As one of the most popular states people are moving to, Tennessee has a lot to offer. While renowned for a low cost of living, Great Smoky Mountains, the Tennessee River, country music and civil war battlefields, for those moving to Tennessee one of the main reasons is often more prosaic: its favorable climate. In this article I’ll answer a common question of those people: does Tennessee have 4 seasons or is it more of a two-season kind of a state?
Does Tennessee Have Four Seasons? Yes, But…
While climate is a little different in East Tennessee compared to Middle Tennessee or West Tennessee, overall the state has four distinct seasons none of which have extreme weather.
Tennessee winters are mild while summer months are hot and humid. Springs and falls are warm but with cool nights. The state’s climate is humid subtropical but it has rather mild temperatures most of the year except for the hottest days during the humid summers. Because precipitation occurs year round, rainfall doesn’t generally differ between seasons much.
There’s a “but” here, though.
Certain cities in Tennessee are firmly in the camp of four distinct seasons. There, you can easily tell the changes as the differences are notable.
Then there are also cities which have warmer year round weather. There, it may be a little harder to see the seasons change.
Let’s cover these two types of cities.
TN Cities With Proper Four Seasons
Out of the major cities, Johnson City in East Tennessee has four distinct (and mild) seasons. It has warm summers and cool winters. Because of its location near the Appalachian Mountains, its temperatures are moderated compared to other cities in TN.
Its average high temperature in the winter months reaches between 45-50 °F which is mild and sounds slightly spring-like. But the average low temperature is below freezing, dropping to rather cold 25-28 °F. Then there’s also snow. While not falling in huge amounts, the average annual snowfall is about 15 inches a year. So Johnson City, does have a proper winter (on the milder side).
Spring brings different warmer temperatures but not yet hot. Between March and May daytime temperatures reach about 60-75 °F. These could qualify for some as summer-like temperatures but that’s the sensation during the day. In the evening, at night or in the early mornings temperatures still remain rather cool, around 35-50 °F.
In about mid June temperatures get firmly in the proper summer camp. Average temperatures in the summer months between June and August stay between 80-85 °F while nights are still warm around 60-65 °F.
When fall begins in mid September, the situation is similar as in the spring. Days can still be rather warm, with temperatures around 60-70 °F during the day. But nights begin to get chilly and in November they can already drop to around freezing.
Other Examples of Four Seasons in Tennessee
Apart from Johnson City and neighboring cities (like Elizabethton or Kingsport), certain areas of the state also have distinct seasons.
For example, the closest thing Tennessee has to a mountain city is Crossville atop the Cumberland Plateau in East Tennessee. Due to its elevation of 1,857 ft, Crossville is the coldest city in Tennessee. It has colder winters than Johnson City and also noticeably cooler summers.
Another place in Tennessee where you can experience obvious seasonal changes is Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The highest points in the park get a lot of snow while summer months are very mild, if not slightly cool. There, you’ll have no difficulty differentiating between four seasons.
TN Cities With Less Distinct Four Seasons
Then there are the warmest cities in the state like Memphis in West Tennessee.
While you could say that Memphis still has four seasons, its winters are very mild. On hotter days they feel like spring, if not summer. The average high temperature between December and February is 51-56 °F but it may climb on the warmest days to 70-80 °F. Unlike in Johnson City, Memphis is usually free of freezing temperatures. On average, nighttime temperatures are around 33-36 °F.
The city gets almost no snowfall in the winter months. On average, it’s just 2.7 inches and barely 3 days of snow per year. This means that some winters may get no snow at all.
Early spring in Memphis can already see temperatures climbing to 65 °F on average and 80 °F on warmer days. Nighttime temperatures are also noticeably warmer than in Johnson City. For example, in April, Memphis already records average lows of 53 °F while Johnson City records only 42 °F.
The summer in Memphis is long and hot. If we were to consider the months with average temperatures above 80 °F during the day, then Memphis has a summer that lasts five months, between May and September. Daytime temperatures can reach on average even over 90 °F while nights are still hot at 70-74 °F.
Fall in Memphis is one of the least distinct seasons because it’s short and quickly turns into (mild) winter. Temperatures in October can still resemble summer (75 °F during the day, 54 °F at night) so November is the only month that feels like fall with 63 °F during the day and crisp 44 °F at night.
Other Examples of Less Distinct Four Seasons in Tennessee
Memphis isn’t the only city in Tennessee with less defined four seasons.
Chattanooga, the second warmest city in the state, also has similar temperatures with less defined seasonal changes.
Savannah, a small city in western southern Tennessee, is slightly cooler than Memphis and Chattanooga but can still qualify as having less pronounced seasons.
Nashville is somewhere in between four distinct seasons and less defined ones. Its winters are still mild but not as mild as in Memphis. January gets freezing temperatures at night. The city also gets about 5-6 days of snow with about 5 inches of annual snowfall.
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