No matter if you have lived here your whole life or just moved to the area. There are a few things about the weather and climate of the Charlotte area that might surprise you. Some of these you might know, but I guarantee there will be a few that will be new to you. These are not in any particular order, but some certainly could be more shocking than others.
#1 It actually does snow every year in Charlotte, at least, a little.
This one always blows peoples minds. Even though we only average around 4″ of snow per year. We have never had a year with ZERO snow reported in Charlotte. These records go back to 1878; that means 139 years of at least some snow. If you think that maybe they were all just a trace. You’d be wrong; they were just 12 years with just a trace, which means less than 0.10″. That also means 91% of the years on record we actually had measurable snow. So while we don’t get a lot of snow here, we always get at least a small taste every winter on record.
#2 Charlotte was hit by a hurricane even though it’s 200 miles from the Ocean.
This was a watershed moment in Charlottes history and honesty in hurricane forecasting. Many people didn’t take hurricanes all that serious unless you lived near the coast. Hugo though was still classified a hurricane until it made it as far inland to around Hickory. It had sustained winds of close to 80 mph passing right over Charlotte. One-and-a-half million people were without power, including 98% of the city of Charlotte. Some labored without power for up to 18 days while enormous trees blocked roads and down power lines endangered cleanup crews. You wouldn’t have to ask many Charloteans about taking a hurricane seriously if they were around for Hugo.
#3 April showers? April is the driest month of the year in Charlotte.
So the saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers”, right? Well, not so much in Charlotte it is, in fact, statistically our driest month of the entire year. The April average rainfall is just 3.04″ each year. Now some years it can be wet like last year, but on average over the past 30 years, it has been our driest month. I would argue April is also our best weather month of the year in Charlotte, maybe followed closely by October. August is the wettest month of the year mainly due to the 1st cold fronts as we come out of the heart of summer and tropical systems colliding over our area.
#4 Tornadoes have and will occur in the Charlotte area.
I am honestly shocked when people tell me, “we don’t really get tornadoes here.” We get way more than people might imagine and honestly we are currently in a bit of a lull. The above map shows all confirmed tornadoes since 1950 in our area. The scary part is that in 1991 the Mecklenburg County EF-3 and the Western Union Co EF-4 in 1989. Both hit at a time when this area was just starting to grow. The Union County tornado in particular if it hit today would hit the highly developed sections of Union county that were just farms and wooded areas back in 1989.
#5 The all-time record high temperature is 104°
Now this better be the least surprising fact on this least. Since we have hit this record many times in recent times. In that crazy summer of 2012, we did it three days in a row and in 2007 we did it two days in a row. I often wonder if the thermometer only goes to 104° in Charlotte? 🙂 What is more amazing is while we are in the South being close to the Ocean and being at 730′ of elevation helps. Other “cool” cities as we might think have equal or higher all-time highs than us. Cleveland, OH 104°, Chicago, IL, 105°, New York City 106° and Minneapolis, MN 108°.
#6 The all-time record low is a really cold -5°!
Pretty amazing that a city this far south can get this cold, but it did three times. One of those was a really cold stretch back in 1985 when not only did we drop to -5° on January 21st we dropped to -2° the next day. Those were 2 of only five times that we have ever been below zero in Charlotte in 139 years. That arctic outbreak was also a record breaker for the State of North and South Carolina and Virginia. Brrrrrrrr!!!
#7 We are the ice storm capital of America.
The Carolinas have a unique phenomenon called the “wedge” or cold air damming. This is when shallow cold air gets trapped against the mountains and creates the ideal set up for ice. This leads to more ice storms here than just about any other location in the country. One devastating Ice storm in early December 2002 caused 1.8 million people to lose power and killed 24 people. That ice storm ended up surpassed Hurricane Hugo for both tree and power line damage.
#8 The global climate is warming, but Charlotte is cooling slightly.
Every 10 years the 30 year average for each climate location is updated according to The World Meteorological Organization standards. So the 1971-1980 climate averages were updated back in 2010. While just about every other location in the U.S. saw a slight increase in their average 1981-2010 temperatures. Charlotte actually saw a drop of 1.5°, most of which was at night with our lows dropping 2.2°. Also, of note we are much drier now by almost 2″. This doesn’t mean climate change isn’t happening on the global scale just the Charlotte and other parts of the Southeast are seeing a slight cooling trend compared to the rest of the U.S.
Did I miss any that you think are surprising? If so, please feel free to add them in the comments section. We truly live in one of the most beautiful and unique climates in the entire country. Which to me makes living here even better!