Picking the best weather is very subjective, but fortunately it’s not as controversial as talking politics–or is it? Over the years we have made bold choices, picking the top ten best and worst weather cities of all time, cities with the worst winter weather and the worst summer weather accordingly, and last year we listed the “Top Ten Cities Where Weather Can Shut Down Everyday Life,” or in short–“weather city wimps.” Many people agreed, others argued with our choices, but all in all, our readers seem to love hearing why we picked cities that have either the best or worst weather conditions.
This year we decided to look at the good–or best–cities for winter and summer weather. Putting together a list like this is tough. There are many references that list average temperatures, humidity levels, dew points, etc. But the one thing that seems loud and clear to us is that the “best” weather is weather that doesn’t offer too many extremes–too much cold or snow, or too much heat in the summer.
We developed this list based on a number of meteorological factors, as well as the population size of the cities (25,000 people). We also decided that the best winter cities would have something for everyone: mainly the warm sunny days, but also a few places would have snow and cold conditions. Our first three choices are based on places that boast comfortable temperatures and plenty of sunshine; our last two, however, are places that can boast lots of cold and snowy weather.
Check them out and be sure to tell us what you think about our choices.
FIVE BEST WINTER LOCATIONS
#1 KEY WEST, FLORIDA. — What better way to enjoy “winter” weather than in a city that has no known record of frost, ice, sleet or snow? Thanks to its location, this city enjoys a mild, tropical maritime climate. The average afternoon winter temperature is in the 70s and at night only goes to a low of 60. The period of December through April receives abundant sunshine (70 percent in December, rising to 83 percent by April), and slightly less than 25 percent of Key West’s annual rainfall. This rainfall usually occurs, in advance of cold fronts, in a few heavy showers or occasionally five to eight light showers per month. If there is a cold front that blows in, it is modified by the warm Gulf waters it travels over. Winter temperatures are usually only 15 degrees lower than summer’s.
#2 SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA — The prevailing winds and weather are tempered by the Pacific Ocean, which results in winters that are pleasantly mild compared to other places on the same general latitude. Average afternoon temperatures in San Diego reach 65 degrees and drop at night into the upper 40s to around 50. Although about 85 percent of the annual rainfall (less than 10 inches) occurs from November through March, and January is the rainiest month with an average of just over 2 inches, the amount of sunshine is plentiful for a marine climate; the percent of possible daily sunshine averages 72 percent, with about 20 sunny to partly cloudy days per month. As for snow, it’s practically unknown at the Weather Service office, although on those few and far between occasions when it has happened (1949, 1967, 1985), only a trace has fallen.
#3 PHOENIX, ARIZONA — (number 3 on our 2002 “The 10 Best Weather Cities” list) is located in the Salt River Valley, at an elevation of about 1,100 feet. The valley is oval shaped and flat, except for scattered precipitous mountains rising a few hundred to 1,500 feet above the valley floor. Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun annually attract thousands of visitors looking to enjoy the area’s outstanding weather, attractions and activities. The winters are mild, with many days reaching to over 70 degrees, and typical high temperatures in the middle of the winter are in the 60s. Nighttime temperatures can be a bit chilly, normally dipping into the upper 30s to low 40s. From around Thanksgiving to early April, there are periodic rains from Pacific storms, but annually the city only receives a total of about 7 inches. Typical afternoon relative humidity in winter averages around 30 percent. Make sure you have your sunglasses handy, as the percentage of possible sunshine averages nearly 80 percent. Snow is very rare in Phoenix.
#4 WATERTOWN, NEW YORK — is situated approximately 20 miles south of the Thousand Islands and west of the beautiful Adirondack Mountains. Named after the many falls located on the Black River, Watertown is also the birthplace of the five-and-dime and the safety pin. This is one of our two choices for those who love a winter that has tons of snow. Here, winter can start very early (October) and often lasts late (into early May), with plenty of snow and extremely cold temperatures. Winter daytime temperatures average near 30 degrees, with nighttime lows in the low teens, but temperatures as low as minus 39 have been recorded. Snow averages almost 113 inches per season. If that’s not enough for you, all you need do is drive just 20 miles southeast to the town of Barnes Corners lies almost squarely in the middle of the lake-effect snowbelt region and receives, on average, 240 inches each winter! A skier’s nirvana!
