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
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.
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!
Click Here to return to the search form.