperatures range from cool to very frigid, and naturally, the farther north you travel into New England, the colder the temperatures will generally dip. According to statistical data, the average temperature in the Northeast in the month of July is 69 degrees F (includes nighttime temperatures), while the average temperature in winter is 21 degrees F. The spring and autumn months are especially pleasant in this region, particularly in the wooded areas of Maine and Vermont, toward the northeastern tip of the U.S.
Collectively, the states of the northeast are moderately rainy, and in the winter the region experiences heavy snow and freezing rain. The annual precipitation average, which includes both rain and snowfall, is approximately 46 inches a year. Precipitation usually comes in the form of large storm systems than can be comprised of rain, snow, and/or ice. Nor’easters, which are common in this region, can be defined as powerful storm systems, storms that generally occur when a storm system forms in the Gulf of Mexico and moves northward up the East Coast. Nor’easters can dump heavy rain, snow, sleet, or a combination of the three, with the exact makeup of the precipitation hinging on how the temperature ranges throughout the region.
If you are not accustomed to the northeast region of the United States, the humidity of the summer months can often seem unbearable. In fact, there is typically so much moisture in the air during this season that evening thunderstorms are very common occurrences.
The New England region of the northeast is renowned for its spectacular fall days, with cool and crisp temperatures and a splendid array of colors in the beautiful foliage. The spring months, as Mother Nature awakens after a long, cold winter, are equally beautiful, with new flowers representing every color on the rainbow.
United States Climate: MidwestThe climate of the Midwest region of the United States, which includes states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and North and South Dakota, can vary greatly depending on the state and season. Without any oceans nearby to moderate the changing temperatures, the summer months in the region can often be very hot, while the winters can be brutally frigid.
The temperatures in the Midwestern United States can swing 100 degrees or more between any given summer and winter. It is not uncommon in this region to see winter temperatures fall below 0 degrees F, especially at night, but most of the time the temperatures are bearable, with high temperatures ranging anywhere from 35-50 degrees. The fall and spring temperatures in the Midwest are very moderate—50-75 degrees—making these months the best time to visit. Like the southern end of the Northeast region, summer temperatures in the Midwest tend to be hot and very humid, averaging between 85 and 95 degrees with 50 percent (or more) humidity. A few days each year in the summer will even see temperatures rise above the century mark, sending the residents clamoring for an air-conditioned respite.
Rain is a very common occurrence in the Midwestern States, particularly in the spring, late summer and early fall. Individuals visiting during these seasons would be wise to pack an umbrella, as it is not uncommon to see rainfall—at times heavy—up to 10 days per month. The Midwest also means snow in the winter, although the amount one can expect depends on the state. Minnesota, for example, the northernmost state in the region with an average snowfall of 36 inches per year, receives much more snow each winter than the southern Midwest states, such as Kansas, and Missouri.
Tornados are a frightening and persistent threat to the residents of the Midwest. The states that comprise this region are smack-dab in the middle of Tornado Alley, a swath of land known for its high incidences of tornados. States such as Kansas and Iowa, for instance, may experience dozens of tornados each year, with the majority occurring in the months of May and June. The majority of these are minor and cause little to no damage, but when a large tornado touches down in a heavily inhabited city or town the result can be devastating.
Unfortunately, droughts are also fairly common in the Midwest region, and can spell doom for some of America’s largest and most productive farms. Conversely, during years in which the region experiences abnormally high levels of precipitation, flooding can occur in the region’s low-lying areas, causing millions of dollars in damage.
United States Climate: The SouthWhen speaking of America’s south there are essentially two separate regions: the South Central and Southeastern United States. The South Central region includes the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Oklahoma. Here the winter temperatures tend to be fairly mild, especially in the southernmost states near the Gulf of Mexico. Winter temperatures in the region average in the 50s, in all states except Oklahoma, the northernmost state in this particular area of the country, with highs in the 40s. Oklahoma is also the state that receives the most snowfall each year, while Louisiana and Mississippi, because of their proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, receive the most annual rainfall. January tends to be the wettest month of the year in the South Central region, averaging approximately 5 inches each year in that month alone.
Summers in the South Central United States are hot and exceedingly humid, with temperatures ranging from 85-95 degrees. Triple-digit heat is also a painful reality in this region, especially in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The heat is made even worse by the sticky and smothering humidity, and most states experience thunderstorms and heavy rainfall in the afternoon throughout the summer season. Like many Midwestern States, parts of Texas and Oklahoma also lie within Tornado alley, which poses the threat of tornados, particularly in May and June.
The Southeastern region of the United States is made up of six states: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Unlike the Northeast, the Southeast experiences very mild winters, with temperatures averaging in the 50s and 60s during the day. Instead of the region receiving heavy snowfall during the winter, rain is the most common form of precipitation. Some of the states, however, do experience ice storms and light snow in their higher mountain elevations.
Like the South Central region of America, the Southeast experiences very hot and humid summers, with temperatures averaging in the 90s for much of that season. Thunderstorms are also quite common during the afternoon.
Spring appears a bit earlier here than in the Northeast and autumn lasts just a little bit longer. Instead of having to wait until April to celebrate the coming of spring, the flowers begin blooming in March, and the weather continues to heat up until about mid-October, when the cooler temperatures begin to prevail.