#5 FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA — Just 150 miles north of Phoenix, Flagstaff is located at an elevation of 7,000 feet on a volcanic plateau at the base of the highest mountains in Arizona. The National Weather Service describes the winters here as “vigorous,” and the stormy months are January, February, and March. Winter low temperatures frequently reach zero or below, and temperatures as low as 25 below zero have been recorded. On average, about 97 inches of snow falls each winter, but sometimes snowfalls can be particularly heavy and exceed 100 inches in one month and over 200 inches for the winter season. But if you’re a winter weather lover, a warning: in some winters, an entire month might go by with little or no snow, and on rare occasions total winter snow accumulations of less than 12 inches have occurred. But overall, if you like winter snow and cold, Flagstaff usually has cornered the market.
FIVE BEST SUMMER LOCATIONS
#1 SPOKANE, WASHINGTON — The perfect summer weather has to be weather that isn’t too hot or too rainy to enjoy the great outdoors. Spokane’s summer weather meet these criteria, with mild, arid conditions during the summer months; ideal for full enjoyment of the many mountain and lake recreational areas in the immediate vicinity. In July and August, afternoon temperatures peak usually in the 82- to 84-degree range, cooling off to the mid-50s at night. Afternoon relative humidity is usually around 26 to 28 percent. The percent of possible sunshine approaches 80 percent, with July the sunniest month of the year (clear skies 41.8 percent of the time). July and August are also the driest months, with only one-half to three-quarters inches of rain falling each month. Spokane is located where the long gradual slope up from the Columbia River meets the sharp rise to the Rocky Mountains. The climate combines some of the characteristics of damp coastal weather with dry interior conditions of little rain falling each month.
#2 GREAT FALLS, MONTANA — This picturesque city is located along the main stem of the Missouri River, at its confluence with the Sun River. Summertime in Great Falls is quite pleasant, with cool nights, moderately warm and sunny days, and very little hot, humid weather. Most of the summer rainfall occurs in showers or thunderstorms. During July and August, the percentage of possible sunshine ranges from 75 to 80 percent, with July being the clearest, sunniest month of the year. During those two summer months, there are, on average, 24 sunny to partly cloudy days. In terms of precipitation, about one to one and a half inches of rain falls during each of these months. Afternoon high temperatures are in the 82- to 84-degree range, but can drop as much as 30 degrees during the overnight hours. Daytime relative humidity averages around 30 percent.
#3 BOISE, IDAHO — Nestled in the Treasure Valley against the majestic foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Boise is a thriving metropolitan area of over 600,000 people and also the most remote metropolitan area in the United States. Summers are known for their long days and clear skies. There’s usually a steady breeze and cool nights that keep this city’s summer weather comfortable and enjoyable. Sheltered by large shade trees and averaging 2,710 feet in elevation, the denser part of the city covers a gentle alluvial slope about 2 miles wide, stretching southwest from the Boise foothills to the Boise river. July and August are the hottest months, with afternoon temperatures averaging around 90 degrees, but with relative humidity in the 20- to 25-percent range. Extreme summer hot periods of 100 or higher rarely last longer than a few days. June and September afternoons average about 10 degrees cooler. Nighttime summer temperatures typically drop into the 50s. The percentage of possible summertime sunshine averages 80 to 85 percent. And from June through September, rainfall averages less than 1 inch each month.
#4 SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA — has a mild climate with abundant sunshine most of the year. In the summer, a nearly cloud-free sky prevails, which results in dry but warm to hot afternoons and mostly mild nights. Afternoon temperatures average 87 to 93 degrees, but cool off quickly after sunset to a very comfortable 55 to 58. July 1925 saw the temperature peak at 114 degrees, the all-time record. While the average afternoon temperatures might seem a bit extreme, the low humidity balances it out. The percentage of possible sunshine averages 95 percent through the entire summer, while the total amount of rain that falls usually amounts to less than a half inch.
#5 BURLINGTON, VERMONT — This eastern city offers delightful summer conditions. Burlington is found on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, at the widest part of the lake. The Lake exercises a tempering influence on the local temperature. Average afternoon temperatures in July and August usually peak near 80. There are few days each summer when temperatures rise to 90 or above; but nighttimes cool off to the mid to upper 50s. Measurable precipitation falls on average 12 days each summer month, with a total of around three and a half inches per month. But the rest of a month will have skies that are sunny to partly cloudy, with as much as 60 to 64 percent of possible sunshine. The clearest, sunniest summer month is August. Relative humidity and dew points are also comfortable during the summer.
Like our picks? Did we leave a city off you think should be on this list? Be sure to leave your thoughts below!