Both Texas and California can have hot summers and heat waves that make them even more intense. But which state, on average, is hotter? Is Texas hotter than California or is California hotter than Texas? Let’s see how these two states compare in the summer and in the winter as well as year round on average.
All climate data in this article comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Texas vs California: Average Temperature
Both California and Texas are on the list of the ten hottest states in the United States. Home to some of the hottest cities in the country, average temperatures in major cities in both of these states stay warm to hot year round (though California has some cooler cities and towns with four distinct seasons while Texas is… a little more complicated).
The average annual temperature for 50 major cities in Texas I covered in my article on the warmest cities in Texas is 67.58 °F.
The average annual temperature for 150 major cities in California I covered in my article on the warmest cities in California is 62.94 °F.
Texas is therefore on average 5 degrees hotter than California. The main reason for that is that California has many cities with mild temperatures while Texas cities are uniformly warm to hot.
Due to the moderating effect of the Pacific Ocean, California’s average monthly temperatures don’t get so hot in the summer. Summer temperatures in the Golden State are usually much lower than in Texas, including the coldest regions of Texas.
But average annual temperatures don’t give us a detailed look into the differences between the climates of these two states. So let’s now see how Texas differs from California in the summer.
Is Texas Hotter Than California in the Summer?
While some areas of Texas have a climate somewhat similar to California, overall the states differ a lot climate-wise. When comparing Texas to California, we need to specify what parts of Texas we compare to what parts of California.
Consequently, I decided to do several comparisons: between the largest cities of both states, between the hottest areas of both states, between the largest desert cities (to compare the same type of climate), and between the coldest towns of both states.
But first, a quick general comparison…
Texas is much hotter than most of California. Here’s why:
- A large part of Texas (South Texas, Central Texas, North Texas, and East Texas) has a humid subtropical climate with high humidity levels year round. Because of higher humidity, the heat index is higher, too, resulting in very humid and hot summers. California, in comparison, is moderated by the ocean and has a drier Mediterranean or semi-arid climate which doesn’t feel as hot.
- The coastal areas of California have a mild climate with much lower average temperatures than in cities on the Gulf Coast in Texas. That’s because the state’s climate is moderated by the cold California current. Texas, in comparison, experiences warmer temperatures. The Gulf of Mexico acts like a heat reservoir, sending warm masses of air over the state. The entire coastline of California (3,427 miles) is thus much cooler than the entire coastline of Texas (3,359 miles).
- Even the coldest Texas cities are still much hotter than most Californian cities. Texas doesn’t have any areas where summers are mild, let alone cool. Days are always hot with temperatures above 90 °F. Nights, even in the coldest cities, still reach on average over 60-65 °F. Meanwhile, California has plenty of cities with mild or cool summers, just to name Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Napa, San Diego, Eureka, South Lake Tahoe, or Big Bear Lake.
The only exception are desert areas. California has some of the hottest deserts in the United States and in the world. Arid areas of Texas are in comparison much cooler, despite average temperatures still climbing over 100 °F.
Let’s now do a more specific comparison of various parts of each state.
The Largest Cities: Los Angeles vs Houston
The average temperature during the day in Los Angeles ranges from 77 °F in June to 84 °F in August, the hottest month. The average low temperature in LA drops to 61 °F in June and 65 °F in August. These are pleasantly warm temperatures which, combined with moderate humidity, result in mostly enjoyable summers.
In comparison, Houston in the summer is not so friendly. The average high temperature is 92 °F in June and 95 °F in July, the hottest month. Well, you can always cool off at night, can’t you? Well… Nope. Houston’s average temperature at night is still 74 °F in June and 76 °F in July. This means that sometimes average nighttime temperatures in Houston may be the same as daytime temperatures in Los Angeles.
But these are average temperatures. If we look at the mean maximum temperature, both cities can get similarly hot (though Houston will feel much hotter due to higher humidity). On the hottest days, for example during a heat wave, Los Angeles may record temperatures of up to 99 °F in September. Houston, in comparison, may experience 101 °F in August.
Overall Houston has very humid and hot summers while Los Angeles has drier and milder ones. Combined with the humidity, the largest city of Texas has extreme weather compared to LA.
If you don’t tolerate high temperatures well and want to live in the biggest city of either Texas or California, California is a better choice.
I could now compare the second largest city of California, San Diego, to the second largest city of Texas, San Antonio. But this comparison wouldn’t differ much from Los Angeles and Houston.
While San Antonio has slightly drier weather, it’s still extremely hot while San Diego is often proclaimed to have the best summers in the United States because it’s not too hot and not too cold.
Comparing San Jose to Dallas (the third largest city in each state) would also lead to the same conclusion: major cities in Texas are much hotter than most major cities in California in the summer.
Instead of comparing other big cities, let’s now compare the extremes of both states.
The Hottest Areas: Death Valley vs Big Bend National Park
Death Valley is by far the hottest area of California. Big Bend National Park, as one of the few places in Texas that feature a hot arid climate, records some of the hottest temperatures in Texas.
Castolon in Big Bend National Park records average temperatures of 102-104 °F during the summer months. Average lows are around 75 °F. On the hottest days, temperatures may reach 109-113 °F during the day while the coolest nights may feature temperatures of 66-68 °F.
