Rhode Island has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dfb) with warm to hot summers and cold, snowy winters. Rhode Island lies in the southeastern part of New England in the northeastern corner of the United States. Connecticut in the west, Massachusetts in the north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean in the southeast and south share borders with the state. The proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the Narragansett Bay and westerly winds influence the climate to a limited extent.
Rhode Island, the Ocean State, is the smallest of all American states, with an average width of 30 miles and a north-south extension of 50 miles. The terrain is flat with numerous ocean beaches, with the highest point at Jerimoth Hill at 247 meters above sea level. The topography mainly consists of hilly uplands in the western two-third, with elevation ranging from 100 to 300 meters. Gently rolling uplands up to 70 meters high lie in the north and east of the Narragansett Bay, while a narrow coastal plain lies on the south shore of the bay. The Blackstone River and its tributaries form the primary river system in the state.
Rhode Island's weather is variable over the seasons from year-to-year, with significant daily variations. Abrupt changes in temperatures, wind, sunshine, and precipitation are common throughout the state. Summers are warm to hot and humid, with an average of eight to ten days that cross 90°F (32.2°C). The interior areas occasionally register temperatures above 100°F (37.8°C), while the coast is cooler by a few degrees. Winter temperatures average from 15°F (-9.4°C) to 20°F (-6.7°C) in most of the state except for the coastal regions where it is slightly higher at 25°F (-3.9°C). Night temperatures drop below 0°F (-17.8°C) for six to eight days in the inland areas, while they are rare in the coastal region. The cold season sees as many as 25 days with highs that remain below 32°F (0°C). Spring and autumn are mild to cold with moderate precipitation.
Rhode Island averages an annual rainfall of 42" (1066.8mm) to 46" (1168.4mm) with even distribution over the year. The Bay area receives less rainfall than the western uplands. Early spring and late fall tend to bring the most torrential rainfall. The average snowfall varies from 20" (508mm) to 55" (1397mm) in the state, with the western third contributing the highest amount of snow. Providence and the northern shores of the bay receive 25" (635mm) to 30" (762mm) of snowfall annually. The freeze-free season lasts from 160 to 180 days in most of the state, while it is 200 days in the bay area. The total number of sunny days range from 200 to 210 annually.
Providence recorded Rhode Island's highest temperature of 104°F (40°C) on August 2, 1975, while Greene recorded the lowest temperature of -23°F (-30.6°C) on February 5, 1996.
The best time to visit Rhode Island
The best time to visit Rhode Island is during the beautiful summer from June to August. The temperatures range from warm to hot, and the days are long with bright sunshine. The peak of July is humid along the coast, but the rainfall mostly limits to occasional thunderstorms. Summer is an excellent time for a cruise on the ocean, surfing or snorkeling in the blue waters or simply lying on the pristine beaches. Fall is colorful but cold in the latter half of the season. Spring is often unpredictable, with mild to cold temperatures and unexpected precipitation in the form of rain or snow.
The worst time to visit Rhode Island
The worst time to visit Rhode Island is during the cold winter season from November to February. Snowfall is frequent, and occasional blizzards deposit a large amount of snow. Snowstorms limit visibility and stall everyday life. Winter days are short with mild sunshine at best. Few people enjoy ice skating on the frozen surfaces, but the lack of hills and mountains offers limited opportunities for skiing. Temperatures often drop below 0°F (-17.8°C) during the night at the peak of the winter. Budget travelers find attractive deals during New Year when the cold is at its peak.
Rhode Island is prone to thunderstorms, hurricanes, floods, and snowstorms. Air masses with origin in higher and lower latitudes to that of the state interact to produce several thunderstorms in the year. Storms that move up from the Atlantic coast bring heavy rain and occasional snow. Snowstorms are frequent in the winter, and raging blizzards deposit vast amounts of snow. Hurricanes and tropical storms frequently invade the state from the eastern sea owing to its location in New England. Hurricane Bob in 1991 remains one of the costliest storms in the history of the state with multiple landfalls and devastation of life and property.
Weather in January
January is by far the coldest month of the year in Rhode Island, with even the day temperatures below freezing on many occasions. The high temperatures during the day average in the cold 34°F (1.1°C) to 40°F (4.4°C) range, while the nightly low temperatures are in the frigid 17°F (-8.3°C) to 25°F (-3.9°C) zone. Woonsocket in the north is among the coldest places with low temperatures below 17°F (-8.3°C). The short days receive few hours of mild sunlight as icy precipitation takes over to the tune of 3" (76.2mm) to 4" (101.6mm) in the state. Five to seven days bring 8" (203.2mm) to 14" (355.6mm) of snowfall, with North Foster receiving 14" (355.6mm) of snow. Sledding and tubing are popular activities over places like Diamond Hill and Yawgoo Valley. Gray skies persist for long periods to give the feeling of a long winter. January is a slack season for tourism, which throws great deals for people wanting to travel on a budget. The severe cold in January mandates dressing in layers and warm winter coats in Rhode Island.
