West Virginia has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa) with warm summers and cold winters. Virginia in the southeast, Kentucky in the southwest, Ohio in the northwest, Pennsylvania in the north, and Maryland in the east, border the state. The climate varies considerably at higher altitude (Köppen Cfb and Dfb) in the mountain ranges of the state.
West Virginia, the Mountain state, majorly consists of mountainous terrain and rolling hills that are part of the Appalachian Mountain Range. The Allegheny Mountains lie in the eastern part of the state and receive a large amount of rainfall, especially at altitudes over 2500 meters. Many rivers such as the Potomac and the Shenandoah, lakes, wetlands, swamps, and forests constitute the topography of the state. West Virginia is a region with natural challenges that are popular with adventure seekers, winter sports lovers, hunters, rock climbers, and hikers.
July is the peak of summer with average high temperatures of 82°F (27.8°C) to 87°F (30.6°C), while January is the trough of winter with average low temperatures in the 15°F (-9.4°C) to 25°F (-3.9°C) range. Summer days feel hot due to the increase in humidity, while nights cool down at most by 10°F (-12.2°C) to 20°F (-6.7°C) compared to the day - the difference in temperatures, however, is not as extreme as the states in the Mid-West. Winter days are cold, while the temperatures are below freezing during the nights. Spring is warm and wet, while autumn is temperate and windy in the majority of the state. Fog is common in many places during the winter, and sunshine is at a premium. West Virginia rarely experiences severe weather, typical of the northeast region of America, and records the least number of tornadoes in the eastern United States.
West Virginia experiences evenly distributed precipitation throughout the year that averages 44" (1117.6mm). Rainfall peaks in midsummer July and the higher elevations register 56" (1422.4mm). Eastern valleys that lie in the rain shadow region of the Allegheny Mountains record low rain compared to the rest of the state to the tune of 36" (914.4mm). Snowfall averages 36" (914.4mm) during the year; Snowshoe in the east is the snowiest at 159" (4038.6mm), while Elkins records 84" (2133.6mm) - the eastern highlands accumulate considerably more snow than the rest of the state. West Virginia is usually cloudy and rainy, at least to an extent throughout the year, and the sun is present on the horizon for only 162 days during the year - in fact, a few cities in the state record even more than 200 days of cloud cover.
Martinsburg recorded West Virginia's highest temperature of 112°F (44.4°C) on July 10, 1936, while Lewisburg recorded the lowest temperature of -37°F (-38.3°C) on December 30, 1917.
The best time to visit West Virginia
Summers are hot and humid, but the temperatures rarely go above 95°F (35°C). Rainfall occurs throughout the year but reaches a peak between June and August. Spring is warm but experiences frequent rainfall. Autumn is mild in the early and middle season, and the foliage is colorful. Overall, the period from May to October is the best time to visit West Virginia - though, keep in mind that summer is also the peak tourist season and draws large crowds. The mountain climate in the eastern region is colder than the rest of the state during peak summer, which is an excellent time for hiking and backpacking.
The worst time to visit West Virginia
Winter is the worst time to visit West Virginia as the weather is cold and temperatures are below freezing. Fog is a constant companion as the cloudy skies hide the sun for many days. Snow and rain, both are persistent during the winter, and the roads are icy. Winter is a slow season for tourism but attracts some visitors for activities like skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. West Virginia receives 40" (1016mm) to 120" (3048mm) of snow in the various regions of the state.
West Virginia is usually calm, but thunderstorms occasionally occur in late spring and early summer. Tornadoes hit the state but in lesser numbers and low intensity as the winds find strong barriers in the form of high mountain ranges. Summer experiences heavy rain and hailstorms are not entirely unexpected in the state. Snowstorms are common during the winter although they lack the strength of those in the other parts of the country.
Weather in January
January is the coldest month of the year in West Virginia as the temperatures plummet to the frigid zones. The average high temperatures are in the cold range of 33°F (0.6°C) to 43°F (6.1°C), while the average low temperatures stay in the 13°F (-10.6°C) to 24°F (-4.4°C) zone. January is the snowiest month with an average of 10" (254mm) to 15" (381mm); Eastern regions like Snowshoe, Elkins, Bartow, Marlinton and Seneca State Forest accumulate significantly higher amounts of snow over the average. The snow is sufficient for exciting winter activities like dogsledding, snowshoeing, and sleigh riding, among others. Rain is a regular host in West Virginia, and January is no exception with 4" (101.6mm) of precipitation. Though winter has a range of activities, the tourist numbers dwindle in January, and off-season discounts are common. Note that most of the mountain trails remain closed during the winter as do some of the state parks and it is rightly so, as the sunshine is scarce and the roads are icy.
