The Climate and Geography of Nashville

Middle Tennessee is home to Tennessee’s capital city, Nashville, and some of its most fertile farmland. Before the Civil War, great plantation mansions dotted the countryside south of Nashville. Today, Tennessee Walking Horse farms, new industries, and the economic success of Nashville continue to make Middle Tennessee prosperous.

View across a well-maintained city park with the skyline and capitol building visible in the distance.
Photo © Bruce Patten/123rf.

Geographically, Middle Tennessee begins with the Cumberland Plateau, which rises to about 2,000 feet above sea level and lies west of East Tennessee’s Great Valley. Despite its name, the plateau is not flat; there are a number of steep valleys in the plateau, the largest being the Sequatchie Valley.

The Highland Rim is a region of hills, valleys, and fertile farmland that lies west of the plateau. The largest physical region of Tennessee, the Highland Rim contains 10,650 square miles of land, or almost 25 percent of the state. Almost entirely surrounded by the Highland Rim is the Central Basin, a low, flat, and fertile region in north-central Tennessee. Nashville is located in the Central Basin.

Nashville itself sits at 550 feet above sea level. It is the U.S. city with the second-largest land mass: more than 500 square miles.


Nashville enjoys a relatively mild climate, with average temperatures ranging from 38°F to 80°F. Summer days can feel very hot, however, and a run of humid 100°F days in August is not unusual. A few flakes of snow may fall in the winter, and the city essentially shuts down when there is any accumulation, although that is rare. Generally, an evening’s snowfall has evaporated by mid-morning.

The city receives an average of 45 inches of rain per year. Long springs and falls mean a long season for beautiful flowers, but also a long season for allergy sufferers.


The devastating flood in Nashville and Middle Tennessee in May 2010 brought the issue of global climate changes, combined with manmade development and water management, to the forefront of the minds of city planners and residents. The flood caused more than $1.5 billion of damage to the Music City. At press time, most of the commercial public repairs to the city had been made, but residential redevelopment continues.

Margaret Littman

About the Author

Margaret Littman is both an old-timer and a relative newcomer to Nashville. After graduating from Vanderbilt University, she left Tennessee for points north over the course of her writing career. But after 17 years she could no longer resist the siren song of the Parthenon, bluegrass music, or fried pickles, so she returned to Nashville, where she writes about Music City, Southeast travel, food, pets, and more. An avid stand-up paddler, she loves being a day trip away from the Tennessee River to the south, Reelfoot Lake to the west, and Norris Dam to the east.

There’s nothing Margaret loves more than telling natives something they didn’t know about their home state. And with 75,000 miles on her station wagon already, she has lots of ideas for little-known places to listen to music, eat barbecue, paddle a lake, hike to a waterfall, or buy works by local artists.

Margaret’s work has appeared in national and regional magazines, including Wine Enthusiast, Entrepreneur, The Tennessean, and many others. She is the author of several guidebooks as well as the Nashville Essential Guide.

Margaret has loved lots of places she’s lived, but the day she looked down and realized she was wearing cowboy boots in synagogue, she knew she had become a Nashvillian.

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