Average Weather in Durham North Carolina, United States
In Durham, the summers are hot and muggy, the winters are short and very cold, and it is wet and partly cloudy year round. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 32°F to 89°F and is rarely below 19°F or above 95°F.
Based on the tourism score, the best times of year to visit Durham for warm-weather activities are from early May to mid June and from mid August to mid October.
The hot season lasts for 3.6 months, from May 27 to September 15, with an average daily high temperature above 81°F. The hottest day of the year is July 21, with an average high of 89°F and low of 70°F.
The cool season lasts for 3.0 months, from December 1 to February 28, with an average daily high temperature below 58°F. The coldest day of the year is January 29, with an average low of 32°F and high of 51°F.
Average High and Low Temperature
The figure below shows you a compact characterization of the entire year of hourly average temperatures. The horizontal axis is the day of the year, the vertical axis is the hour of the day, and the color is the average temperature for that hour and day.
Average Hourly Temperature
frigid 15°F freezing 32°F very cold 45°F cold 55°F cool 65°F comfortable 75°F warm 85°F hot 95°F sweltering
In Durham, the average percentage of the sky covered by clouds experiences mild seasonal variation over the course of the year.
The clearer part of the year in Durham begins around July 28 and lasts for 3.9 months, ending around November 24. On October 12, the clearest day of the year, the sky is clear, mostly clear, or partly cloudy 65% of the time, and overcast or mostly cloudy 35% of the time.
The cloudier part of the year begins around November 24 and lasts for 8.1 months, ending around July 28. On December 27, the cloudiest day of the year, the sky is overcast or mostly cloudy 52% of the time, and clear, mostly clear, or partly cloudy 48% of the time.
Cloud Cover Categories
0% clear 20% mostly clear 40% partly cloudy 60% mostly cloudy 80% overcast 100%
A wet day is one with at least 0.04 inches of liquid or liquid-equivalent precipitation. The chance of wet days in Durham varies throughout the year.
The wetter season lasts 3.8 months, from May 8 to September 1, with a greater than 32% chance of a given day being a wet day. The chance of a wet day peaks at 44% on July 17.
The drier season lasts 8.2 months, from September 1 to May 8. The smallest chance of a wet day is 20% on October 31.
Among wet days, we distinguish between those that experience rain alone, snow alone, or a mixture of the two. Based on this categorization, the most common form of precipitation throughout the year is rain alone, with a peak probability of 44% on July 17.
Daily Chance of Precipitation
To show variation within the months and not just the monthly totals, we show the rainfall accumulated over a sliding 31-day period centered around each day of the year. Durham experiences some seasonal variation in monthly rainfall.
Rain falls throughout the year in Durham. The most rain falls during the 31 days centered around September 4, with an average total accumulation of 3.9 inches.
The least rain falls around January 30, with an average total accumulation of 2.6 inches.
Average Monthly Rainfall
We report snowfall in liquid-equivalent terms. The actual depth of new snowfall is typically between 5 and 10 times the liquid-equivalent amount, assuming the ground is frozen. Colder, drier snow tends to be on the higher end of that range and warmer, wetter snow on the lower end.
As with rainfall, we consider the snowfall accumulated over a sliding 31-day period centered around each day of the year. Durham experiences some seasonal variation in monthly liquid-equivalent snowfall.
The snowy period of the year lasts for 3.1 months, from December 9 to March 14, with a sliding 31-day liquid-equivalent snowfall of at least 0.1 inches. The most snow falls during the 31 days centered around February 6, with an average total liquid-equivalent accumulation of 0.4 inches.
The snowless period of the year lasts for 8.9 months, from March 14 to December 9. The least snow falls around July 23, with an average total liquid-equivalent accumulation of 0.0 inches.
Average Liquid-Equivalent Monthly Snowfall
The length of the day in Durham varies significantly over the course of the year. In 2021, the shortest day is December 21, with 9 hours, 43 minutes of daylight; the longest day is June 20, with 14 hours, 36 minutes of daylight.
Hours of Daylight and Twilight
The earliest sunrise is at 5:58 AM on June 12, and the latest sunrise is 1 hour, 45 minutes later at 7:43 AM on November 6. The earliest sunset is at 5:01 PM on December 5, and the latest sunset is 3 hours, 35 minutes later at 8:36 PM on June 28.
Daylight saving time (DST) is observed in Durham during 2021, starting in the spring on March 14, lasting 7.8 months, and ending in the fall on November 7.
