What's California like in the winter?

I live in Scotland and find the winter quite depressing, it’s too dark and cold and boring. Is California warm in the winter? I need to move somewhere hot.

Which part of Cal? According to Sunset Magazine’s garden guides, the state has 23 micro-climates ranging from hot coastal deserts to cold alpine winter in the mountains.

If it’s warm you want, stay in So Cal either near the coast or in the flatlands. Coastally, rarely below freezing. The more inland you get, the greater variability both on a seasonal and daily basis.

Northern Cal might remind you of Scotland too much, except for the lack of heather.

California is a large, long (north/south) state. The distance from San Diego to Crescent City is probably close to as far as from Miami to New York City. There are mountains and there are deserts, so you can take your pick of climate in California. Recently, I visited a site that gave the record high and low temperatures that have been recorded for all continents. Death Valley, California has the record high for North America and the second highest for all continents (134 degrees F). :wink:

California has most of its rain in the winter, appearing as rainstorms lasting a few days from the south wind to the slow drizzle and clearing, with breaks during the period. How much rain depends, it can be 6 inches for the year in a Southern Cal location to 30 inches north of San Francisco Bay or in the Coast Ranges.

In between the storms it is cool; sometimes you get very clear cold Arctic air masses, but the brightness makes up for the cold (IMHO). You might get frost on the grass in the morning in the Bay Area.

I live in Oakland. I lived in New England for 30 years.

The weather here kicks fucking ass. It can be hot sometimes, and not just in the summer. But it’s not really hot-hot, and never for very long.

But I do not have to dress up, ever, so I wear shorts and a T-shirt 365 days a year, and a sweatshirt rarely.

I live in So Cal, inland. I had the following conversation last night.

“God I love southern Cal.”
“It’s Feb 7, it’s after dark, and it’s not even chilly.”
“No, it’s rather comfortable.”
“And look at the trees…”
“All green. Why are you acting surprised?”
“It’s going to take me more than three years to get used to it…”

The coldest it got here was 45 at night. It’s usually between 60-75, it’s only rained 3 or 4 times this entire winter, and I sleep with my window open, and sometimes with the fan on. I’ve been wearing sandals all winter, and I haven’t bothered to buy a coat in the three years I’ve lived here.

I live in San Diego, near the coast. The weather is pretty nice, not too cold, not too hot. Sometimes it gets old, I like a little variety in the weather.

I lived in San Diego between the ages of four and fifteen. It was rarely too cold, except on the foggy mornings when I went sailing. It was often too hot for my liking in the summer. But if you go to the beach, the heat isn’t a problem. Just jump in the surf! (Watch out for the occasional jellyfish swarms!)

I lived in Lancaster, in the high desert, for a while during and after high school. Summer temperatures were usually around 105°F, although it sometimes got warmer. “But it’s a dry heat!” 105°F in the desert is certainly much more comfortable than 90°F in New Orleans. Winter temeratures would get into the low-teens at night, and be a little above freezing during the day. Clear blue skies and grey overcast were both common. Sometimes it would snow.

Next came Los Angeles. Definitely too hot for me in the summer. It tended to cool down starting in late-September, with a bit of a chill frequent in October. It seems that there was always a hot period at the end of October. It would cool down in November and December, with temperatures often in the 60°Fs during the day. Still, days in the 70°Fs or 80°Fs are not especially rare. January tends to be cooler. February generally marked the beginning of the “rainy season”, which lasts until about April.

“It never rains in sunny Southern California, but it pours.” The song is fairly accurate. We do (or, I should say “did”; since I no longer live there) get a bit of drizzle; but rain always seemed to come quickly and in large amounts (relatively speaking). The local news always has “Storm Watch: 20** [insert the year]”. After the summer bushfire season, the rain saturates the hillsides and causes mudslides. People who foolishly built their houses on hills (especially around Malibu) often lost their homes to the canyons and sea.

Anyway, during the rainly season temperatures hover around the low-50°Fs in the L.A. area (colder, the more inland you go).

