Monthly weather forecast and climate
North Carolina, USA

Flag of North Carolina, USA
Flag of North Carolina, USA

The climate of North Carolina

North Carolina climate is mostly humid subtropical (Köppen Cfa) except for a subtropical highland type (Köppen Cfb) on the high slopes of the Appalachian Mountains. Summers are hot and humid, while winters are wet and cold. North Carolina is a part of the southeastern United States. Georgia and South Carolina to the south, Tennessee to the west, Virginia to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east share borders with the state. The latitude and altitude chiefly influence the climate, along with the warm Gulf Stream and the cold Labrador currents.

North Carolina, the Old North State, has three geographical divisions. The Coastal Plains constitute half the area of the state and consists of flat, swampy lands as well as gently sloping terrain. The Piedmont Division chiefly consists of hard rock and gently sloping hills with sporadic steep ranges that extend to the base of the mountains. The Mountain Division comprises the westernmost part of North Carolina and covers one-fifth of the state's area. Elevations stretch from 450 meters to 2025 meters at the summit of Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the state. North Carolina has an average elevation of 500 meters above sea level.

The Bermuda High-Pressure system dominates the summers in North Carolina. The conditions are calm, and the skies remain cloudless for extended periods. Temperatures rarely cross 80°F (26.7°C) in the mountains in midsummer at altitudes above 900 meters, and the nights are crisp and cool. The winter temperatures are rarely extreme, with January ranging between 20°F (-6.7°C) to 45°F (7.2°C) in the lower valleys. The coastal areas are cooler than the inland regions during midsummer, with ocean waters below 80°F (26.7°C). The Sandhills section of southern Piedmont has a relatively warm winter due to sandy soils and rare arrival of snow. Spring has pleasant weather compared to the heat of summer. Autumn temperatures are moderate but drop rapidly by the latter half of the season. Temperatures vary significantly with altitude in North Carolina.

The average annual precipitation is 45" (1143mm) in North Carolina and occurs throughout the year. Summer is the wettest season, while autumn is the driest. Sleet and snow occur only a few times in the year in the coastal areas, while the high mountain slopes receive up to 50" (1270mm). In the rest of the state, the snowfall ranges from 2" (51mm) in the lower coast to 16" (406mm) in the southern mountains. The average annual freeze-free period ranges from 130 days in the mountain areas to 290 days in the warm south. The sunshine is ample throughout the year and averages over 2600 hours annually.

Fayetteville holds the record of the highest ever temperature of 110°F (43.3°C) on August 21, 1983, in North Carolina, while Mount Mitchell recorded the coldest temperature of -34°F (-36.7°C) on January 21, 1985.

The best time to visit North Carolina

The best time to visit North Carolina is typically from spring in mid-April to autumn in mid-October. Summer is the peak of the tourist season, and budget travelers get better deals in the shoulder seasons of early spring and late autumn due to fewer crowds. Thunderstorms and convectional rainfall are prominent in July. The temperatures rise significantly faster in May than any other month and drop rapidly in October. The fall season is pleasant, with the lowest amount of rainfall in the year. Hiking, fishing, boating, and hunting are popular, with abundant forests, and mountains with streams. The inland water zones are calm and quiet and popular spots for fishing.

The worst time to visit North Carolina

The worst time to visit North Carolina, if there is any, is the winter season from December to February. The temperatures breach the 10°F (-12.2°C) at least once in the winter in central North Carolina and drop up to 0°F (-17.8°C) in the high mountains. High mountains peaks receive up to 50" (1270mm) of snow in the cold season. Many tourists visit the warm southern parts of the state during the winter when the northern part of the United States is frigid. Cold waves are frequent, along with snow and sleet.

Weather hazards

North Carolina is vulnerable to floods, flash floods, tropical storms, and hurricanes. The meeting of two opposing currents near the North Carolina coast is a breeding ground for rough weather. The French Broad River floods frequently, and the rainstorms are intense in the area between the southwest of Asheville and the Holston River east of Knoxville. Late spring is the time of frequent flash floods in the mountains and flooding of rivers due to heavy rainfall. Tropical cyclones cause floods in the autumn in the Piedmont region. Successive hurricanes can be destructive and cause floods in the coastal areas.