Weather in February
February is cold and snowy in Rhode Island as the state battles the icy winter conditions. Providence, the capital, averages between 24°F (-4.4°C) to 40°F (4.4°C), while Newport in the south remains in the 25°F (-3.9°C) to 40°F (4.4°C) range. Temperatures often drop below freezing during the day, as an occasional blizzard sweeps Rhode Island. Snowfall ranges between 7" (177.8mm) to 12" (304.8mm) and results in hazardous driving conditions with slush and black ice on the roads. Half of the month sees mild sunshine, while the rest has overcast skies with 60% to 80% cloud cover. Snowblowers run routinely to clear driveways and pavements, and snowplows clear the roads regularly. Aquariums and museums are better for a visit than the zoos, which are chilly. The cold is unbearable without warm winter coats and heaters. Gloves and caps serve to keep hands and ears warm. There are plenty of good times to visit Rhode Island in the year than during the cold of February.
Weather in March
March is cold in Rhode Island as early spring is prone to cloudy skies and frequent wet periods. The moody weather swings between sunny and rainy days along with flurries of snow. Day high temperatures are in the mild 46°F (7.8°C) to 49°F (9.4°C) range, while the nights are below freezing. Block Island and Newport register temperatures in the cold 31°F (-0.6°C) to 46°F (7.8°C) range. Rain jackets are handy in spring with the precipitation to the tune of 4" (101.6mm) to 6" (152.4mm). The strong wind acts as a deterrent for cycling on the carefully paved roads. Ducks and swans are galore, and it is a common sight to see them floating on the beautiful ponds. Snowfall is sporadic and registers from 4" (101.6mm) to 12" (304.8mm) in the state. Ice storms occasionally occur in early spring to simulate winter-like conditions. Long-sleeved shirts and pants are the order of the day, while sweaters are in action during the night. Expect the cold to give way to mild sunshine with the advance of the spring season in March in Rhode Island.
Weather in April
April is wet and warm in Rhode Island with an occasional cold front that lasts for a short period. The days warm steadily with the rising intensity and regular occurrence of the sunrays. The average temperatures are between 36°F (2.2°C) to 60°F (15.6°C) as cold fronts frequently invade the state. Nights are cold and occasionally dip below freezing. The last snow disappears by mid-spring, and the soil is free from frost. The landscape is green, with budding flowers everywhere. A rain jacket is a part of outdoor spring wear as 10 to 12 days receive a total of 4" (101.6mm) to 5" (127mm) of rain. Tourist numbers increase with the departure of snow. Drive safely on the roads as slush may cover them in the event of icy precipitation. Explore the wild trails, try rock climbing or roam through the fields of wildflowers in the beautiful spring season. The weather improves considerably by Easter in April in Rhode Island with the end of the snow season.
Weather in May
May is the peak of the spring season in Rhode Island with warm sunshine awakening the landscape. The bright days are full of energy, and the ocean waters invite visitors with their pleasant temperatures. The warm days usually register between 63°F (17.2°C) to 70°F (21.1°C), while the nights are in the mild zone of 45°F (7.2°C) to 50°F (10°C). Roger Williams Zoo is a nice place to visit in late spring in Providence with temperatures in the warm 49°F (9.4°C) to 68°F (20°C) range. Biking, hiking, and fishing activities gain momentum in May that has at least seven sunny days. Afternoons are prone to moderate precipitation that sums up to 5" (127mm) in the month. The ocean waters are mild and an invitation for the early birds who take advantage of the fewer crowds. Keep in mind that rain is always a factor in the unpredictable New England weather. May is the perfect time to visit Rhode Island and beat the swelling summer crowds.
Weather in June
June brings the wonderful summer season to Rhode Island with long and sunny days. The daylight increases rapidly to cast aside any remaining cold with the aid of the bright sun. The average high temperatures are in the beautiful 73°F (22.8°C) to 78°F (25.6°C) range, while the average low temperatures are around a comfortable 55°F (12.8°C) to 58°F (14.4°C). Summer nights are comfortable with rare incidences of cold weather. June receives 3" (76.2mm) to 4" (101.6mm) rainfall, mostly from thunderstorms. The ocean waters are delightfully warm during the long days of summer. Surfing on the seawater is a popular sport with the wind at the back. The beaches tend to be humid in the mornings and breezy in the evenings. Summer is one of the rare times when people can comfortably wear light clothing during the day. Keep an eye on the weather for sudden thunderstorms that bring brief but intense periods of rain during June in Rhode Island.
Weather in July
July is usually the hottest month of the year in Rhode Island with the sun at the height of its power. The daylight lasts for more than 15 hours, and it is standard for sunshine to last till 9 p.m. There is rarely a better time to visit the beach with the sun shining brightly in the sky. The beaches of Narragansett offer plenty of activities and calm waters. The whale watching season is in full swing, and the cruise season is at its peak. The average temperatures are in the warm 61°F (16.1°C) to 83°F (28.3°C) range statewide with 8 to 10 sunny days. It is rare for the mercury column to touch 90°F (32.2°C) on the coast, but it can reach 100°F (37.8°C) in the northern interior. Precipitation limits to thunderstorms and a threshold of 3" (76.2mm). Expect bright sunshine and long days at the peak of the summer. July sees crowds in Rhode Island due to the lure of warm ocean waters and pristine beaches.
