South Carolina has a mainly humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa), with hot and humid summers and mild to cold winters. South Carolina lies in the southeastern corner of the United States. The Atlantic Ocean lies in the southeast, and Georgia is in the southwest, while North Carolina forms the border to the north. The Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the latitudes influence the climate of the state.
South Carolina, The Palmetto State, with an average elevation of 110 meters above sea level, has the highest point on Sassafras Mountain at 1085 meters. South Carolina consists of three geographic areas going from east to west. The Atlantic Coastal Plain is the Low Country area with flat terrain in the easternmost part that occupies two-thirds of the state. The plain contains salt marshes, estuaries, and numerous bays that are part of the Middle Atlantic coastal forests. The Piedmont area forms the Midlands and consists of forests of the Southeastern mixed type. Lastly, the Blue Ridge Mountains form the Upstate area, which is a part of the southern Appalachian Mountains.
Summers are hot and humid in South Carolina, with day temperatures often above 90°F (32.2°C) on average. Nights are mild to warm in the 66°F (18.9°C) to 75°F (23.9°C) range and are warmer along the coast than the interior. Winters are mild to cold, with daily highs in the 58°F (14.4°C) to 62°F (16.7°C) range, while nights are between 38°F (3.3°C) to 42°F (5.6°C) along the coast. January nights are below freezing in the Midlands and drop significantly below freezing in the Upstate area. Air-conditioners are necessary for the summer at altitudes below 150 meters, while heaters are necessary for the winter above 150 meters. Spring and autumn are wetter inland than the coast, which receives the highest amount of rainfall in the summer.
The average annual precipitation in South Carolina ranges between 45" (1143mm) and 80" (2032mm) and occurs throughout the year. November is the driest month in the interior, and winter is the driest season. Snowfall is rare, with the coast receiving no or less than an inch of measurable snow in the year. The interior receives up to 12" (304.8mm), and the northwestern mountains accumulate substantial amounts. Icy rain and sleet are common in the winter instead of snow. The average annual freeze-free period that coincides with the growing season ranges from 200 days in the mountain areas to 280 days in the coastal areas. The sunshine is ample throughout the year and averages over 2750 hours annually.
The highest recorded temperature in South Carolina is 113°F (45°C) in Johnston and Columbia on June 29, 2012, while the lowest recorded temperature is -19°F (-28.3°C) at Caesars Head on January 21, 1985.
The best time to visit South Carolina
The best time to visit South Carolina is in the spring - from March to May, and in the autumn - in September and October. A relatively dry period occurs in April and May, which is the driest month in the spring. The heat and humidity are lower compared to the summer, but the sunlight is ample, and the days are long. Budget travelers find the shoulder seasons better for discounted accommodations. The fall season has mild temperatures and is the driest among all seasons. The mountain areas see a splash of colors, and the storm season is on the wane. Hiking, fishing, and hunting are popular in the forests and state parks.
The worst time to visit South Carolina
The worst time to visit South Carolina, if any, is in the winter season from December to February. The temperatures drop below freezing for 50 to 70 days in the Piedmont and Upstate areas. Cold conditions increase with altitude, and the mountains in the northwest receive an ample amount of snow. Summers are oppressive due to heat and humidity. However, temperatures are significantly lower in the Blue Ridge Mountains compared to the interior of the state, especially at high altitudes. Peak summer temperatures are uncomfortable for tourists from the cold regions of North America.
South Carolina is prone to thunderstorms, floods, droughts, tornadoes, hurricanes, and tropical cyclones. Thunderstorm days average 50 in a year, while tornadoes register 14 on an annual average. Spring and summer is the period of thunderstorms with lightning, high wind, and hail. Tornadoes peak during April, but the usual period of occurrence is between March and June. The hurricane season lasts from June to November, with a peak in late summer and fall seasons. Floods occur occasionally but rarely pose a threat to human lives as they do to livestock and property. Tropical storms bring heavy rain to the coast and even in the interior occasionally. Earthquakes are frequent in the Charleston area along the central coastline.
Weather in January
January is the coldest month of the year in South Carolina, with the average low temperatures ranging from 26°F (-3.3°C) in the mountains to 40°F (4.4°C) in the plains. Hilton Head Island on the Atlantic Coast averages between 40°F (4.4°C) to 60°F (15.6°C), while Caesars Head State Park in the Uplands region is between 26°F (-3.3°C) to 44°F (6.7°C). The days are mild with moderate sunshine of 7 hours and usually remain in the 44°F (6.7°C) to 60°F (15.6°C) zone. Snowfall is light between 1" (25.4mm) to 3" (76.2mm) and increases in the Blue Mountains. Sledding and tubing are popular on the high mountain slopes. Ice and sleet are common, with precipitation in the 4" (101.6mm) to 5" (127mm) range. Winter is the time for tastiest craft beers and Beer Festivals. State Parks offer plenty of hikes and cozy cabins for relaxation. Pack warm clothes for the evenings even though the days seem to be mild. Watch out for winter storms that can close highways and affect power lines in January in South Carolina.
