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Why doesn't it snow in Santa Barbara?
Question Date: 2013-02-14
Answer 1:

Great question! It doesn’t often snow in Santa Barbara, but it does sometimes, especially up in the mountains north of the city. There are two major reasons that it doesn’t snow often in Santa Barbara: the latitude of the city and the ocean. Santa Barbara is at latitude 34 N. This means that the city is about 2350 miles north of the equator. There are 90 of latitude on either side of the equator; this means that the North Pole is at 90 N. In general, it gets colder in the winter farther away from the equator. This is because daylight hours get shorter and shorter (it is dark for 24 hours at the North Pole in the winter time), and the sunlight is less intense farther from the equator. Santa Barbara is relatively close to the equator. It is not quite at a tropical latitude, but it is not too far away from the tropics.

The other important reason that it doesn’t snow often in Santa Barbara is because it is right on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. The ocean acts as a buffer for temperature. Water can hold a lot of heat. In the winter, heat is transferred from the water to the air above Santa Barbara, keeping it relatively warm. In the summer time, the opposite happens, and the water acts as a heat sink. It keeps Santa Barbara cool in the summer time.

I grew up in Vermont, which gets very cold and snows a lot in the winter. Vermont is farther from the equator (45 degrees North), and it is far from the ocean. This is part of the reason that it gets so cold. Also, arctic air currents from Canada carry cold air currents to Vermont.

Answer 2:

Santa Barbara is too far south and on the ocean, and the ocean has an effect on climate that moderates the temperature. Santa Barbara and California in general have what is called a Mediterranean climate (called because the Mediterranean itself has a similar climate), which is characterized by hot dry summers and mild wet winters.

Answer 3:

Sometimes it does (in the mountains)! But the main reason we rarely see snow in Santa Barbara is that we live next to the Pacific Ocean. This giant body of water regulates the temperature of the entire west coast of California. When you turn the heater on in your house it gets warm really quickly, right? Or when it is too hot in your car, the air conditioner cools the temperature off right away. This is because it doesn´t take very much energy to heat up air. But water is very different from air. Water is more dense than air (a glass full of water is heavier than a glass full of air) and so it takes a lot more energy to make water hot and to make water cold. It rarely gets cold enough to snow in Santa Barbara because the ocean regulates the temperature by acting like a giant insulator and so we rarely see the temperature drop below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius). And if the temperature doesn´t go below freezing then we won´t see snow!

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