December is a busy month. The holiday season, for many, is in full swing. If not that, there are still many things to wrap up before the New Year. It’s also a time of travel, days off, vacation, and family. One thing is constant: the start of winter. These are the ten states with the best December weather.
This list considers the overall climate and the amount of rain or snow a state gets in the year’s final month. Other factors include all-around weather safety and, of course, the temperature.
Mississippi is in the Gulf, just west of Florida. So it gets a healthy amount of rain. However, the trade-off is the overall warm climate. That warmth might be more like a sweltering heat in August, but in December, it’s in the high 40s with the mean average temp at 48.3 F.
However, like nearly all the states on this list, that will depend on location in the territory. At 332 miles from south to north, there’s lots of room for temperature variation. Every few years, there’s a drop below freezing in the far north of Mississippi (though usually in the dead of winter after December). Still, in the south of Mississippi, the extra ten to twelve degrees can make a difference for the best December weather.
Up north in the state, though, they’ll get a bit less rain through the winter (and the whole year in general.) The average precipitation for December in Mississippi is 5.64 inches.
As with all Gulf Coast states, the natural disaster threats come from hurricanes. And so-called hurricane season ends one day before the start of December. However, according to the EPA, only two hurricanes, on average, make landfall every year in the US.
Putting California at next-to-last might look odd. But December is not its best month overall. The California climate for this month is good but not great. (But it’s still better than 41 other states!) Like Mississippi, California is long from south to north. Again, this makes for varying climates. California is over 1,000 miles high, or almost three times the height of Mississippi. Adding to climate complexity, one entire side of that height is the Pacific Coast.
The mean average temperature in December in California is 43.7 F. From San Francisco to LA, early winter temperatures will bottom out in the mid-40s. However, LA can rise to room temperature while the northerly San Francisco will stay in the 50s.
Outside the higher-elevation mountains, there’s little snow to accumulate in December.
However, for the state generally, precipitation tends to concentrate in the winter. The average precipitation in the state for December is 4.05 inches.
A serious factor that mitigates the ranking for the best December weather in the Sunshine State is the natural disasters. While few earthquakes register high enough to cause severe damage, the various wildfires, occasional regional flooding, and other tragedies are things to consider. There have been ten 6.0 or greater earthquakes in California since 2014.
The Show Me State is the coldest so far for best December weather. But other conveniences, factors in weather safety, and related features offset this. Its mean temperature for the month of December is 35.0 F.
With little snow, December is a milder month. Up north in the state, there will be some snow towards the end of year. However, it’s manageable at less than 4 inches max. Despite the temperatures that hover above freezing and occasional snow, there’s little rain for December. The average precipitation for Missouri in the final month of the year is only 2.53 inches, with the south seeing more.
Missouri is, of course, near the US’ Tornado Alley. From 1990 to 2010, they were in the top quarter of states having 45 per year.
Tennessee is known for rough, humid summers but mild winters. This trade-off is ideal for December. The daily average temperature for December is 41.2 F. The state has part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. These hills have lower elevations with gentler climates than the major coastal ranges.
The growing season for the Volunteer State is 250 days, meaning there is a diverse but manageable overall climate (though it may take a trip to the southwest corner of the state to get those warmer days in the winter.)
One damper on this is that the growing season is also helped by a bit more rain. The average precipitation for Tennessee in December is 5.62 inches. It’s still some of the best December weather.
Tornado frequency appears to drop off in Tennessee, which sits near Tornado Alley. There have been intermittent floods, wildfires and other hazards.
Temperatures in Arkansas in December stay above the 40s—except for one trough in 2000 when it dropped to freezing. In December, the average temperature is 42.9 degrees. This figure is average for the states listed so far. All the same, the nearby Gulf of Mexico and the drier Great Plains make for some unpredictable weather year-round. It still makes the list for best December weather.
Also, there is the average of 4.86 inches of precipitation for the last month of the year. Arkansas is nationally low in elevation and gets some of the South’s heat and humidity. However, it’s technically a temperate region. The big selling point for its December climate is the state’s snowfall records: it gets very little snow. Two towns in the Razorback State average more than one inch of snow in December.