Weather in February
February is mildly cold and relatively dry in the winter of South Carolina. Polar air masses occasionally penetrate the interior of the state to record freezing nights. The days see warm sunshine, with average temperatures in the 47°F (8.3°C) to 63°F (17.2°C). Columbia, the capital in the midlands region, registers average temperatures in the 41°F (5°C) to 63°F (17.2°C). Snowfall occurs only in the high mountains of the west. Winter storms can turn mild winters into snowy ones. The possibility of freezing rain is more than snow and ice cover on roads is hazardous for driving. The usage of heavy winter coats is rare, but it is prudent to pack sweaters, long-sleeved shirts, and comfortable jeans. Sunny days are not an exception, so a short-sleeved shirt is an excellent addition to the luggage. Hunting is open in the cold season in the mild temperatures. February ends the winter in South Carolina, and the state gradually warms up with each passing day.
Weather in March
March is the beginning of the beautiful spring season in South Carolina. The dryness of winter changes to the wetness of spring, with blooming flowers and a green landscape. The average high temperatures are in the mild 56°F (13.3°C) to warm 69°F (20.6°C) range, while the average low temperatures are in the cold 35°F (1.7°C) to mild 49°F (9.4°C) zone. The ground is entirely free of snow and ice, and the only ice caps that are persistent are those on the top of the high mountains. The ocean water temperatures are still cold for swimming. However, there are plenty of cruises for those who wish to enjoy the excellent sea air. The hunting season draws many shooters to the state looking for birds and small game. It is not surprising to experience a cold wave or a tornado in the spring. The spring season sees many tourists in South Carolina, and March is ideal for budget travelers looking for discounted accommodations.
Weather in April
April is a beautiful time to visit South Carolina in the relatively dry part of the spring season. Day temperatures are in the comfortable 64°F (17.8°C) to 75°F (23.9°C) range, while nights are in the mild zone of 42°F (5.6°C) to 55°F (12.8°C). Anderson in the upstate region is pleasant between 49°F (9.4°C) to 73°F (22.8°C), while Florence in the midlands region registers between 51°F (10.6°C) to 76°F (24.4°C). The precipitation is to the tune of 2" (50.8mm) to 3" (76.2mm) in much of the state. Expect bright sunshine of 7 to 8 hours and a charged atmosphere during the Easter holidays. The growing season is in full swing after the end of the spring-freeze as agricultural activities assume significance. Hunting and fishing enthusiasts occupy the forest lands and lakeshores filled with abundant striped bass and white-tailed deer. Spring is the time to bike and hike the mountain trails and catch the fresh air. Berries make a grand entry on the farm stands and arrive straight from the farms. Expect tornadoes to peak in April in South Carolina.
Weather in May
May is sunny in South Carolina, with clear skies and is the driest month of the spring season. The average high temperatures are in the warm 71°F (21.7°C) to 82°F (27.8°C) range, while the average low temperatures are in the mild 51°F (10.6°C) to 63°F (17.2°C) zone. The 8 hours of daily sunshine is the time to explore the beauty of nature and visit national and state parks. Allergies are on the rise with the abundant pollen in the air. Wild animals and bird sightings are regular, especially during dawn and dusk. Warm weather birds like orioles and hummingbirds arrive in the land. The coast is popular, and the public takes advantage of the long shoreline and beautiful beaches. Expect the temperatures to rise rapidly by the end of the spring season. The fresh air and charged atmosphere offers an ideal atmosphere for biking and hiking the mountain trails. Thunderstorms and tornadoes are common in May in South Carolina.
Weather in June
June begins the hot and humid summer season in South Carolina and a wet period along the coast. Nights are comfortable in the 56°F (13.3°C) to 70°F (21.1°C) range, while the days are long, with average high temperatures in the 76°F (24.4°C) to 92°F (33.3°C) zone. Clarks Hill in the midlands region has comfortable temperatures in the 68°F (20°C) to 91°F (32.8°C) zone. Afternoon thunderstorms offer a reprieve from the tormenting heat, but tornadoes are on the wane. Morning is the best time for tourists who are in Myrtle Beach and the Outer Banks area, which tend to be sticky and hot with the progress of the day. A cool coastal breeze in the evening makes the conditions bearable as also the air-conditioners, which run continuously indoors. Sweatshirts, t-shirts, and shorts, which are light with breathable fabric, make life more comfortable in the summer. Throw in a hat, sunglasses, and sandals while strolling on the beach for comfort. South Carolina sees many visitors despite the hot conditions in June.