Generally, Southern California has a mild. Mediterranian climate. Sometimes it’s too hot, it never really gets cold near the coast, and, except for the occasional rain in the spring, it weather is pretty boring.

What’s Marin County like? I’ve heard good things about that area, anyone live there?

I grew up in southern Sonoma County, which is close enough. (Sonoma borders Marin to the north, so the neighboring town to the south was in Marin.) It’s certainly cooler than Southern California. Winters are damp and gray and the temperatures usually stay around 55F (13C), although it usually freezes at night for at least a few days every year, and can occasionally be quite a bit warmer. It’s nice because the hills turn green - California receives very little rainfall during most of the year, so usually everything is brown, but when it starts raining in the winter, the hills all turn green. It very, very, VERY occasionally snows. We had about half an inch when I was 10 and about two inches one day in 2002. (Schools were shut down - kids were far, far too excited about the snow fall to go to class.)

The weather in the summer is very variable, depending on how close you live to the ocean. Very close to the ocean, in towns like Bolinas, Tomales, and Bodega Bay, it’s pretty much NEVER warm. It’s ALWAYS cold and foggy. Farther inland, it can get smoking hot in the summer. I lived about 20 miles inland, and we usually had a couple really hot stretches in the summer and fall, but mostly it’s pretty mild.

Are you planning on moving, or taking a holiday? Marin is an extremely expensive place to live. If you want to live in warmer climates, there are a lot of much cheaper places.

Marin County is just across the Golden Gate, north of San Francisco. Like much of northern Cal, it can be foggy. Lots of redwood forests, inland lakes, mountains and volcanic activity not far away, and of course SF is just across the bridge.

Marin County is also known for being a high-priced place to live. If you are looking for lots of sun and warmth, that wouldn’t be the first choice.

For warmth and a reasonable living cost, you want the Central Valley area of California (basically, the middle). Again, brown most of the year, with green in late winter and early spring. I personally would love a year in the UK, where it’s green all the time without sprinklers (!).

The San Joaquin Valley, where I grew up, is not that much fun and has Bakersfield and Fresno, and a lot of cotton fields. It does tend to be smoggy in the cities, and in the winter has very thick fog in the mornings, but it rarely snows and only freezes once in a while, and is usually very bright. In the SJV in the summer, however, it’s not a really hot day until it gets to at least 105 degrees.

I now live in the much nicer North Valley above Sacramento, which is somewhat cooler in summer but doesn’t get really cold in the winter. Freezing is rare, though up in the hills, 20 minutes away, it snows a bit. It snowed here 2 years ago, for one morning. We usually get enough rain to be pleasant and fill up the lakes, but not enough to cause lots of flooding or serious blahs. (Usually.) In summer, it mostly stays in the 90s, with one week of really hot 100+ temperatures, and it gets cool at night, unlike the SJV. Sacramento is pretty much like that too, only crowded.

One thing about California is that no one knows how to deal with serious amounts of rain; we’re much more used to droughts.* So when a lot of rain does fall, the towns (and houses!) aren’t really built to handle it well.
[total non-sequitur random story]When I was a kid, I used to read books about people fording rivers and how tricky and dangerous it was. I never understood this, because all the rivers I had ever seen were in fact dry riverbeds, so I imagined people just walking across–no big deal, right? I was about 18 when my dad said that he had thought the exact same thing as a kid–he grew up in Bakersfield too. [/total non-sequitur random story]

Southern Californian checking in from West L.A. I agree with pretty much everything said, and want to add that even here, the winter is not ideal beach weather. You can *go * to the beach, and the Venice Boardwalk will be almost as crowded as in the summer, but if you want to go in the ocean you need a wetsuit. The longshore current runs south on its way from Alaska to near the equator, where it turns west and heads for equatorial Asia. This cold current is the main reason why our weather isn’t hotter than it actually is. L.A. is the same lattitude as Sicily, and parts of Northern Africa, but it doesn’t get nearly as hot in the summer.

