California vs Florida Climate

California vs Florida Climate

Florida is one of the most popular states people are moving to from California. Because both states are renowned for their weather, many people who plan to move want to compare the climate of both states. And that makes a lot of sense: after all, weather is an extremely important aspect to consider. So here’s my take on the topic of California vs Florida climate.

I’m going to address a few key aspects of climate in both states: temperatures and humidity, precipitation, sunshine, and the kind of lifestyle each climate offers.

California vs Florida: Temperatures and Humidity

California vs Florida: Temperatures and Humidity

Some of the most populous parts of California are known for pleasant temperatures year round. Whether it’s the mild climate of San Francisco, the consistently warm climate of Los Angeles county, the stable climate of San Diego or mild weather in some cooler cities in Northern California (like in Napa Valley), one thing is common: you’ll be unlikely to deal with freezing cold winters or muggy summers.

Florida, on the other hand, and particularly southern Florida, comes with hot and humid summers. Even some of the coolest cities in Florida like Tallahassee or Jacksonville still have very hot and humid summer months. There’s no going around this in Florida: humidity is an everyday companion. On the plus side, Florida is warm even in the winter, while many places in California can get cool, particularly at night.

Let me put it bluntly: Florida is only a good choice for people who like hot temperatures. The state doesn’t offer much respite from hot weather. While the coolest cities in Northern Florida and the Florida Panhandle do experience more pronounced winters, it’s 2-3 months of temperatures similar to some of the warmer parts of California. Other than that, it’s always warm (average 75 °F during the day) to very hot (85-90 °F).

And of course, the warmest parts of Florida like West Palm Beach, Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale or Florida Keys, barring rare cold snaps, never experience anything that can even be described as cool weather.

California’s climate is moderated by the cool Pacific Ocean. Unlike the prevailing in California Mediterranean climate (by some considered the best climate in the world), Florida’s climate isn’t temperate.

Because the climate in the Sunshine State is humid subtropical or tropical, you can count that it’s always going to be humid. Most of the year it will also be hot. While in some areas of California you may live without air conditioning, accomplishing such a task in Florida is unlikely.

Let’s take a look at summers and winters in both states to get an even better understanding of the differences.

Summers in California vs Florida

Summers in California vs Florida

Los Angeles (LAX) records on average 77 °F during the day in the warmest month. Humidity is around 77%. Temperatures may reach up to 99 °F on the hottest days but on average they are nowhere near that hot. Nights are pleasant, with temperatures around 65 °F.

In comparison, Miami (MIA airport) records 91 °F during the day in the hottest month. Humidity is around 76%. On the hottest days, Miami may get to 95 °F. Humidity is thus around the same but average temperatures are much hotter. And Miami is still hot at night. The average low temperature is 78 °F.

In other words, the average temperature at night in Miami is the same as the average temperature during the day in Los Angeles. San Diego has similar summers to Los Angeles so its comparison with Miami would be almost exactly the same.

If we compare a milder city in California with a milder city in Florida, the difference will be even more striking. For example, downtown San Francisco records daytime temperatures of 70 °F in the warmest month. Nights are cool, around 56 °F. Humidity is around 73%.

Meanwhile, Tallahassee, one of the coldest cities in Florida, records daytime temperatures of 93 °F in the hottest month. At night, the city is still hot, with average low temperatures of 73 °F. Humidity is 77%. In other words, nights in Tallahassee are hotter than days in San Francisco.

Some areas of California do record hotter summer temperatures than Florida. For example, desert cities like Indio and Palm Springs record super hot 105 °F during the day in the hottest month. Even at night, they’re still around 80-83 °F.

These cities have very low humidity, though, reaching on average 30% or less in the summer months. Many people find the arid climate of these cities cooler than the muggy climate of Florida, even with much lower temperatures.

If you want to move from California to Florida, you need to be ready for very hot, potentially uncomfortable summers in Florida.

Winters in California vs Florida

Winters in California vs Florida

Florida wins over California with better weather in the winter.

Even in the coldest month, Miami still records on average 76 °F during the day and 61 °F at night. Key West is even hotter, recording 76 °F during the day and 66 °F at night.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles records 66 °F during the day and merely 49 °F at night. Miami still has humid weather in the winter, with average relative humidity reaching about 73% compared to 63% in Los Angeles. With these temperatures, though, most people would find this type of weather conditions perfect.

Only a few of the major cities in Florida get cooler weather in the winter. Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and Gainesville record about 65-70 °F during the day in the winter months (and 38-45 °F at night). In other major cities in Florida winters are just a cooler season, while in those in the southern part of the state winters are non-existent.

Few cities in California can compare with Florida. And even those can only beat the winters of the coldest cities in Florida. For example, Anaheim has some of the warmest winters in California with daytime temperatures reaching 71 °F and dropping to 49 °F at night.

Anaheim in the winter is warmer than Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and Gainesville. Temperatures in the coldest month in Anaheim are roughly the same as in the coldest month in Orlando. But other winter months are warmer in Orlando than in Anaheim.

