Virginia has a humid subtropical type of climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa) in the majority of the state. The climate is humid continental (Köppen Dfa) and oceanic (Köppen Cfb) in the mountains west of the Blue Ridge. Virginia lies in the southeastern part of the United States and is a Mid-Atlantic state. North Carolina to the south, Tennessee to the southwest, Kentucky to the west, West Virginia to the north and west, Maryland and Washington D.C. to the north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east share borders with the state. The Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf Stream, and the Appalachian and the Blue Ridge Mountains wield significant influence on the climate.
Virginia, the Old Dominion State, has an average elevation of 290 meters, with the highest elevation of 1746 meters at Mount Rogers. The Chesapeake Bay separates the Eastern Shore from the contiguous portion of the state and drains major rivers, including the Potomac and the York. The Tidewater region is a coastal plain between the Atlantic coast and the Bay Area. The Piedmont region lies to the east of the mountains and consists of rocky foothills. Towards the west of the Appalachians, lies the Ridge and Valley region. The southwest corner of Virginia hosts the Cumberland Plateau and the Cumberland Mountains.
Virginia summers range from warm to hot, with the average high temperature at 86°F (30°C) at the peak of July. The temperatures register above 95°F (35°C) in the southern and eastern parts of the state. Winters are frigid, with average low temperatures dropping to 26°F (-3.3°C) at the peak of the cold season in January. Cold air masses lead to substantial snowfall during the invasion of Nor'easters that move up the Atlantic coast. The northern Blue Ridge Mountains endure bitter cold during the winter. Spring is wet and cold in the early part of the season, with the second maxima of rainfall in late May. Autumn is mild in the first half and tends to be cold with relatively less rainfall in the second half of the season.
The average rainfall in Virginia is 43" (1092.2mm), with an even distribution throughout the year. Summer is the wettest season, while winter receives the least amount of precipitation. The precipitation ranges from 33" (838.2mm) in the Shenandoah Valley to 60" (1524mm) in the southwestern mountains. Snowfall occurs mainly from December to March and registers in the zone of 8" (203.2mm) along the coast to 25" (635mm) in the mountains. Heavy snow is common in Piedmont and mountainous regions, with the Appalachians registering over 100" (2540mm) of snow annually. Virginia receives between 2500 to 2600 hours of annual sunshine, while the humidity averages in the 65% to 70% range over the year.
Balcony Falls holds the record of the highest ever temperature of 110°F (43.3°C) on July 15, 1954, in Virginia, while Pembroke recorded the coldest temperature of -30°F (-34.4°C) on January 22, 1985.
The best time to visit Virginia
The best time to visit Virginia is usually from April in mid-spring to October in autumn, including the summer. April is drier than May, and the snowfall is negligible in the majority of the state by the end of March. Summers are hot and humid, and thunderstorms contribute a high percentage of the rainfall. The bright sunshine and long days attract many tourists, and the growing season is in full swing. Autumn is colorful and mild in the first half, with fewer incidences of hurricanes and storms. There are many festivals in the bright summer and mild fall seasons.
The worst time to visit Virginia
The worst time to visit Virginia is during the cold winter season from December to February. The cold is numbing, and mercury readings below 15°F (-9.4°C) are common in the mountains. The snowfall is significant, if not massive, especially in the western Blue Ridge Mountains. The coastal plains are warmer than the interior but regularly record freezing nights. Snowstorms occasionally occur in the cold season and deposit heavy snow. Wind speeds cross 70 miles per hour during the Nor'easters that sweep the coast. The winter season sees the lowest number of visitors in the year.
Virginia is vulnerable to thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and snowstorms. Thunderstorms occur throughout the year, but summer hosts the highest numbers. Southern Virginia is more prone to thunderstorms, which mainly appear in the afternoons. Hurricanes and tropical cyclones occur majorly along the coast. Hurricane Isabel, Gaston, and Camille are examples of a few storms that brought destruction in the form of wind and rain. Virginia has an annual average of seven tornadoes and 40 days of thunderstorm activity. Storms bring torrential rainfall within a matter of a few hours. Winters see occasional snowstorms and cold fronts.
Weather in January
January is the peak of the winter season in Virginia, with the average low temperatures dropping to 26°F (-3.3°C). Nights are below freezing in the state, including the coastal regions. Richmond, the capital, and Arlington, both in the Piedmont region, have average temperatures in the 28°F (-2.2°C) to 47°F (8.3°C) range. Precipitation is to the tune of 3" (76.2mm) to 3.5" (88.9mm), with the mountains and coasts rainier than the interior. January is the snowiest month of the year with 8" (203.2mm) to 12" (304.8mm) of snowfall in the western mountains. The days are short, with a daily 6 hours of weak sunshine. The western and central parts of the state are generally warmer than the eastern one. Nor'easters occasionally move up the coast and bring heavy snowfall. Mountain resorts have ample snow to satiate the appetite of snow lovers. Cottages provide comfortable stays without the effort of snow shoveling in the cold season. January days are much warmer in Virginia compared to the northeastern part of the United States.
