- Grand Strand Weekend
- South Carolina for Kids
- South Carolina Bar-B-Que
- A Midlands Weekend
- Civil War Adventures
- South Carolina Waterways
- Three Days in Horse Country
- South Carolina for Seafoodies
- South Carolina Kitsch
- Gullah and African American History
- Upstate Weekend
- South Carolina’s Top Ten for Golfers
- South Carolina’s Offbeat Festivals
- Southern Comforts
- Lowcountry Romance
One word comes to mind when one thinks about Southern climate: hot. That’s the first word that occurs to Southerners as well, but virtually every survey of why residents are attracted to the area puts the climate at the top of the list. Go figure.
How hot is hot? The average high for July, the region’s hottest month, in Charleston is about 89°F. While that’s nothing compared to Tucson or Death Valley, coupled with the region’s notoriously high humidity it can have an altogether miserable effect.
Technically South Carolina has a humid subtropical climate. During summer the famous high-pressure system called the Bermuda High settles over the entire southeastern United States, its rotating winds pushing aside most weather coming from the west. This can bring drought, as well as a certain sameness that afflicts the area during summer. Heat aside, there’s no doubt that one of the most difficult things for an outsider to adjust to in the South is the humidity. The average annual humidity in Charleston is about 55 percent in the afternoons and a whopping 85 percent in the mornings. The most humid months are August and September.
There is no real antidote to humidity—other than air conditioning, that is—though many film crews and other outside workers swear by the use of Sea Breeze astringent. If you and your traveling partner can deal with the strong minty odor, dampen a hand towel with the astringent, drape it across the back of your neck and go about your business. Don’t assume that because it’s humid you shouldn’t drink fluids. Just as in any hot climate, you should drink lots of water if you’re going to be out in the Southern heat.
If you’re on the South Carolina coast, you’ll no doubt grow to love the steady ocean breeze during the day. But at night you may notice the wind changing direction and coming from inland. That’s caused by the land cooling at night, and the wind rushing toward the warmer waters offshore. This shift in wind current is mostly responsible for that sometimes awe-inspiring, sometimes just plain scary phenomenon of a typical Southern thunderstorm.
Seemingly within the space of a few minutes on a particularly hot and still summer day, the afternoon is taken over by a rapidly moving stacked storm cloud called a thunderhead, which soon bursts open and pours an unbelievable amount of rain on whatever is unlucky enough to be beneath it, along with frequent, huge lightning strikes. Then, almost as quickly as it came on, the storm subsides and the sun comes back out again as if nothing happened.
August and September are by far the rainiest months in terms of rainfall, with averages well over six inches for each of those months. July is also quite wet, coming in at over five inches on average. Winters here are pretty mild, but can seem much colder than they actually are because of the dampness in the air. The coldest month is January, with about a 58°F high for the month and a 42°F average low.
You’re highly unlikely to encounter snow in the area, and if you do it will likely only be skimpy flurries that a resident of the Great Lakes region wouldn’t even notice as snow. But don’t let this lull you into a false sense of security. If such a tiny flurry were to hit, be aware that most people down here have no clue how to drive in rough weather and will not be prepared for even such a small amount of snowfall. Visitors from snow country are often surprised by how completely a Southern city will shut down when that rare few inches of snow finally hits.
© Jim Morekis from Moon South Carolina, 4th Edition