If you’re craving warm winter weather, Florida is an excellent choice and a much better one than California.

California vs Florida: Precipitation

California vs Florida: Precipitation

There’s no comparison here: California is an infinitely better state for those who like dry weather with few rainy days.

Florida is consistently rainy year round. Expect at least 100 days of rain, if not more. Miami gets 141 rainy days, Jacksonville gets 114, Tampa 108, Orlando 121, Tallahassee 117, and Key West 107. Summers are particularly rainy, with up to 19 days of rain in the rainiest month.

Meanwhile, most major cities in California have a Mediterranean or semi-arid climate with very few days of rain. For example, Los Angeles has only 35 days of rain a year. San Diego gets 40. Fresno gets 47. Even San Francisco gets only 71. And summers are largely dry, if not virtually free of any rainfall.

It’s not just the number of rainy days, though, but also annual precipitation. Most cities in California get 3-6x less rainfall than cities in Florida.

The wettest inhabited place in California, Smith River, is the only place that has higher levels of rainfall than cities in Florida. It records on average almost 73.73 inches of precipitation a year which is slightly higher than 73.36 inches in Niceville, the rainiest city in Florida.

Otherwise, California is much, much drier. Just to give a few examples considering that Miami gets 67.41 inches of rainfall a year:

  • Los Angeles: 12.23 inches of rain a year so over 5x less than in Miami.
  • San Diego: 9.79 inches of rain a year so over 6x less than in Miami.
  • San Francisco: 22.89 inches of rain a year so 3x less than in Miami.
  • San Jose: 16.14 inches of rain a year so 4x less than in Miami.
  • Fresno: 10.99 inches of rain a year so over 6x less than in Miami.
  • Sacramento: 18.14 inches of rain a year so almost 4x less than in Miami.

California vs Florida: Sunshine

California vs Florida: Sunshine

While both states enjoy plenty of sunshine, California is the true Sunshine State. While Florida’s climate is still sunny, it’s not as sunny as what you may be used to in California.

The sunniest cities in California record many more sunshine hours than the sunniest cities in Florida.

For example, Sacramento has 3,608 hours of sunshine. The only city in Florida that’s close to it is the state’s sunniest city, Key West. It records 3,404 hours of sunshine.

Other than that, other major cities record about 2,900-3,150 hours of sunshine a year. For example, Miami gets 3,154, Tampa 3,166, and Jacksonville 2,880.

Los Angeles, San Diego, and Fresno are all sunnier than Miami while San Francisco is a little less sunny but still sunnier than Jacksonville.

California vs Florida: Lifestyle

California vs Florida: Lifestyle

California’s varied climate is influenced by its varying topography. Another reason why California varies so much is also its sheer size, almost three times the size of Florida.

As one of the few states where you can enjoy the beach and hike in the state’s numerous mountain ranges on the same day, California is an excellent state for outdoor enthusiasts.

California has nine national parks which is more than any other state. Hiking is easily accessible and so are countless other activities in the wilderness. Alpine areas, windswept beaches, deserts, lush rainforests: in California you can enjoy immense variety.

In comparison, Florida has three national parks and two of them are mostly open water. Because Florida is a flat state, there are no mountains, either. The closest mountains are in northern Georgia, an 11-hour drive from Miami, a 7-hour drive from Jacksonville, and a 6-hour drive from Tallahassee. This means that if you move to Florida, you need to scratch any proper hiking off your list of weekend activities.

What you get in return in Florida is, arguably, a more comfortable beach lifestyle.

While some people may prefer California’s varied beaches over Florida’s potentially more monotonous ones, there’s no arguing the fact that California gets much cooler outside of the summer.

Chilly weather and fog can be common, and even more so in Northern California. The ocean on the west coast also never gets properly warm. Unless you don’t mind cold water, there’s no such a thing as a pleasant dip in the ocean except for some of the warmest beaches in Southern California.

In comparison, in Florida (at least in South Florida) you can have a pleasant dip almost year round, perhaps except for some cooler days between January and March. Even in the coldest parts of Florida, water temperatures are still warm to hot between May and October.

Florida’s coastline is also home to calm waters, unlike California’s choppier seas. Florida better suits those who like flat conditions (like swimming, diving, or stand-up paddleboarding) while California is better for those who enjoy surfing and other sports dependent on powerful swells.

Florida’s climate isn’t as friendly for strenuous exercise outdoors, though. For example, outside of the winter, your only option to engage in more demanding workouts is in the early morning. Unlike in California, days are too hot and humid with a very real risk of getting a heatstroke. Even a brisk walk can leave you completely drenched in sweat.

In the end, you need to weigh the pros of Florida’s:

  • no state income tax,
  • lower cost of living (particularly if you currently live in one of the Californian cities with costs well above the national average),
  • consistently hot (but potentially too hot) weather.

and compare them to the pros of California’s:

  • more pleasant temperatures year round,
  • more varied landscape with more national parks and wilderness areas,
  • more activities to choose from, from the beaches to the mountains and in between.

Whether you’re looking to move within California or move to Florida, you may also want to read the following articles:

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