South Carolina’s climate is humid and subtropical, with long, hot summers and short, mild winters. The subtropical climate of South Carolina arises from the combination of the state’s relatively low latitude, its generally low elevation, the proximity of the warm Gulf Stream in the Atlantic, and the Appalachian Mountains, which in winter help to screen out cold air from the interior of the United States. Brief spells of cold weather occur each year in South Carolina. Most of the state receives, on average, 49 inches of precipitation per year. Nearly all precipitation falls as rain, and most precipitation is received during the Spring and Summer. Snow usually occurs only in the mountains and upper Piedmont.