Charlottesville, VA Area Climate
Summers are warm, with daytime maximum temperatures averaging in the mid to upper 80’s, and lows in the 60’s. Maximum persisting dewpoints, which are a good measure of the expected levels of discomfort, are in the mid 70’s, and are in fact lower than they are in either Chicago or Minneapolis. Relative humidity in July along the western Piedmont strip is the lowest for the entire East Coast south of New England.
Winter high temperatures average in the upper 40’s, with lows in the upper 20’s. This is considerably warmer than areas immediately to the west at the same elevation. The severity of the Arctic outbreaks is substantially mitigated by the Blue Ridge, because of the downslope warming and increased sunshine. Record low temperatures immediately to the west of the Blue Ridge are nearly 15 degrees colder than they are in Charlottesville.
Atmospheric moisture usually originates either from the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean, and it contributes to fairly regular distribution of precipitation throughout the year. Summer average rainfall of 14 inches falls primarily during scattered afternoon and evening thunderstorms which are quite frequent (about 40 per year). However, they are usually quite weak by U.S. standards, as they are influenced by downward motion as they transit the Blue Ridge.
The immediate surrounding area averages 22 inches of snow per year, but residence time on the ground is quite short, with an average of only between ten and twenty days per year with more than an inch of snow reported on the ground. Snowfalls in the nearby mountains can be excessive, and colder temperatures assure a much more continuous snowpack. Using combinations of both natural and man-made “snow,” two highly successful ski resorts are in operation within 45 minutes drive.
The combination of abundant moisture and warm temperatures results in substantial agricultural productivity, with corn and soybean yields averaging approximately 75 and 25 bushels per acre, respectively. Many home gardeners take advantage of the long (approximately 200-day) growing season to plant multiple crops. Favorable average conditions also promote very lush vegetation which is particularly attractive in the fall.
Charlottesville is far enough from the ocean so that any rare tropical cyclones (including tropical storms and hurricanes) that affect the area are usually inconsequential, resulting mainly in beneficial rains.
This combination of factors suggests that Charlottesville and surrounding areas east of the Blue Ridge have one of the most desirable climates in the eastern United States. Thomas Jefferson, writing from nearby Monticello, and having traveled or read about all of the eastern U.S. wrote the following to Comte de Volney in 1797: “Indeed my experience in different parts of America convinces me that these mountains are the Eden of the U.S. for soil, climate, navigation, and health.”