Weather in August
August is the last stop of the summer season in Rhode Island with warm to hot conditions. The days are long, and the weather is humid in the coastal region. Day high temperatures are in the 78°F (25.6°C) to 82°F (27.8°C), while nights are comfortable in the 59°F (15°C) to 64°F (17.8°C). Westerly in the southwest registers between 62°F (16.7°C) to 79°F (26.1°C) and is usually cooler than the surrounding regions. August has partly cloudy skies with seven to eight sunny days in the month. The weather is perfect for getting on the water, either by way of cruises, boats, surfing, or swimming. Martha's Vineyard is a fantastic trip during late summer with plenty of clams, lobsters, and other seafood to satiate appetites. Increased humidity levels and hot weather are conducive for hay fever. Pollen allergies can make the conditions uncomfortable for a few people. New England weather always carries an element of surprise for tourists. The heat decreases gradually by the end of August in Rhode Island.
Weather in September
September is the arrival of the beautiful fall season in Rhode Island with mild temperatures and a dash of colors. The landscape becomes colorful with the changing leaves, especially in the forested regions. The temperatures are in the mild 52°F (11.1°C) to warm 75°F (23.9°C) range and seldom cross the 85°F (29.4°C) mark. The heatwaves of summer disappear quickly to register comfortable temperatures in the autumn. The daylight lasts for long hours, and there are many sunny days to enjoy the festive spirit of the autumn season. There are plenty of pumpkin patches and apple orchards that lift the spirits along with the crisp air and changing leaves. The leaves begin to change colors rapidly by mid-September all over the state. The fall season has delightful mornings, warm afternoons, and breezy evenings. Additionally, the beaches have plenty of space with the dwindling of the summer crowds. September is an excellent time for scenic drives along the winding roads with plenty of colors in the surrounding countryside in Rhode Island.
Weather in October
October lies in the middle of the fall season in Rhode Island with the foliage colors at their peak. Brilliant shades of red, orange, yellow, and gold cover the landscape. The atmosphere is beautiful with the breezy wind, and the sun breaks the cloud cover now and then. A great way to explore the fall colors is to walk or bike along the gorgeous Blackstone Valley River path. The average high temperatures are in the warm range of 60°F (15.6°C) to 65°F (18.3°C), while average low temperatures are in the cold 41°F (5°C) to 48°F (8.9°C) zone. The precipitation is to the tune of 3" (76.2mm) to 5" (127mm), but there can be an unexpected snowfall in an unusually cold year. Days steadily become short by the second half of October, with a decrease in the intensity of the sunlight. A light sweater or jacket is useful to keep warm during the breezy evenings. The cold increases rapidly by the end of October in Rhode Island.
Weather in November
November signals the transition from the mild autumn weather to bring cold conditions in Rhode Island. The daylight decreases rapidly as the sunshine remains moderate at best. The average temperatures are in the mild 41°F (5°C) to 55°F (12.8°C) range with a slight increase in rainfall. Nights are occasionally below freezing in Woonsocket and North Foster. Newport has average temperatures in the 39°F (3.9°C) to 53°F (11.7°C), while Kingston remains between 33°F (0.6°C) to 55°F (12.8°C). Precipitation ranges between 4" (101.6mm) to 5" (127mm) in the state as sweaters and jackets come out of closets. Evenings are windy, and sunny days become increasingly rare. The fall foliage season is over, and the trees show bare limbs as a sign of the approaching winter. Late November brings the first snowfall of the season. Nights are cold but not as severe as the winter. The cold increases rapidly by the end of the autumn season. November is the last chance to take advantage of the fall weather in Rhode Island.
Weather in December
December starts the cold winter season in Rhode Island with gloomy skies and moderate precipitation. The 3" (76.2mm) to 5" (127mm) of rainfall is occasionally in the form of icy precipitation that makes the roads slippery. The snowfall is in the moderate range of 7" (177.8mm) to 13" (330.2mm), but the cold makes sure that the landscape remains frozen during the winter. The average high temperatures are in the 39°F (3.9°C) to 45°F (7.2°C) range, while the average low temperatures are in the freezing zone of 25°F (-3.9°C) to 30°F (-1.1°C). Cold fronts are standard and keep the temperatures below freezing for several days in the interior. The winds are piercing with high speeds that exacerbate the effect of the cold. The Atlantic Ocean insulates the eastern part of the state from frigid temperatures, but the ocean waters are chilly, and the sands on the beaches are cold. Christmas brings festive spirits and joyous celebrations as people step out in warm winter coats. Snow lovers have plenty to cheer in December in Rhode Island.