Sunrise & Sunset with Twilight and Daylight Saving Time
The figure below presents a compact representation of key lunar data for 2021. The horizontal axis is the day, the vertical axis is the hour of the day, and the colored areas indicate when the moon is above the horizon. The vertical gray bars (new Moons) and blue bars (full Moons) indicate key Moon phases.
Moon Rise, Set & Phases
We base the humidity comfort level on the dew point, as it determines whether perspiration will evaporate from the skin, thereby cooling the body. Lower dew points feel drier and higher dew points feel more humid. Unlike temperature, which typically varies significantly between night and day, dew point tends to change more slowly, so while the temperature may drop at night, a muggy day is typically followed by a muggy night.
Durham experiences extreme seasonal variation in the perceived humidity.
The muggier period of the year lasts for 4.4 months, from May 22 to October 1, during which time the comfort level is muggy, oppressive, or miserable at least 20% of the time. The muggiest day of the year is July 25, with muggy conditions 82% of the time.
The least muggy day of the year is February 6, when muggy conditions are essentially unheard of.
Humidity Comfort Levels
dry 55°F comfortable 60°F humid 65°F muggy 70°F oppressive 75°F miserable
This section discusses the wide-area hourly average wind vector (speed and direction) at 10 meters above the ground. The wind experienced at any given location is highly dependent on local topography and other factors, and instantaneous wind speed and direction vary more widely than hourly averages.
The average hourly wind speed in Durham experiences mild seasonal variation over the course of the year.
The windier part of the year lasts for 6.3 months, from November 5 to May 13, with average wind speeds of more than 5.0 miles per hour. The windiest day of the year is February 27, with an average hourly wind speed of 6.2 miles per hour.
The calmer time of year lasts for 5.7 months, from May 13 to November 5. The calmest day of the year is August 8, with an average hourly wind speed of 3.8 miles per hour.
Average Wind Speed
The predominant average hourly wind direction in Durham varies throughout the year.
The wind is most often from the north for 1.8 months, from January 23 to March 18; for 2.9 months, from August 30 to November 27; and for 1.1 weeks, from December 20 to December 28, with a peak percentage of 36% on October 23. The wind is most often from the west for 4.5 months, from March 18 to August 3; for 3.3 weeks, from November 27 to December 20; and for 3.7 weeks, from December 28 to January 23, with a peak percentage of 38% on July 13. The wind is most often from the south for 3.3 weeks, from August 3 to August 26, with a peak percentage of 31% on August 3.
Best Time of Year to Visit
To characterize how pleasant the weather is in Durham throughout the year, we compute two travel scores.
The tourism score favors clear, rainless days with perceived temperatures between 65°F and 80°F. Based on this score, the best times of year to visit Durham for general outdoor tourist activities are from early May to mid June and from mid August to mid October, with a peak score in the third week of September.
The beach/pool score favors clear, rainless days with perceived temperatures between 75°F and 90°F. Based on this score, the best time of year to visit Durham for hot-weather activities is from mid June to early September, with a peak score in the second week of August.
For each hour between 8:00 AM and 9:00 PM of each day in the analysis period (1980 to 2016), independent scores are computed for perceived temperature, cloud cover, and total precipitation. Those scores are combined into a single hourly composite score, which is then aggregated into days, averaged over all the years in the analysis period, and smoothed.
Our cloud cover score is 10 for fully clear skies, falling linearly to 9 for mostly clear skies, and to 1 for fully overcast skies.
Our precipitation score, which is based on the three-hour precipitation centered on the hour in question, is 10 for no precipitation, falling linearly to 9 for trace precipitation, and to 0 for 0.04 inches of precipitation or more.
Our tourism temperature score is 0 for perceived temperatures below 50°F, rising linearly to 9 for 65°F, to 10 for 75°F, falling linearly to 9 for 80°F, and to 1 for 90°F or hotter.
Our beach/pool temperature score is 0 for perceived temperatures below 65°F, rising linearly to 9 for 75°F, to 10 for 82°F, falling linearly to 9 for 90°F, and to 1 for 100°F or hotter.
Definitions of the growing season vary throughout the world, but for the purposes of this report, we define it as the longest continuous period of non-freezing temperatures (≥ 32°F) in the year (the calendar year in the Northern Hemisphere, or from July 1 until June 30 in the Southern Hemisphere).
The growing season in Durham typically lasts for 7.3 months (224 days), from around March 29 to around November 8, rarely starting before March 8 or after April 21, and rarely ending before October 20 or after November 29.