That sounds hot. But it’s nothing compared to Death Valley.
Climate data for Death Valley National Park indicates that the average temperature in the summer months is between 111-117 °F during the day and 84-91 °F at night. In other words, on average Death Valley is much hotter than the hottest days in Big Bend National Park.
If we look at the hottest days in Death Valley, Big Bend National Park appears to be mild in comparison. Temperatures in Death Valley may climb all the way to 122-126 °F. The coolest nights in Death Valley are also still much hotter than in Big Bend National Park, dropping to 68-78 °F.
California thus has much higher summer temperatures recorded in its hottest area.
The Hottest Desert Cities
I decided to compare desert cities as both Texas and California have them. Because they share the same climate, they have more in common than comparing humid subtropical Houston to Mediterranean Los Angeles. Because many of those who want to move to Texas don’t want to live in an area with high humidity, cities in West Texas are their only option.
The hottest major desert city in Texas is El Paso. The hottest major desert city in California is Indio. El Paso is the least humid city in Texas and has a climate resembling some Californian cities. It’s the best place for the sunniest and driest weather.
Let’s cut to the chase here: El Paso’s 95 °F during the day doesn’t even come close to the average 105 °F in Indio. Nights aren’t that different: El Paso records 71-73 °F while Indio stays hot with average lows of 77-83 °F.
El Paso’s climate can be more accurately compared to Bakersfield. But Bakersfield is far from being the hottest desert city of California. And outside of Indio, there are still other hot desert cities like Palm Springs, Palm Desert, or El Centro.
In other words, California has much hotter desert cities.
The Coldest Towns: Truckee vs Stratford
By average annual temperatures, the coldest town in California is Truckee in the High Sierras. Average high temperatures in the summer months reach 75-84 °F, with average lows dropping to just 36-41 °F.
The coldest town in Texas is Stratford in the Texas Panhandle. The average high temperature in the warmest months ranges from 87 to 92 °F. Average lows are between 58-63 °F.
The coldest city of California is thus much colder in the summer than the coldest city of Texas.
Truckee isn’t the coolest Californian city in the summer, though. Eureka on the Pacific Coast in Northern California is much cooler. On average, the highest temperature in the summer months reaches just 64 °F during the day and 53 °F at night.
Where Is It Easier to Escape Hot Weather?
There’s no contest here: California makes it infinitely easier to escape the summer heat.
Temperatures in the Golden State vary widely depending on the region. Due to varied geography, within a short drive from major cities you can get to areas at higher elevation with much lower temperatures. You can also drive to the coast and cool off in the ocean which never gets very warm. Even within cities, some neighborhoods can be noticeably cooler than others.
No such thing happens in Texas. While humidity levels may change between the western and eastern part of the state, you can’t quickly drive to a higher elevation and go from extreme summer heat to pleasant, mild temperatures.
The Gulf of Mexico is much hotter in the summer than the Pacific Ocean in California. Water temperatures in the summer go over 80 °F while California’s waters may not even cross 70 °F. While Texas waters may still help cool off, the Pacific is much cooler.
The only cooler place in Texas are the Guadalupe Mountains. But even there, average daytime temperatures reach 85 °F, with nights dropping to sixties. This is still hot compared to, for example, Lake Tahoe area or any coastal city, particularly north of Los Angeles.
Is Texas Hotter Than California in the Winter?
Both California and Texas have mild winters. In both states you can find cities with winter temperatures far above the national average. The largest cities of the Golden State and the Lone Star State have roughly the same temperature ranges.
Los Angeles sees winter temperatures of 68 °F during the day and about 50 °F at night. Meanwhile, Houston records temperatures of 64-68 °F during the day and 44-48 °F at night.
A cooler major city in California like San Francisco records average highs of 58-60 °F and lows of 47-48 °F. This is not that different from a cooler major city in Texas like Dallas with average highs of 58-62 °F and lows of 38-42 °F.
If we were to find cities with the warmest weather in the winter months, Texas would win, though.
McAllen records average highs of 73-77 °F and average lows of 53-57 °F. Brownsville records almost the same temperatures but with higher humidity which makes it feel even hotter.
Palm Springs, one of the hottest cities in the winter in California, records average highs of 69-74 °F and average lows of 46-50 °F. While it still has very mild weather conditions in the winter months, the Texas cities have much higher temperatures so Texas has hotter winters.
Is the Sun More Intense in Texas or California?
All cities south of Dallas are closer to the equator than the southernmost city of California, San Diego (located about 33 degrees north of the equator). They receive more direct sunlight which means that in most parts of Texas the sun is stronger than in California.
Only the Texas Panhandle and northwestern Texas are farther from the equator. Amarillo (35 degrees north of the equator) gets weaker UV rays than Los Angeles (34 degrees north of the equator). Lubbock (34.5 degrees north of the equator) gets more intense sun than LA.
The southernmost city of Texas, Brownsville, is only about 26 degrees north of the equator which is roughly the same as the latitude of Miami (this also explains why Brownsville has features of a tropical climate).
California is a sunnier state, though. Barring the sunniest cities in Texas, you’ll experience much more bright sunshine in California. Even if the sun is less intense, it shines more often, posing a potentially bigger risk of a sunburn.
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