I think the first city one comes to on another continent when heading directly east from L.A. is Casablanca. Given that the U.S. is culturally tied with Europe, I’ve always found this interesting.

About going into the ocean: I went bodyboarding in Malibu one July day. Typical overcast, and the water was freezing!. The water temperature must have been about 55°F. Not so bad once you got used to it, but quite a shock at first without a wetsuit. The water temperature at the beach is usually pretty good, especially on those hot summer days; but the waters off of L.A. are not especially clean.

San Diego has decent beaches, and you can have fires on them (unlike in L.A.). The warmest beach I went to was in La Jolla. I was doing a “deep-water” dive (really, only 110 feet). We had to park at Scripps, and most of the equipment and divers were taken to the beach in a small pickup truck. I was one of the unfortunate ones who had to walk two miles – in my wetsuit. By the time I got to the beach I was overheated. I went directly to a shower to cool off. After our briefing I debated whether to put on my hood and gloves. I decided to wear them.

The beach at La Jolla is wide and shallow. We had to walk quite a distance just to be able to swim a little. Given the shallowness of the water, it was quite warm. Finally we got to the point where the floor drops into a deep ravine. Man, was I glad I wore my hood and gloves! The ravine is a highway for the cold Alaskan current that Spectre of Pithecanthropus mentioned. Once you get out of the flat area, it’s pretty cold indeed.

Incidentally, I was diving in the Channel Islands off of Oxnard in about 65 feet of water. Quite comfortable in a wetsuit at 65°F. After diving and then laying out in the hot 85°F sunshine, I decided to just go for a swim sans wetsuit. I was quickly reminded of the temeprature I had noted earlier. 65°F water is fine for swimming; but it gets your attention after baking in the sun.

In any case, Southern California’s temperatures are, as Spectre of Pithecanthropus said, moderated by the cold current. It keeps it relatively cool in the summer, and the ocean keeps it from becoming too cold in the winter. Temperatures fluctuate more as you get away from the water. (In the summer The Valley can be 20°F or 30°F hotter than coastal L.A. In the winter, I’ve noticed that Ontario and San Bernardino can be 10°F to 20°F colder.)

Don’t move to Monterey. It’s pretty, and an ok place to visit in February if it’s freezing everywhere else. We do have lots of sunny days, but it’s always somewhere between cool and cold. All year. In fact, during the summer, say July & August, Monterey is often the coldest place in the entire country, and very foggy & misty.

Monterey is like coming into a heavily air-conditioned building on a hot day. The first few minutes it’s refreshing, then after a short while you’re like, “Jesus Christ, will someone please turn the fucking heat up?!?”

Well, that’s how I feel about it. Can’t wait to move someplace warmer myself.

Santa Cruz, CA. checking in. Today it was about 45-40 degrees in the morning rising to about 65. No fog, clear air and good view of the Pacific. It has been this way off and on now for about a month.

I was born and raised in San Diego. Ive been all over the world (although not Scotland unfortunatly- bummer since my lineage descends from there) and I havent come across better, more consistent weather. San Diego (and most of Southern Cali.) boasts awesome temperatures during the winter- especially this year I might add. I wear sandals year round. Even when it is at its coldest and rainiest it certainly beats the cold in the rest of the U.S… I can’t even tell you how many times this winter Ive heard people thanking god they live here in San Diego when their listening to the TV talk about the harsh winters in other parts of the country/ world. San Diego ROCKS!!!

I love San Diego and I try to get down there at least twice a year.
I’m in L.A County and it’s been excessively windy lately, but the sun was beating down today and I actually put on the a.c. in the car. I have no concept of digging self or car out of snow and ice.

Today I didn’t need a jacket. We planted sweet peas and lettuce, and we’re watching the daffodils bloom.

I live in the same county as Yosemite National Park.
Today; 62 deg. sunshine, blue sky, 10 mph breeze.
Last week we got 2" of rain and it was 45 deg.
I live at 1500 feet elevation in the Sierra Nevadas; above the fog and below the snow. Best climate in the world!