Monday, April 2, 2007
Climate control in South Carolina
Several factors control South Carolina's climate. Most important are the state's location in the northern mid-latitudes and its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and Appalachian Mountains. Such a location means that the amount of solar radiation received (and hence the temperature) will vary during the year to bring all four seasons to most of the state. During the summer, when the sun is most directly overhead, the state receives intense solar radiation allowing afternoon temperature to reach the 90's.
The state's geographic position on the eastern coast of a large continent is also important because land and water heat up and cool off at different rates. Not only does this heating differential affect the immediate coastal region, providing cooling sea breezes in the summer, but it influences the way pressure and wind systems affect the state.
During the summer, South Carolina's weather patterns are dominated by a maritime tropical air mass known as the Bermuda high. Passing over the land, which has heated up more quickly than the ocean, it becomes unstable. This pattern results in the formation of afternoon and evening thunderstorms.
Although the prevailing winds in North America are from the west, the Bermuda high frequently stalls off the coast in the summer, blocking the cooler, drier continental air masses that would provide relief from the hot, sultry weather. As the summer ends, the Bermuda high shifts slightly southward allowing the cooler air to penetrate. The Blue Ridge mountains to the west, however, divert some of this cooler air and protect the state from the full brunt of these cold fronts. Even in the winter days are generally mild, with southern winds often bringing warm maritime air. Rainfall in winter is generally caused by the movement of these warm and cold fronts.
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