Time Spent in Various Temperature Bands and the Growing Season
frigid 15°F freezing 32°F very cold 45°F cold 55°F cool 65°F comfortable 75°F warm 85°F hot 95°F sweltering
Growing degree days are a measure of yearly heat accumulation used to predict plant and animal development, and defined as the integral of warmth above a base temperature, discarding any excess above a maximum temperature. In this report, we use a base of 50°F and a cap of 86°F.
Based on growing degree days alone, the first spring blooms in Durham should appear around February 18, only rarely appearing before January 31 or after March 9.
Growing Degree Days
This section discusses the total daily incident shortwave solar energy reaching the surface of the ground over a wide area, taking full account of seasonal variations in the length of the day, the elevation of the Sun above the horizon, and absorption by clouds and other atmospheric constituents. Shortwave radiation includes visible light and ultraviolet radiation.
The average daily incident shortwave solar energy experiences significant seasonal variation over the course of the year.
The brighter period of the year lasts for 4.1 months, from April 16 to August 20, with an average daily incident shortwave energy per square meter above 6.0 kWh. The brightest day of the year is June 23, with an average of 6.9 kWh.
The darker period of the year lasts for 3.0 months, from November 9 to February 7, with an average daily incident shortwave energy per square meter below 3.3 kWh. The darkest day of the year is December 25, with an average of 2.4 kWh.
Average Daily Incident Shortwave Solar Energy
For the purposes of this report, the geographical coordinates of Durham are 35.994 deg latitude, -78.899 deg longitude, and 400 ft elevation.
The topography within 2 miles of Durham contains only modest variations in elevation, with a maximum elevation change of 141 feet and an average elevation above sea level of 359 feet. Within 10 miles contains only modest variations in elevation (604 feet). Within 50 miles contains significant variations in elevation (958 feet).
The area within 2 miles of Durham is covered by artificial surfaces (94%), within 10 miles by trees (58%) and artificial surfaces (36%), and within 50 miles by trees (61%) and cropland (27%).
This report illustrates the typical weather in Durham, based on a statistical analysis of historical hourly weather reports and model reconstructions from January 1, 1980 to December 31, 2016.
Temperature and Dew Point
There are 4 weather stations near enough to contribute to our estimation of the temperature and dew point in Durham.
For each station, the records are corrected for the elevation difference between that station and Durham according to the International Standard Atmosphere , and by the relative change present in the MERRA-2 satellite-era reanalysis between the two locations.
The estimated value at Durham is computed as the weighted average of the individual contributions from each station, with weights proportional to the inverse of the distance between Durham and a given station.
The stations contributing to this reconstruction are: Raleigh-Durham International Airport (42%, 15 kilometers, southeast); Horace Williams Airport (38%, 16 kilometers, southwest); Person County Airport (13%, 33 kilometers, north); and Henderson-Oxford Airport (7%, 53 kilometers, northeast).
All data relating to the Sun's position (e.g., sunrise and sunset) are computed using astronomical formulas from the book, Astronomical Algorithms 2nd Edition , by Jean Meeus.
All other weather data, including cloud cover, precipitation, wind speed and direction, and solar flux, come from NASA's MERRA-2 Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis . This reanalysis combines a variety of wide-area measurements in a state-of-the-art global meteorological model to reconstruct the hourly history of weather throughout the world on a 50-kilometer grid.
Land Use data comes from the Global Land Cover SHARE database , published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Elevation data comes from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) , published by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Names, locations, and time zones of places and some airports come from the GeoNames Geographical Database .
Time zones for airports and weather stations are provided by AskGeo.com .
Maps are © Esri, with data from National Geographic, Esri, DeLorme, NAVTEQ, UNEP-WCMC, USGS, NASA, ESA, METI, NRCAN, GEBCO, NOAA, and iPC.
The information on this site is provided as is, without any assurances as to its accuracy or suitability for any purpose. Weather data is prone to errors, outages, and other defects. We assume no responsibility for any decisions made on the basis of the content presented on this site.
We draw particular cautious attention to our reliance on the MERRA-2 model-based reconstructions for a number of important data series. While having the tremendous advantages of temporal and spatial completeness, these reconstructions: (1) are based on computer models that may have model-based errors, (2) are coarsely sampled on a 50 km grid and are therefore unable to reconstruct the local variations of many microclimates, and (3) have particular difficulty with the weather in some coastal areas, especially small islands.
We further caution that our travel scores are only as good as the data that underpin them, that weather conditions at any given location and time are unpredictable and variable, and that the definition of the scores reflects a particular set of preferences that may not agree with those of any particular reader.