Tucson and Phoenix are two of the major Arizona cities. Both are hot, dry, and sunny but one features hotter weather. What’s the climate in Tucson compared to Phoenix? Is Tucson hotter than Phoenix? Or is Phoenix hotter than Tucson? In this article I’m going to compare the temperatures in these two places.
Is Tucson Hotter Than Phoenix Year Round?
The average yearly daily mean temperature in Tucson is 70.65 °F. Compared to Phoenix, it’s 5 degrees cooler: Phoenix has an average temperature of 75.6 °F. This means that on average Tucson is NOT hotter than Phoenix. In fact, it’s more than a bit cooler due to the city’s higher elevation. Phoenix climate is hotter.
Tucson is particularly colder than Phoenix at night. Its average low temperature is 57.3 °F compared to 64.1 °F in Phoenix. During the day, the average high temperature in Tucson is 84 °F compared to 87.1 °F in Phoenix, so that difference is much smaller.
Downtown Phoenix is more built-up, resulting in a stronger urban heat island effect that traps heat. Tucson, as a smaller city, doesn’t experience this effect to the same degree. And if you choose to live somewhere in Tucson area but outside of the city, it’ll be even cooler than Phoenix which is a sprawling metropolis.
Tucson is slightly more humid than Phoenix, recording average relative humidity at 38.3% compared to 36.6%. This may give it a slightly warmer sensation when the temperatures in both cities are the same.
Tucson also gets more rain, recording 47.4 days with precipitation compared to 33.4 in Phoenix. When the rain comes, temperatures slightly drop. So if Tucson has more rainy days, it’s cooler more often than Phoenix.
Is Tucson Hotter Than Phoenix in the Winter?
We now know that Tucson has an average annual temperature that’s a few degrees cooler than in Phoenix. But what about the winter? Does Tucson have more heat than Phoenix between December and February?
According to climate data from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), Phoenix still wins. The average daytime temperature in Phoenix between December and February ranges from 66.2 °F to 70.8 °F. In Tucson, that temperature ranges from 65.5 °F to 69.2 °F.
These differences are much smaller than the yearly average. Tucson is only about 1-2 °F cooler than Phoenix during the winter days. With daytime temperatures just a bit cooler, the difference may not even be noticeable for most people.
But the difference, as was the case with yearly averages, is noticeable at night. Nighttime temperatures in Phoenix between December and February range from 45.3 °F to 49 °F. In Tucson, that range is from 40.5 °F to 43.2 °F. So Tucson can be up to 6 degrees cooler at night in the winter than Phoenix.
A higher average low temperature for Phoenix means that frost is unlikely while Tucson experiences it each winter. Snowfall is also more likely for Tucson.
Apart from winter nights, Tucson is still a great place if you’re looking for a mild climate. But Phoenix is warmer.
Read more about winter conditions in Tucson and Phoenix in my article on what winters are like in Arizona.
Is Tucson Hotter Than Phoenix in the Summer?
In the summer, the largest city of Arizona wins hands down against Tucson (which may actually be in favor of Tucson considering how hot Phoenix gets).
Between June and August, Phoenix’s temperatures during the day range from 104.2 °F to 106.5 °F. In Tucson, the average high temperatures are between 98.6 °F and 101.2 °F (with the hottest month being June as opposed to July in Phoenix). So Tucson in the summer has daytime temperatures that are noticeably cooler, of up to 8 degrees.
Temperatures at night in Tucson are also much more comfortable, with Phoenix being much warmer. While Tucson has nighttime temperatures between 71.1 °F and 76.3 °F, Phoenix stays hot at average low temperatures between 78.6 °F and 84.5 °F. So again, the weather in Phoenix is much hotter than Tucson.
On the hottest days, Phoenix may record temperatures climbing all the way to 115 °F while Tucson goes up to about 110 °F. But because Tucson is slightly more humid than Phoenix in the summer, the heat index for both cities may be roughly the same.
In the end, whether you’re in Phoenix or Tucson, Arizona summers are still extremely hot unless you head to colder cities at elevation.
Tucson Offers Easier Access to Cooler Weather
If you’re tired of hot temperatures, Tucson makes it easier to access cooler weather. Within a one-hour drive you can get to Summerhaven, a small town in the Santa Catalina Mountains at an elevation of 7,700 feet. This elevation gives the town much cooler climate, with temperatures around 75-85 °F instead of 100 °F in Tucson.
While Phoenix also has access to cooler weather, you need to drive two hours to Flagstaff to change from 100 °F+ to much more pleasant 80-85 °F.
In this aspect, Tucson is slightly more convenient if you can’t leave the city in the summer and temporarily relocate to a four-season city in Arizona.
If you’re interested in the warmest cities in Arizona, check out my article in which I rank the 10 warmest cities in the state and also list 50 major cities by their average temperature. You may also want to read my article on what city in Arizona has the best weather.
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