Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Perfect Climate - Part 1

by Conroy

Dreaming of Honolulu during cold winter days
As I write this post, I'm experiencing yet another cold January day in Baltimore (click on the links of city names in this post for annual weather data). Every winter I get a little depressed because, well, like a lot of other people - I HATE the cold. I was in Orlando a couple of weeks ago (see my recent Disney World post) and the weather was lovely; very un-winter-like, with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s and 60s. Places in the United States like Florida and Southern California have very mild (or practically no) winters. Put simply, they would seem to have more comfortable climates than most of the rest of the country, and certainly where I live in central Maryland. I hardly think that I need to explain the simple pleasure of good weather. Comfortable conditions (however they may be defined for a particular individual) improve mood and the enjoyment of nature and the outdoors. Long-term uncomfortable conditions or extreme weather makes you want to hide indoors. I doubt there are many people who would deny a preference for a pleasantly warm sunny day. Indoor climate control allows people to live in extreme locations (think Phoenix in summer or Fairbanks in winter), but deep winter cold and extreme summer heat can be dangerous or evenly deadly. You may prefer heat over cold or vice-versa, but how many enjoy the extremes over a moderate balance between the two?

Thinking along these lines, I asked myself the question: can we identify the locations with the best year-round climates in the U.S.? I think we can, and I think I've developed a quantitative formula to do it. The rest of this post details a major research effort that I have undertaken to identify the cities with the best climate in the United States. I'm pleased with the results and think the formula can be applied to other regions of the globe.



How Can We Determine the "Best" Climate?
First, what weather conditions do we have to consider when determining the "best" climate? I would suggest the following five:
  • temperature
  • humidity
  • precipitation
  • sunshine
  • wind
Temperature is the key to climate, but let's consider the other four in more detail. Humidity, or more specifically, relative humidity, is important for comfort because the higher the humidity the harder it is for humans to cool themselves through evaporation. High temperatures and high humidity lead to sweating even during non-strenuous outdoor activity. Think New Orleans in summer. Conversely, low humidity can lead to dry skin, eyes, sinuses, etc. Think of the arid west. That all said, I would suggest that the really uncomfortable conditions of humidity become apparent at temperature extremes. We sweat when it's hot, not when the humidity is high but the temperature comfortable. Low humidity is really uncomfortable when it gets to be really cold. Further, humidity can moderate temperature. High humidity in Florida keeps the summer temperatures relatively low (say upper 80s or low 90s) and the absence of high humidity sees summer temperatures in Phoenix and Tuscon soar to well over 100 on the thermometer. Therefore, I think we can keep humidity in mind as a qualitative factor when thinking about climate, but it does not factor into my climate formula.
Phoenix under a scorching summer sun

Precipitation and sunshine can be considered together. Locations with plentiful sunshine can also see lots of rainfall (think Gulf of Mexico coastline). Some place with little rain, like Las Vegas, are sunbaked. Some places with heavy precipitation are often blanketed with clouds like the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. That said, precipitation is a good thing. Rain brings green landscapes, rivers, lakes, etc. All things that can be enjoyed. Also, places like central Florida see rain almost everyday during the summer, but it comes at predictable times and for short (and intense) durations. That type of rainfall is unlikely to ruin outdoor activities or cut down that much on daily sunshine. Overall, there are extremes, but precipitation and sunshine are not critical enough to affect our climate determinations. [Note: keep in mind that sunshine is not the same as daylight. All places in the U.S. (and world) get about the same amount of annual daylight, it's just distributed differently based on latitude. However, sunshine hours, i.e. non-overcast periods, vary by location.]

Wind can definitely affect comfort. A winter wind will make the wind chill drop below the actual temperature and can make being outdoors brutally uncomfortable. At the same time, a wind in summer can be cooling and welcomed. That being the case, in the U.S. average annual wind speeds vary very little between locations. No major cities experience average winds less than 5 mph and very few experience average winds more than 12 mph. See this wind speed table from the NOAA. Wind is important to comfort, but it doesn't vary enough between locations to be incorporated into my climate formula. Interestingly, the state with the highest average winds is Hawaii, situated in the famous Trade Winds.