As for weather hazards, Arkansas is in the vicinity of Tornado Alley. From 1990 to 2010, it had an average of 39 tornados per year. There are also floods and, occasionally, freak ice storms. Despite this, the actual number of weather calamities appears to be low.
Nevada comes from the Spanish word for “snow.” Depending on location, there might be some in December. Still, it’s warm. The monthly average temperature is a surprisingly low 31.6 degrees. Northern Nevada, the mountainous region outside Las Vegas, gets less attention—the weather in these mountain parts can drop below freezing for the last month of the year.
There will, indeed, be snow up there too. But the state collectively has a tolerable December temperature, with the southern region being downright pleasant in the month. Outside the snowy mountains, there is a big difference in the aforementioned snow. While Vegas gets little or none, the Northern city of Elko can reach several feet in a year.
As for rain, this is what puts Nevada higher up on the list: the average December precipitation for the Silver State is 1.17 inches. Nevada—by annual amount—is the least rainy state in the US.
Nevada, with some forested mountains, does have natural disasters, such as wildfires. There are also occasional storms and floods.
4 New Mexico
New Mexico’s average temperature for December is 35.8 F. A few northern places may drop below freezing at the tail of the month, but the rest of the state is in the 40s, 50s, or even better.
The state’s topographical map shows staggering diversity: mountains, buttes, mesas, and canyons. The elevation will vary, but the height above sea level varies between a half-mile and a mile. That means it is going to be dry. At 0.81 inches of precipitation, that’s a dry December. With the arid climate—the wettest parts of the state only get less than a foot of rain per year—wildfires have been a problem.
The Lone Star State has a downright balmy average temperature for December: 48.6 F. That’s even more impressive given the state’s size, which could easily weigh the average. Where certain states have a variety of climates and topographies that mix things up, Texas rarely dips below freezing for the last month of the year. This is the case virtually statewide. That reliability in temps, regardless of location, puts it higher up the list for states with the best December weather.
Perhaps the largest geographic influence on the weather and precipitation is the Balcones Escarpment. Houston’s level of rain in the east versus that of El Paso (at the far west end of Texas) varies hugely. For the state as a whole, the month of December gets 1.78 inches of precipitation.
While there might be a significant variation in rain, snow tops out at five inches for the state annually.
Size, climate, and population all affect the level of natural disasters. With forests, mountains, dry deserts, and hundreds of miles along the Gulf Coast there have been hurricanes, wildfires, and other hazards depending on location.
2 South Carolina
South Carolina has ample coastline and straddles the subtropical region of the south with the temperate inland. The average December temperature is 47.9 F. The summers may be hot. But the winter, especially December, is hard to beat. Most all of the Palmetto State stays in or above the high 30s F for this month.
The average December precipitation for the state is 3.83 inches. Northern parts of the state will be above the average for this final month of the year. The Blue Ridge Mountains edge into South Carolina, creating the one place that gets any snow accumulation. Snowfall maxes out at under an inch for the state, regardless of location. This makes it ideal for the best December weather.
As for natural disasters, South Carolina may get the occasional anomalous winter storm. And while they’re closer to the US’ hurricane hotspot, the infrequency of the catastrophic storms means they’re still relatively safe from that.
1 North Carolina
North Carolina is blessed with hundreds of miles of coastline in addition to being situated between the harsh northeastern winters and the intense heat of the Deep South. The Tar Heel State’s average temperature for December is 43.9 F
The geography and its effect on climate vary here, too. But it’s less severe than in other states. The average level of precipitation for December in North Carolina is 3.81 inches. The high relative humidity will not be a December problem, whether north or south in the state.
In the western, rural parts of North Carolina, there will be snow. But there will be little that piles up in December.
While hurricanes sometimes reach North Carolina, the temperate climate and geography don’t make for many wildfires or similar risks. Though there aren’t many tornados, the state does have its share of tropical storms and occasional flooding. Though it lies along a fault line straddling Virginia, the USGS determined that South Carolina has a greater earthquake risk than this northern counterpart.
The Best December Weather
As a resident or just to visit, these are all great places to finish out any year.
(Average December temperatures and precipitation levels calculated with NOAA Climate at a Glance.)
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Leestudio/Shutterstock.com
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