What Is the Climate of California?

Damian Gadal/CC-BY 2.0

The state of California covers a very large land area and has many different climates in different parts of the state. Coastal climates are generally considered Mediterranean and weather is generally mild through much of the rest of the state, but the state does also contain extreme climates in desert and mountain areas.

Most of California’s coast is mild throughout the year with very dry summers and moderate rainfall in the rest of the year. Snow is rare along most of the coast and in most of the Central Valley, which is home to the cities of Sacramento, Fresno and Merced. By contrast, the Sierra Nevada mountain range and Mount Shasta have very cold winters and snow can be seen on the peaks for much of the year. The northernmost reaches of the state have surprisingly varying climates, with Eureka experiencing very cold summers but less annual snowfall in winter than Redding, which has extremely hot summers.

Deserts in the southern and eastern parts of the state include the Mojave, Colorado and the Great Basin. Climates in the Mojave and Colorado are typical of deserts with very hot days and little precipitation at all times during the year. The Great Basin is a “cold” desert, however, and sometimes experiences snowfall.