Weather in February
February is cold in West Virginia with the average temperatures in the 15°F (-9.4°C) to 47°F (8.3°C) zone across different regions of the state. The eastern mountains block cold air masses that are unable to pass to the west side most of the time and bring severe cold to West Virginia's eastern valley regions during the winter. Bartow averages 19°F (-7.2°C) to 39°F (3.9°C), while Canaan Valley Park is in the 16°F (-8.9°C) to 36°F (2.2°C) range. Snowstorms tap the state during the winter though they are rarely destructive or deposit vast quantities of snow. The sunshine is usually bleak in February with the sun present on the horizon for hardly 10 days on an average. Cloud coverage is almost universal in the state along with the light but persistent rain showers. Overall, expect to have a snow and ice cover on the ground in most places amid cloudy skies and rare sunny days. No wonder that February lags the charts in popularity to visit West Virginia!
Weather in March
March arrives with the promise of the warm temperatures of spring in West Virginia. The average day temperatures rise to register between the 43°F (6.1°C) to 53°F (11.7°C) range but the nights regularly drop below freezing with the temperatures in the 22°F (-5.6°C) to 36°F (2.2°C) range. A slight increase in rainfall is evident during the spring, while snowfall sees a slight decrease to approximately 6" (152.4mm) to 8" (203.2mm) statewide. Mornings are foggy, especially in the mountains and the trails are still snowy. Cold fronts are common in March even though the sun is in office for 13 to 14 days - the sun rays are not strong to break the cloud cover or thaw the snow. Early spring, has warm, moist days and cold nights. The landscape gradually changes from the wintry white to bring in specks of green as the sunlight gathers strength by the end of March. Pack in layered clothing, preferably with a raincoat, for availing early bird discounts, as the tourist season has not yet picked up.
Weather in April
April sees the advent of spring in West Virginia with warm days and mild nights. Spring smells of fresh water and blossoming flowers like honeysuckles and rhododendrons in the background of greenery everywhere. Rain is persistent, but snowfall is almost over with the end of winter. Traces of snow is common in the mountains, but the lowlands are almost free of any fresh deposits. April brings warm day temperatures in the 40°F (4.4°C) to 69°F (20.6°C) zone, while the night temperatures mostly rise above the freezing point. Franklin in the east averages between 38°F (3.3°C) to 66°F (18.9°C), Charleston, the capital in the south, is between 45°F (7.2°C) to 68°F (20°C) and Wheeling in the northwestern panhandle ranges from 40°F (4.4°C) to 64°F (17.8°C). Creeks, streams, lakes, and rivers gather fresh water from the melting of snow. While the roaring fresh water entices people, note that the water is mostly cold and better for kayaking or fishing instead of swimming! April is a shoulder season for tourism that sees a rise in visitor numbers.
Weather in May
May sees warm temperatures in West Virginia with comfortable days and nights as the spring weather blesses the state. The average high temperatures are in the pleasant 65°F (18.3°C) to 75°F (23.9°C) zone, while the average low temperatures are in the warm 40°F (4.4°C) to 55°F (12.8°C) range. Sunshine increases in the state, especially in the southern part as the average number of days with sunshine increases to 15. The sunrays are up to 50% of peak strength as cloud cover and rain both are common. Rainfall is to the tune of 4" (101.6mm) to 5" (127mm), and snow disappears from the ground, ending the skiing season. Mountain trails are open everywhere by the end of spring, and there is a buzz of activities like white water rafting, hiking, and biking. The first of the thunderstorms are likely to hit in May, so be cautious in the highlands where there is no cover from the rain! Mid to late spring is the start of the peak tourist season and the resultant swelling of crowds in West Virginia.
Weather in June
June is beautiful, with many sunny days and one of the best times to visit West Virginia. The usually cloudy skies give way to sunshine as the daylight lasts over 12 hours. The average high temperatures are in excellent 70°F (21.1°C) to 80°F (26.7°C) range, while average low temperatures are between 50°F (10°C) and 60°F (15.6°C). Parkersburg in the northwest averages between 60°F (15.6°C) to 82°F (27.8°C), Huntington in the south is between 62°F (16.7°C) to 84°F (28.9°C), while Seneca State Forest in the east is a bit cooler between 52°F (11.1°C) to 77°F (25°C). Rainfall is to the tune of 5" (127mm), and thunderstorms are common, especially in the high plateau regions. An umbrella or a raincoat is a useful accessory in the bag while exploring the highlands and state parks. June sees a crowd encompassing the Monongahela National Forest area as the weather is excellent for hiking, backpacking, and hunting. Note that flooding occasionally occurs in West Virginia due to heavy rainfall and melting of snow.
Weather in July
July is undoubtedly the hottest and most humid month of the year in West Virginia. The average high temperatures in the state are from hot 76°F (24.4°C) to 87°F (30.6°C), and the average low temperatures are from warm 50°F (10°C) to 65°F (18.3°C). Bartow in the 56°F (13.3°C) to 77°F (25°C) range and Canaan Valley Park with 54°F (12.2°C) to 76°F (24.4°C) in eastern West Virginia are wetter and colder than the majority of the state. Most of the state receives ample rain in the range of 5" (127mm) to 7" (177.8mm) in July and is prone to thunderstorms, flooding, and tornadoes. Sunshine averages approximately 9 hours a day, but the temperatures rarely cross 95°F (35°C). Camping in the mountains is a popular activity during the summer, but keep in mind that West Virginia is less favorable for stargazing as it rarely offers clear skies for long stretches. Also, keep warm clothes at higher altitudes as the weather is temperate and the nights are cold.