United States Climate: SouthwestThe Southwest region of the United States is made up of California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and parts of Colorado and Utah, and its climate varies widely from one state to another and from one season to the next. Because this is a region comprised of mountains, deserts and coastal areas, the temperatures and weather patterns often make it a land of extremes. Generally speaking, the desert regions of the Southwest, found in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and even parts of California, remain relatively warm throughout the year, with winter temperatures averaging between 70 and 80 degrees. The desert summers are extremely hot, particularly in Arizona where the majority of mid-summer days can reach temperatures of 100 degrees or more. Fortunately, this heat is seldom accompanied by the same humidity found in other southern states.
The opposite extreme—cold—is typically the winter norm in the Southwest’s most northern states, including Colorado and Utah. Higher elevations can see temperatures that consistently dip below the freezing mark and seldom soar above 45 degrees. That’s a far cry from a place like Phoenix, Arizona, where winter temperatures range between 75 and 85 degrees. Summers in the southwest mountains are very moderate, dry and extremely pleasant, with temperatures averaging in the low to mid 70s.
The coastal regions of the southwest, along California’s Pacific coast, experience temperatures that only vary slightly from one season to the next. During the summer months, the Pacific Ocean does a great job in cooling the air, producing moderate temperatures that average in the low to mid 70s. It is this same force, plus the coastal fog, that helps to keep the winter temperatures from plunging too low—temperatures that average between 55 and 65 degrees.
Save for the coastal and mountainous areas of the Southwest, the region receives very little rainfall, especially in the summer months. What does fall during the summer season tends to occur mostly in the mountains, usually in the form of afternoon and early evening thunder showers.
Fall and spring are unquestionably the most pleasant seasons in the American Southwest, with mild temperatures ranging from 60-75 degrees depending on the state or region. Unlike the East and the Midwest, though, the foliage and spring flowering that exists in other states is not as evident in the Southwest, mostly because much of the flowering occurs on a year-round basis.
United States Climate: NorthwestThe Northwest consists of a number of beautiful states, including, but not limited to, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and parts of Utah and Colorado. This is perhaps the wettest part of the United States, especially along the Pacific coast in Oregon and Washington. Rain tends to fall during every season along the coast, however, the winter and spring months are by far the most precipitous.
The temperatures in the Northwest can vary greatly depending on the season. The summer months are pleasant and warm, but seldom hot, making the region the perfect escape for outdoor enthusiasts. Winters along the Pacific coast, in Oregon and Washington, are generally very cool and wet, with temperatures ranging in the 30s and 40s. The higher elevations of the Northwest region, in states such as Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, experience temperatures that often drop well below the freezing mark, and sometimes dip below O degrees overnight. These regions also receive ample snowfall during the winter months every year, and are renowned for their excellent skiing.
Perhaps nothing characterizes the Northwest better than the Rocky Mountain Range, where the unpredictable weather can change rapidly. As with other highland climates, the climate in this region changes with increasing altitude, becoming colder and generally wetter the higher one goes. In the winter, the region is known for its deep snow, high winds and sudden blizzards, and the nighttime temperatures can sometimes reach -30 degrees or below. Springtime is very unpredictable—sometimes warm, sometimes cold, sometimes wet, sometimes dry—and the summers are characterized by sunny, beautiful mornings, afternoon thunderstorms and clear cool nights. Summer rain storms can often cause flash flooding in the Rockies’ valley regions.
United States Climate: HawaiiHawaii, an American island state in the Pacific Ocean, has a climate that is unlike any seen on the U.S. mainland. The weather in Hawaii is very steady and reliable, with only negligible changes in temperature throughout the year. Generally speaking, there are really only 2 seasons in Hawaii: summer (called Kau in Hawaiian), running from May to October, and winter (Hooilo in Hawaiian), running from November to April. The average daytime temperature during the summer months is 85 degrees F, while the average daytime temperature during the winter is 78º. The nighttime temperature, in both summer and winter, is approximately 10 degrees cooler than the daytime temperature.
Throughout the majority of the year, the weather patterns in Hawaii are affected mostly by high-pressure zones in the north Pacific—zones that pump cool, moist trade winds down onto the island's northeastern slopes. These winds are responsible for the island’s rainfall, which happens mostly in the mountains and valleys on the windward (northeastern) side of the islands. It is this weather phenomenon that creates Hawaii’s rich, green, tropical environment. Most of Hawaii’s precipitation occurs during the winter, from November to March, but most of the time these rains are localized to the island’s mountains and valleys, meaning they won’t necessarily put a damper on your vacation plans on the coast.
United States Climate: AlaskaAlaska is a vast and majestic land, and although it is certainly home to lots of ice and snow during the winter, you may be surprised to learn that the summers tend to warm up quite nicely in this beautiful state.
During the late fall, winter and early spring, Alaska can only be characterized as cold, with temperatures that can plunge well below the freezing mark, even during the daytime. Temperatures are much colder in the inland and mountainous regions than they are along the coast, as the Pacific Ocean tends to moderate the icy temperatures. Snowfall, often heavy, is a regular occurrence during the Alaskan winter, a time when daylight is limited to only a few hours a day.
As the seasons change from late spring into early summer, the temperatures gradually start to rise, as do the number of fun outdoor activities enjoyed by the state’s residents. In Anchorage, Alaska, for example, a city along the Pacific coast with a temperate maritime climate, summer temperatures can reach into the high 70s. Even better is the lack of humidity, which contributes considerably to Anchorage's comfortable summer climate. Temperatures in the interior portion of the state are often higher than in the coastal areas. One popular inland city, Fairbanks, averages close to 72 degrees during the summer months. However, because temperatures can vary greatly in Alaska, sometimes without much warning, clothing selection is extremely important. One word of advice if you plan to visit this oasis: layers. Wherever you happen to be, whether on a hike or just walking around town, always dress in layers.