Weather in July
July is usually the hottest month of the year in South Carolina, with the average high temperatures in the high range of 79°F (26.1°C) to 95°F (35°C). Georgetown on the coast is slightly milder between 71°F (21.7°C) to 91°F (32.8°C) than Columbia in the midlands region which sees temperatures in the 73°F (22.8°C) to 95°F (35°C) range. Nights average between 62°F (16.7°C) to 73°F (22.8°C) and tend to be mild in the western mountains. Keep a light jacket at hand while on the beach as the precipitation tends to be highest on the coast. July brings 4" (101.6mm) to 7" (177.8mm) of rainfall across the state, much in the form of afternoon thunderstorms that cool the conditions post-rain. The 8 hours of sunshine is bright, but the humidity is at a yearly high with a lot of cloud cover. Mountain lodges and state parks are popular tourist places along with the coast. Mountain air offers a pleasant change from the heat of the plains as visitors flock to the highlands during July in South Carolina.
Weather in August
August is hot in South Carolina, with a minimum of 8 hours of daily sunshine. The average high temperatures are in the scorching 77°F (25°C) to 93°F (33.9°C) range, while the average low temperatures register between 61°F (16.1°C) to 72°F (22.2°C). The average rainfall ranges from 4" (101.6mm) to 8" (203.2mm) and is the highest in the coastal belt. Light summer wear is the most suitable form of clothing in the gruesome heat of the day. Cool lake waters and swimming holes find the most significant number of visitors. Ice-cream shops ring in the highest sales numbers of the year during the summer season. Museums, zoos, and parks are the beneficiaries of the long days of summer. Yellow Jessamine vines appear in every nook and corner in the state. Postpone a visit to the state by a few weeks, as the heat index lowers after the end of the summer. The temperatures drop steadily in South Carolina by the end of August.
Weather in September
September begins the beautiful autumn season in South Carolina, with the temperatures steadily on the wane. The average temperatures are in the range of 55°F (12.8°C) to 88°F (31.1°C), signifying better days ahead. Long Creek in the upstate region has one of the most comfortable conditions in the state, with temperatures in the range of 57°F (13.9°C) to 79°F (26.1°C). The precipitation is to the tune of 4" (101.6mm) to 6" (152.4mm), with mostly clear skies and sunny days. The early fall season is prone to an occasional heatwave that can push the midday temperatures over 90°F (32.2°C). The colors begin to change in the mountains by the fourth week of September and quickly spread from west to east. The hurricane season, which is at its peak during the fall season, causes considerable destruction of property and occasionally even results in evacuations. The hunting and growing seasons find a great ally in the pleasant autumn weather. Late September brings a pleasant change in the weather of South Carolina.
Weather in October
October is in the middle of the colorful autumn season in South Carolina, with a rapidly changing landscape. The average high temperatures are in the beautiful range of 63°F (17.2°C) to 79°F (26.1°C), while the average low temperatures are mild between 46°F (7.8°C) to 55°F (12.8°C). October receives between 3" (76.2mm) to 5" (127mm) of rainfall across the state. Freezing nights are rare, but camping in the mountains is enjoyable in the slightly cold conditions under the starry skies. Bonfires crackle in campgrounds as families and friends gather for joyful times. Lakeshore forests and mountains are ideal for exploring the fall foliage that peaks by the fourth week of October in many places. The brilliant fall colors spread over the landscape and forests of pine, spruce, oak, and aspen contribute various hues from red to purple. The harvest season is in full swing, and there is plenty of produce, including apples, pumpkins, and corn. October is the best time to visit South Carolina.
Weather in November
November is the driest month of the year in South Carolina, with the rainfall hardly reaching an average of 2" (50.8mm) in the state. The average high temperatures are in the comfortable 55°F (12.8°C) to 69°F (20.6°C) range, but the average low temperatures drop in the cold zone between 37°F (2.8°C) to 47°F (8.3°C). Myrtle Beach on the coast is a popular tourist place with pleasant temperatures between 43°F (6.1°C) to 68°F (20°C). The days receive bright sunlight of 7 hours but are warm at best. The skies remain clear as the hurricane season bows out by the second half of November. The conditions tend to be breezy and occasionally advance to windy, as the nights occasionally drop below freezing. The harvest season ends with the autumn and the freeze-free period. Wine and beer festivals light up the spirits of the population and the visitors. Budget travelers find trips to be economical on the wallets in November. The first snowflakes arrive in the mountains and signal the beginning of the cold season. November is an excellent time to visit the coasts of South Carolina.
Weather in December
December is the beginning of the winter season in South Carolina with moderate rainfall between 3" (76.2mm) to 4" (101.6mm). The average high temperatures are in the mild 46°F (7.8°C) to 60°F (15.6°C) range, while the average low temperatures are between a cold 29°F (-1.7°C) to 39°F (3.9°C). Snowfall is moderate in the Midlands and Upstate regions and light elsewhere. The days receive up to 7 hours of sunlight even in the coldest season in much of the state. Cold fronts occasionally travel to the interior, but temperatures rarely drop to extreme levels for extended periods. Snowstorms are rare, but even minor snowfall is enough to stall everyday life. Log cabins are popular in the mountains and offer comfort and scenic views of the valleys below. A jacket or sweater is generally sufficient for people used to cold conditions. Snowbirds from the north migrate to the south in search of warm weather. Expect temperatures to drop steadily with each passing day in December in South Carolina.