General Question

KTWBE's avatar

East Coast weather vs. West Coast weather?

Asked by KTWBE (764 points ) July 22nd, 2010

Why, if the following points about Washington D.C. and San Francisco are true…

1. Both cities are on relatively the same latitude line.
2. Both cities sit directly to next to an ocean and a bay.
3. Both cities are essentially at sea level.

…do they have such wildly divergent weather? D.C. is hot, muggy, and unbearable in the summer and cold if not snowy in the winter. San Francisco is perpetually temperate, with an average temperature range of mid-50s to high-70s. What’s the missing link here that makes their climates so different?

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7 Answers

Randy's avatar

I would guess the difference in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are behind the different temperatures but that’s only a guess because I actually have no clue.

Great question.

localjoke's avatar

It could be location, Washington DC is a long ways away from San Francisco, could be anything really. I would have guessed it may be the oceans also, because some cities that are near the beach are extremely humid and others are breezy and cool. Could be in relation to the equator too but at the risk of sounding extremely idiotic I’m saying this is only a guess as well.

jonsblond's avatar

I believe it has something to do with the Gulf Stream.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_Stream

jaytkay's avatar

Prevailing winds in the US blow west to east. San Francisco has Pacific winds, and the ocean is a huge mass with fairly constant temperature. Washington gets continental winds, including cold air from Canada.

I don’t know why it’s humid in Washington, though. Or Missouri, visiting Missouri in the summer I always wondered why it was humid.

downtide's avatar

It’s to do with ocean currents. Western coasts (in the Northern hemisphere) are always more temperate. It’s why the UK has such a mild climate, when it’s on the same latitude as Winnipeg and Moscow – the Gulf Stream keeps us warm, and presumably there are equivalent currents in the Pacific keeping the western seaboard warmer too. In the Southern hemisphere it’s the other way around so New Zealand, on the east side of a continent, gets the same effect.

jazmina88's avatar

el nino…..is that an ocean current?? or based on water temps. It’s winds caused by the ocean, correct??

downtide's avatar

@jazmina88 yes I believe it is

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