Weather in February
February is chilly in Virginia as cold conditions persist across the state. The days are mild to cold, and the nights are freezing. Roanoke and Staunton in the mountain region register temperatures between 26°F (-3.3°C) to 49°F (9.4°C) range, while Charlottesville and Lynchburg in the Piedmont region are between 27°F (-2.8°C) to 49°F (9.4°C). Mathews in coastal Virginia has average temperatures in the 28°F (-2.2°C) to 50°F (10°C) in February. Blizzards occur rarely but stall normal life due to poor visibility and heavy snowfall. Driving conditions are challenging with slippery roads due to sleet and ice. The ocean waters are cold, but the beaches see a fair number of people. Whale watching is popular during the winter when the humpbacks arrive on the Virginia coast. Expect cold fronts, especially in the mountains, and a warmer southern part of the state than the north. Warm winter coats are necessary for the entire month even though the day temperatures become mild by the second half of February in Virginia.
Weather in March
March is cold in the spring season in Virginia, with the snow still lingering in the mountains. The rest of the state receives light snowfall and moderate precipitation. The average high temperatures are between 52°F (11.1°C) to 61°F (16.1°C), while the average low temperatures are in the 28°F (-2.2°C) to 40°F (4.4°C) zone. Much of the mountainous region faces the prospects of freezing nights with temperatures between 25°F (-3.9°C) to 30°F (-1.1°C). The ground is green, and the atmosphere is cheerful with the blooming of flowers and singing of birds in early spring. March sees at least 7 hours of daily sunshine, and spring festivals lift the sagging winter spirits. Wildlife is active, and the state parks and wildlife refuges see early-season visitors. Carry a jacket or sweater to withstand the cold and dampness, especially after sunset. The Shenandoah National Park lies in the rain shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the driest portion of the state. Expect the temperatures to rise gradually by the last week of March in Virginia.
Weather in April
April begins the period of comfortable weather in Virginia with the advance of the spring season. The conditions are relatively drier compared to late spring and summer, and the snow disappears from the ground. Day temperatures are in the pleasant 60°F (15.6°C) to 71°F (21.7°C) range, while nights are cold between 38°F (3.3°C) to 51°F (10.6°C). Richmond in the Piedmont region sits comfortably between 46°F (7.8°C) to 70°F (21.1°C), while Hampton on the coast has warm temperatures between 51°F (10.6°C) to 71°F (21.7°C). The ocean waters are mild by mid-April, and draw crowds on the beautiful beaches. Midday temperatures are moderate on the beaches even though the daily sunshine lasts for 8 hours. Rivers and streams are full of fresh water, and there is plenty of fish to catch for everyone. The mountains are on the cold side after sunset, but snowfall is negligible. The hunting season is in full swing with the availability of plenty of prey. Wear long pants while exploring the wilderness. April is an ideal time for budget travelers to visit Virginia.
Weather in May
May is the peak of the spring season in Virginia, with plenty of sunny days. The blossoming flowers and bustling activities of birds and animals fill the land with joy. The average high temperatures are in the beautiful 68°F (20°C) to 78°F (25.6°C) range, while the average low temperatures are in the comfortable 48°F (8.9°C) to 58°F (14.4°C). Mountain trails are open, and hiking and camping gather momentum. May is the time for a lovely spring drive on the country roads under the bright sunshine. Tourist numbers swell in the mountains and beaches, especially during the spring break. Craft beer enthusiasts have ample choices as wine festivals take place regularly during the spring. Fishing, canoeing, and kayaking are popular activities with a large number of rivers, lakes, and streams in Virginia. May receive an average of 4" (101.6mm) of rainfall, so carry a rain jacket or umbrella during outdoor visits. Watch out for thunderstorms that occur regularly during late afternoons in May in Virginia.
Weather in June
June begins the warm to the hot summer season in Virginia, with extended hours of daylight. The daily sunlight lasts between 8 to 9 hours in the state, including the mountains. The days tend to be hot and humid, with average high temperatures in the 75°F (23.9°C) to 88°F (31.1°C) range. Nights are comfortable with significant drops in temperatures from the day highs. June is a great time for camping in the backcountry and the mountains, as the heat is considerably less during the nights. The mountains are wetter than the rest of the state but are less prone to thunderstorms. The best time to visit the beaches is during the mornings when the light is bright, but the intensity of the sunlight is at its lowest. Avoid afternoon and evening stints on the beaches as thunderstorms routinely arrive by 4 p.m. Sweatshirts are better during the day when the humidity is at its peak. Book hotels in advance as June is the peak of the tourist season in Virginia.
Weather in July
July is usually the hottest month of the year in Virginia, with the average high temperatures in the range of 78°F (25.6°C) to 92°F (33.3°C). The ocean waters are warm during the afternoons, and the intense sunshine mandates sun protection gear. Colonial Beach has average temperatures in the 69°F (20.6°C) to 92°F (33.3°C), and many places touch the 100°F (37.8°C) mark in southern Virginia. July sees 4" (101.6mm) to 5" (127mm) of rainfall, mainly from thunderstorm activity, and occasionally from hurricanes and tropical storms. Nights are relaxing than the days, with a rapid drop in temperatures after sunset. The growing season is at its peak across the state, with the fertile soil, adequate precipitation, and bright sunshine. Summer vacations see crowds at theme parks, beaches, historic sites, national and state parks. Hiking, biking, and bird watching activities are popular in the summer. Utilize the morning light and comfortable temperatures as far as possible. Keep an eye on the weather for storms in July in Virginia.
