Why Are Coastal Towns Warmer In The Winter?

There is nothing like escaping the frigid inland weather and going to the coast to wake up early to stand with your feet in the sand, peering into the sunrise, smelling the fresh ocean breeze, waiting for the first warm rays to hit your face. Or if you love the west coast more, you can enjoy the beautiful sunsets.

Because the warm & cold ocean currents and the latitude of the coastline influence the climate, the high salt content in ocean water is a robust thermal retainer. The sea loses extremely little thermal energy in the winter, which maintains the temperature of the atmosphere surrounding it.

Join me in discovering why coastal towns are warmer in the winter. Below we will look at some of the factors that influence the climate and what role the oceans have on the temperature.

What factors influence climate?

Each region of the earth has a unique climate, determined by weather variables and general atmospheric conditions measured over a minimum 30 year period. Scientists calculate an area’s climate by averaging weather conditions across several years and seasons.

Factors that influence the environment and location are latitude (how far from the equator), distance from the ocean, the altitude above sea level, the shape and contours of the land, and ocean currents.

Distance from the ocean/ sea (continentality)

How far a place is from the nearest ocean (continentality, distance from the sea) has a massive effect on the climate of a region. The sun is our world’s principal source of heat, and its energy radiates to the earth during the day. Because the ground is solid, heat cannot penetrate deeply, and only the top 1 foot of soil will heat up. Soil heats up quickly, but it cannot store the heat effectively and loses most of it at night.

The ocean water is transparent, and the sun’s rays can penetrate deep into the water. Therefore, much more heat energy gets stored in the ocean water. Thus the ocean surrounding an area moderates the coastal temperatures in every season. However, there is a difference between cold and warm ocean currents that affect the coastal regions differently.

The Ocean Currents Influence The Climate

Ocean currents get influenced by wind, the earth’s rotation, heat from the sun, and the salinity (saltiness) of the water. Oceans are vast bodies of water that surround our continents. They contain 97% of the world’s water. These ocean currents are river-like streams that flow beneath the sea’s surface, moving either warm or cold water.

These warm ocean currents originate at the equator and move towards the North and South poles. The gulf stream on the east coast is an example of a warm ocean current. These warm currents increase the average coastal temperatures causing lots of water evaporation, making coastal regions more humid and causing precipitation. You will find lush green coastal areas next to a warm ocean current.

The cold ocean currents originate at the poles and move to the equator. These Cold ocean currents lower average coastal temperatures, causing little evaporation, making coastal regions dry, and forming deserts. The North Pacific drift and California current on the west coast are cold ocean currents.

How Does Wind Influence Coastal Region Temperature?

Because land (sand & soil) next to the sea heats up faster than the water in the ocean, there is a considerable temperature difference. The heat released emanates upward from the land, creating heat waves that move hot air up. The difference in air pressure will cause air to move from a high-pressure region to the lower. This pressure system causes the wind to “blow” (sea breeze).  

At night the opposite happens. The sand cools down rapidly while the seawater retains most of its heat and cools down very slowly. The waterside is now warmer than the land side, so the wind moves from the land to the sea. Land breezes are more prevalent in the fall and winter when the water is still somewhat warm and the evenings are cool. The land breeze is generally much weaker than the sea breeze.

Why Are Coastal Towns Warmer In The Winter 01

The Latitude Of The Coastal Region (Distance From Equator)

Our world is a sphere, and the broadest section at the equator receives the most heat from the sun. The polar regions are the furthermost from the sun and receive negligible heat, causing those areas to freeze over. As you might know, darker objects attract heat, whereas lighter things reflect it. So the cold polar region’s icy surface reflects even the little warmth it receives. 

The most constant temperature climates worldwide can be found close to the equator. Heat transfer always moves from a hot surface to a cold surface. The same movement is experienced from the hot air rising from the climates surrounding the equator moving towards the cold polar regions. Heavy, cold air now descends from the polar regions and travels toward the equator as the hot air pushes it down. Our atmosphere is kept in constant motion by this jet stream’s cycle.

What Is The Difference Between Heat And Temperature?

To understand why coastal regions are warmer in the winter, we need to understand the difference between heat and temperature. Heat is the total energy of a substance’s molecular motions, whereas temperature measures the average energy of those motions. The particle speed, particle size, and particle number determine the heat of an object. Temperature, on the other hand, is unaffected by these variables.

Suppose you compare a tub of water to a cup of water, for example. If the water temperature in the tub and the cup are the same, the water in the tub has more thermal energy. Thermal energy is the capacity to store heat. Water has a higher thermal holding capacity than sand, but the number of particles a substance contains, determines its heat capacity.

What Is Specific Heat Capacity?

Specific heat capacity is the measure of energy required to increase the temperature of a 1 gram substance by 1 degree. In other words, the amount of heat in Joules is necessary to increase the temperature of one gram of material (sand or water) by one Kelvin or one degree Celsius.

Water has a specific heat capacity of 4.18 J (or 1 calorie/gram °C), which is substantially higher than most other substances, indicating that water is very good at regulating temperature. On the other hand, sand has a specific heat capacity of 0.835J, and if you ever stood barefoot on a sunny beach, you would know that it heats up very fast, making it a good conductor of heat but not a reasonable retainer of heat.

Therefore a 5-gallon bucket of seawater will need more energy from the sun to heat it to 70°F than a 5-gallon bucket of beach sand. The sand will heat up faster than the water and lose its heat more quickly when the heat source is removed. The seawater will take a long time to heat up but retain the heat much longer.


The landside of a coastal area heats up much faster every day than the ocean water and cools down much quicker at night. When the soil or sand heats up, so does the air above it. The ocean heats up and cools down slowly. As a result, coastal locations tend to be temperate during the day and have a more moderate temperature range than inland areas.

When it comes to summer and winter temperatures along the coast, you now understand that the land will heat up fast in the summer but lose most of the heat in the winter. The ocean water retains its heat throughout the summer and winter, causing moderate climate fluctuations. Temperate air flows from the sea to the land keeping the temperature constant throughout the wintertime.