Santa Barbara’s moderate climate still enthralls today’s visitors, just as it did in 1850 when the City of Santa Barbara was incorporated. It is difficult to not like Santa Barbara’s weather; the one comment you might hear is that we have virtually no ‘seasons’ to speak of.
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Santa Barbara’s Mediterranean climate results from a mixture of an average of over 300 sunshine days per year, a south-facing 40 mile long coastline, an east-west ridge of mountains (with some peaks over 3,300 feet high), the Channel Islands and the moderating influence of the Santa Barbara Channel itself. If you study the older paintings and photographs of the Santa Barbara area, you will note very few trees dotting the expansive areas of open grassland on the rolling hills. This is due to the fact that the coast of Santa Barbara is a “coastal desert” with an average of just 16+/- inches of rainfall per year. With the development of water systems years ago and the planting of many trees, the area has been transformed into the green and lush environment that you see today.
On average, our warmest months are usually August and September and our coldest months are December and January. At the extremes in recorded temperatures we experienced a high of 109° in 1985 and a low of 20° in 1990. Our wettest months tend to be January and February; no rain usually falls between May and October. Again on the extremes; February has an average of 3.61 inches of rain, but February 1997 had no rain and February 1998 had 21.36 inches of rain! During the early summer months which the locals call “May Gray” and “June Gloom”, we are shielded from the sun by a marine layer which usually clears by noon. Every few years or so, we awake on a February winter morning to see snow capped mountain peaks; the snow usually melts within a few hours. It is not unusual to see the convertible tops on cars in the down position almost any month of the year.
As with most areas, we have many micro-climates within the Santa Barbara area; the temperatures can vary by 10-15° on any day or night. This variation is due mainly to elevation and the amount of exposure, if any, that a given area has to the natural elements. As a general rule of thumb, the closer you are to the moderating influence of the ocean, the less likely you will experience the wider temperature variations.