Weather in August
August is a hot summer month in Virginia that also sees significant storm activity. Hurricanes and tropical storms are frequent and bring up to 40% of the rainfall. The precipitation is to the tune of 3" (76.2mm) to 6" (152.4mm), with the highest numbers along the coast where the storms move up from the south. The average temperatures are in the 61°F (16.1°C) to 89°F (31.7°C) range statewide, with many sunny days along with partly cloudy ones. Tangier Island in coastal Virginia registers temperatures between 71°F (21.7°C) to 87°F (30.6°C), while Arlington in the Piedmont region is between 70°F (21.1°C) to 87°F (30.6°C). Burkes Garden in the mountains is refreshing even during the hot summer with temperatures in the 55°F (12.8°C) to 77°F (25°C). August is the ideal time to visit the mountains where the storms are fewer, and the heat and humidity are lower than the rest of the state. Light sweatshirts are suitable during the hot days of summer. Expect the temperatures to gradually decline by the last week of August in Virginia.
Weather in September
September is the beginning of the beautiful autumn season of Virginia, with bright sunshine and mild temperatures. The forests, countryside, and mountains attain bright shades of yellow, crimson, orange, and golden colors with the advance of the fall season. The hot and humid conditions transform into comfortable temperatures, which average between 48°F (8.9°C) to 83°F (28.3°C). The precipitation is to the tune of 3" (76.2mm) to 4" (101.6mm) statewide, and sunny days witness partly cloudy skies intermittently. September is the season of hurricanes and tropical storms in Virginia, especially in the south, that bring a significant part of the rainfall. The harvest season brings a smile to the locals as well as tourist population, with plenty of produce and food festivals. Apple orchards, corn mazes, and pumpkin patches witness the highest footfalls in September. Fall evenings are breezy, so wear a jacket while on a scenic fall drive through the colorful landscape. September is one of the best times for food lovers to visit Virginia.
Weather in October
October is the time of peak fall foliage in Virginia amid pleasant conditions. The skies are mostly clear, with the storm season on the wane. Thunderstorms occur in Virginia in all the seasons even though their numbers decline in the autumn. Back Bay Wildlife Reserve in the coastal region registers pleasant temperatures in the 56°F (13.3°C) to 71°F (21.7°C), while Lynchburg in the Piedmont area is mild between 44°F (6.7°C) to 69°F (20.6°C). Mount Weather in the hilly region sees many tourists with the temperatures in the comfortable zone of 46°F (7.8°C) to 63°F (17.2°C). The precipitation is in the 2" (50.8mm) to 3" (76.2mm) range across the state, and the fresh air and beautiful colors attract people to the countryside. Fall drives are scenic with the wind in the face and moderate sunshine. Take advantage of early mornings and pleasant afternoons for outdoor excursions. Watch out for wild animals crossing the narrow rural roads while driving. October draws crowds to the pristine beaches with the mild ocean water temperatures in Virginia.
Weather in November
November ends the autumn season in Virginia, with a significant drop in temperatures across the state. The average high temperatures are in the warm 53°F (11.7°C) to 63°F (17.2°C), while the average low temperatures are between 29°F (-1.7°C) to 46°F (7.8°C). November offers fair weather to cross the Chesapeake Bay and visit the Tidewater area. The driest month of the year with 3.2" (81.3mm) of rainfall is an excellent time to go boating and to cruise in the temperate conditions. The daily sunshine of 7 hours provides enough brightness to go on long ocean excursions even at the end of autumn. Evenings are breezy, and nights tend to be cold with the rapid advance of the fall season. The southern location of Virginia rarely allows snowfall before winter. However, the temperatures drop rapidly, and trees shed their leaves, signaling the end of warm days. A cold front is common in the late days of the fall season. November is a shoulder season for budget travelers with discounted accommodations in Virginia.
Weather in December
December is a cold winter month in Virginia, with moderate snowfall and precipitation. The average temperatures are in the cold zone of 22°F (-5.6°C) to 53°F (11.7°C), with coastal places like Norfolk, Suffolk, and Hampton considerably warm between 34°F (1.1°C) to 53°F (11.7°C). The snowfall is in the 6" (152.4mm) to 10" (254mm) ranges in the mountains, while the Piedmont region receives 2" (50.8mm) to 4" (101.6mm). Although cold fronts reach the interior of the state, the daily sunshine lasts for at least 6 hours. Warm winter clothing is necessary due to the strong gusts of wind that keep the conditions colder than the actual temperature readings. Tourist numbers drop steadily with the threat of extreme temperatures and stormy weather. Christmas rarely sees substantial snowfall in the state, except for the high slopes of the Appalachians. Snow tubing and ice skating are popular activities in the winter. Mountain lodges provide cozy stays in cold conditions. December welcomes humpback whales to the coast of Virginia. [Resources]
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