Central California Weather – what to expect when you visit

A group of antelope standing in a muddy area.

Central California Weather

Central California weather – No, the sun doesn’t always shine here, and you’ll find that the beaches can be overcast even in the summer. Each area of this great region has its own weather patterns and these pages will help you decide when you might like to visit.

Great cumulus clouds from a passing winter storm

Central California Weather –
Huge clouds dominate the horizon on a Central California backroad

For some reason or another, the weather on New Year’s Day in most of California is beautiful. For those living outside our state, this gives a false impression of our winter weather since the Rose Parade is held on this date and is rarely rained out.

If you have read other pages on this site, especially this one, you’ll know that Central California differs from the rest of the state and that there is a variation even within this region.


A rare photo of Central California on an overcast day. This plain is wet from recent rain and the distant mountains are clad in snow.

Another factor which influences what visitors or potential visitors might think of our weather is that photographers generally stay in during inclement weather, and that, with rare exceptions, photos look better when taken on bright sunny days.

So what is presented to you is a skewed version of our climate, not maliciously so, but untrue nonetheless.

A fogged-in beach just doesn’t make for good photos.

Snow along Vineyard Canyon Road east of San Miguel

Yes, it actually does SNOW in Central California! This was taken on March 17, 2012 in the hills east of San Miguel.

I’ve just been browsing through my stock of photos for use on this site, and am struck by the fact that 95% of them were taken on sunny days or days with scattered clouds. The exceptions are those with something remarkable, especially snow or high waves at the beach.

Central California Weather – by regions:

Big Sur coastline under a layer of fog

The Big Sur coastline near Bixby Creek under a layer of fog

One of the best indicators of the variation in Central California weather are the numerous wine growing regions that are uniquely designated American Viticultural Areas. These AVA’s recognize the difference in soil and especially climate and elevation. These differences influence the grape’s taste.

The Salinas Valley is a perfect example of this difference in climate.

At the north end of the valley, coastal influences dominate, with many foggy days and cooler temperatures, while at the southern end, around King City, much warmer temperatures are found during the growing season. Between the two is a gradation which lends itself to the growing of different varietals.

An overcast day on Monterey Bay

This is a fairly normal winter day in Central California. Overcast skies with cool temperatures.


Central California Weather – generalities

  • Most of the weather in California comes from the west, off the ocean;
  • The exception to this rule is during the summer when high pressure dominates over the western United States and creates hot, dry winds from the east;
  • Wet winters – the rainy season starts in late October and ends in April;
  • The amount of rainfall varies greatly depending on elevation and geography; high hills create “rain shadows” beyond them;
  • Dry summers – there may be some “monsoon” type storms during the summer, but that is limited to one or two times during this season and the rainfall is usually well under one inch;
  • The coastal area’s weather is tempered by the ocean; freezing temperatures are a rarity there;
  • Winters are colder inland and at higher elevations, though it is uncommon for daytime highs to be below freezing;
  • It doesn’t snow every year, but some years it may snow several times in the inland areas.

We will be creating pages for each of the categories below which cover most of the region of Central California.

  • Big Sur weather
  • Monterey weather
  • San Luis Obispo weather
  • Paso Robles weather
  • Pismo Beach weather
  • Santa Maria weather
  • Solvang weather
  • Cayucos weather
  • Morro Bay weather


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