Weather in August
August is a hot month during the summer of West Virginia with day temperatures in the 75°F (23.9°C) to 85°F (29.4°C). Nights tend to be warm and humid with 50°F (10°C) to 65°F (18.3°C). Humidity is up to 75% as cloud cover is common during the summer. August has roughly 18 days with an average of 9 hours of sunshine. Daylight stretches over 12 hours with regular bouts of rain. Rainfall averages 4" (101.6mm) in the state but heavy rains are rare. The abundant water provides ample grounds for fishing. Swimming in waterholes, lakes, and streams is a favorite pastime for many people to get relief from the muggy weather in the refreshingly cold waters. White river rafting is ideal in August, as the water is relatively cold compared to the hot and humid air temperatures. Light summer clothing is usually fine as the temperatures seldom drop below 50°F (10°C). Overall, August provides comfortable weather to visit West Virginia.
Weather in September
September begins the beautiful autumn season in West Virginia that sees average temperatures in the pleasant 44°F (6.7°C) to 80°F (26.7°C) range. The average high temperatures are in the 70°F (21.1°C) to 80°F (26.7°C) range, while the average low temperatures are cooler between 44°F (6.7°C) to 57°F (13.9°C). Early fall receives 3" (76.2mm) to 4" (101.6mm) of rain and an average of 15 days of sun during the month. The leaves start to turn colors by mid-September, and the different colors from orange to amber and red to burgundy is a treat for the eyes in the backdrop of the mountains. Hiking the narrow trails in the mountains or stepping on the crunchy leaves on the winding roads in the temperate weather is a lovely experience. Wildlife is equally active during the autumn season as the birds and animals strive to gather food before the onset of the winter. The fall season is prone to cold winds and drops in temperatures in the evening, so better dress in warm clothes, while engaged in outdoor activities.
Weather in October
October has warm days and cold nights as the autumn in West Virginia reaches its peak. It is a great time to watch the peak fall foliage in the temperate weather conditions. Sunny days are in plenty, and the sunshine averages 6 to 7 hours daily. Clouds converge regularly, but the rainfall is no more than 2" (50.8mm) to 3" (76.2mm). Average high temperatures are in the warm 60°F (15.6°C) to 70°F (21.1°C) range, while average low temperatures are in the mild 40°F (4.4°C) to 50°F (10°C) across the state. Bluefield in the south averages between 47°F (8.3°C) to 66°F (18.9°C), while Fairmont in the northwest is between 43°F (6.1°C) to 66°F (18.9°C). Storms are rare in October, and the snow is yet to arrive. The hunting and fishing seasons are in full swing until the late autumn. Jackets are usually better to wear during the fall to protect from the wind, cold and rain. With an eye on the winter, October is nearly the end of the tourist season and pleasant temperatures.
Weather in November
November signals the end to the autumn season in West Virginia that sees a rapid drop in temperatures and the first of the snowflakes. The average daily temperatures range between 49°F (9.4°C) to 57°F (13.9°C), while the nights plummet below freezing with the 24°F (-4.4°C) to 36°F (2.2°C) range. The sunshine reduces to 4 to 5 hours daily, while the sun is on the horizon for an average of 12 days in November. The first snow is usually due by mid-November as the state averages 4" (101.6mm) to 5" (127mm) of snowfall. White Sulphur Springs in the south experiences temperatures that range between 30°F (-1.1°C) to 55°F (12.8°C), while Sutton Lake in the northwest is between 33°F (0.6°C) to 56°F (13.3°C). Late fall is unpredictable with an uncanny mix of rainy, sunny, or cold conditions in different regions of the state. West Virginia skies are seldom without clouds though it is rare to experience heavy rain in November. By late November, the peak of the fall has passed, and the majority of the tourist population has left the state. Apart from adventure seeking snowbirds, few visitors stay during the winter!
Weather in December
December is a cold winter month in West Virginia with the average temperatures in the 17°F (-8.3°C) to 42°F (5.6°C) range. The eastern part of the state is cold with average low temperatures of 17°F (-8.3°C) in Marlinton and 23°F (-5°C) in Wardensville; Beckley in the south has lows at 26°F (-3.3°C), while Clarksburg in the northwest registers approximately 25°F (-3.9°C). Snowfall is heavy in the eastern mountain ranges where it often crosses 15" (381mm) to 20" (508mm). Rainfall is in the form of icy precipitation that registers 3" (76.2mm) to 4" (101.6mm). December is short of sunshine, averages about 10 days with 4 hours of sun, and is usually cloudy. The winter brings chilly winds that accelerate the cooling effect. Mountains attract skiing enthusiasts and other adventure lovers but generally, the period is slow regarding tourist numbers. The winter is cold but bearable with the aid of warm winter clothes as extreme weather is rare in West Virginia compared to some of the other parts of the United States, mainly the Mid-West and the Northeast. [Resources]
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