Weather in January

January is the coldest month of the year in North Carolina, with the average low temperatures dropping to 20°F (-6.7°C) in the western mountains. Banner Elk averages between 20°F (-6.7°C) to 40°F (4.4°C), while Grandfather Mountain is frigid in the 20°F (-6.7°C) to 36°F (2.2°C) range. Weather in January »

Weather in February

February is cold in the winter season in North Carolina with at least 10 to 12 wet days that bring 4" (102mm) of rain. Polar air masses occasionally cross the mountains to bring brief cold waves in the state. Temperatures drop up to 10°F (-12.2°C) in the mountains and 0°F (-17.8°C) in extreme cases. Weather in February »

Weather in March

March is the beginning of the mild spring season in North Carolina. The atmosphere is a little damp with 4" (102mm) to 6" (152mm) of rainfall, and at least ten wet days. The average high temperatures are between 51°F (10.6°C) to 64°F (17.8°C), while the average low temperatures are in the 29°F (-1.7°C) to 45°F (7.2°C) range. Weather in March »

Weather in April

April witnesses the advance of the spring season in North Carolina, along with the high mountain slopes in the west. Day temperatures are in the warm 60°F (15.6°C) to 70°F (21.1°C), while nights are mild in the 40°F (4.4°C) to 50°F (10°C) range statewide. Weather in April »

Weather in May

May is warm and sunny in North Carolina, with blossoming flowers and singing birds that wake up the land. The average temperatures are in the warm 50°F (10°C) to 80°F (26.7°C) range, with 8 hours of daily sunshine. May is the period of regular thunderstorms and heavy rainfall in the state. Weather in May »

Weather in June

June begins the bright summer in North Carolina, with warm to hot temperatures. The days are long, with average high temperatures in the 55°F (12.8°C) to 88°F (31.1°C) range. Highlands has comfortable temperatures in the 55°F (12.8°C) to 77°F (25°C), while Goldsboro in the coastal belt is warm between 67°F (19.4°C) to 88°F (31.1°C). North Carolina summers are prone to thunderstorms and occasional tornadoes. Weather in June »

Weather in July

July is typically the hottest month of the year in North Carolina, with the average high temperatures in the range of 77°F (25°C) to 91°F (32.8°C). Charlotte in the Piedmont region sees hot days that regularly touch 90°F (32.2°C). Weather in July »

Weather in August

August is warm in the summer of North Carolina with at least 8 hours of daily sunshine. The average high temperatures are in the 70°F (21.1°C) to 90°F (32.2°C) range, while the average low temperatures are between 56°F (13.3°C) to 67°F (19.4°C). The coastal belt is the wettest in the state with 7" (178mm) of rainfall, including 6.9" (175mm) in Cape Hatteras and 7.4" (188mm) in Wilmington. Weather in August »

Weather in September

September begins the pleasant autumn season in North Carolina, with temperatures significantly lower than the peak of summer. The temperatures scale down from the peak of summer, to register in the average range of 49°F (9.4°C) to 86°F (30°C). The precipitation is in the zone of 4" (102mm) to 7" (178mm), with partly cloudy skies between sunny days. Weather in September »

Weather in October

October lies in the middle of the autumn season in North Carolina, with rapidly changing temperatures. The average high temperatures are in the warm range of 60°F (15.6°C) to 75°F (23.9°C), while the average low temperatures are between 40°F (4.4°C) to 57°F (13.9°C). October receives the lowest rainfall of the year, but it registers above 2" (51mm) in most places. Weather in October »

Weather in November

November is the driest month of the year in North Carolina and sees a rapid drop in temperatures statewide. Asheville and Waterville in the mountain zone register mild temperatures between 38°F (3.3°C) to 60°F (15.6°C), while Raleigh and Charlotte in the Piedmont division range between 39°F (3.9°C) to 63°F (17.2°C). Weather in November »

Weather in December

December is the beginning of the cold in North Carolina with moderate precipitation to the tune of 4" (102mm) to 5" (127mm). The average high temperatures are in the 45°F (7.2°C) to 62°F (16.7°C) range, while the average low temperatures are between 22°F (-5.6°C) to 43°F (6.1°C). Snowfall is moderate in the mountains, and ski resorts utilize snowmaking equipment to ensure there is enough snow. Weather in December »

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