That leaves temperature as the data to be used in my climate formula.

Conroy's Climate Formula
Before getting to the formula we need to go over the characteristics that should constitute an ideal climate:

1. Annual Mean Temperature. This is the baseline value for determining the best climate. The higher the average temperature the better. For instance, of all major cities in the U.S., the one with the highest annual mean temperature is Honolulu, Hawaii at 77.5 degrees. The lowest major city (I use the term loosely) is Fairbanks, Alaska at 28.0 degrees.

Now average temperature is important but in and of itself doesn't tell the whole story. For instance, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Santa Barbara, California both have an annual mean temperature of about 61 degrees, but they have drastically different climates. The January average in Santa Barbara is a comfortably cool 55 degrees, in Tulsa it is a cold 37 degrees. The August mean in Santa Barbara is a pleasant 69 degrees, the July mean in Tulsa is a hot 84 degrees. We must account for these different characteristics.

Beautiful Santa Barbara
2. Annual Temperature Variance. Stated simply, this is the difference between the mean temperature of the hottest and coldest months of the year. The lower the difference, the more consistent the climate. Consistency is good because it's less aggravating to people. In the U.S. the hottest month is usually July (east and south) or August (west) except for the notable exception of the upper San Francisco Bay Area where because of seasonal wind patters the hottest month is September. The coldest month is everywhere January.

So for the above example, the annual temperature variance for Santa Barbara is a modest 14 degrees. For Tulsa it is an extreme 47 degrees. Few would argue that Santa Barbara has a better climate than Tulsa. However, the annual mean temperature and annual mean variance still only tell part of the story. We have to consider the daily comfort of a climate.

Baltimore, lovely in the summer
3. Monthly Mean Temperature. This considers what the temperature is actually like for each month of the year. If we pick my hometown, Baltimore, you will find significantly different conditions from say February to September. The February mean temperature is a cold 39 degrees, but the September mean temperature is an idyllic 73 degrees. To live in Baltimore in the winter is to be exposed to consistent cold air, in late summer to near perfect weather. That's a big difference and the quality of the climate in each month becomes crucial. As part of the formula provided below, "quality" points for the monthly mean temperature are applied. Here are the temperature ranges for the associated quality points:

Monthly Mean Temperature Quality Points
  • <0 degrees = -7 points
  • 0-9 degrees = -6 points
  • 10-19 degrees = -5 points
  • 20-29 degrees = -4 points
  • 30-39 degrees = -3 points
  • 40-49 degrees = -2 points
  • 50-54 degrees = -1 point
  • 55-59 degrees = 0 points
  • 60-64 degrees = 1 point
  • 65-69 degrees = 2 points
  • 70-74 degrees = 3 points
  • 75-79 degrees = 2 points
  • 80-84 degrees = 1 point
  • 85-89 degrees = 0 point
  • 90-95 degrees = -1 point
  • >95 degrees = -3 points

A desolate winter landscape outside of "Fargo"
A couple of important points to note from these ranges. I have assumed that the ideal mean temperature for comfort is in the low 70s, which would equate to something very much like September in Baltimore as described above. In this instance that would mean a mean high temperature of 81 degrees and a mean low temperature of 64 degrees. If you prefer cooler or warmer temperatures then the quality points could shift accordingly. What must be included here is the fewer (and negative) points for monthly mean temperatures that fall well below or above this ideal. An instance of extreme cold would be Fargo, North Dakota in January where the mean temperature is a brutal 7 degrees. An example of a very hot temperature would be Phoenix in July where the mean temperature is an oppressive 94 degrees. I skewed the point system towards warm temperatures because that's how I prefer them, but also because anecdotally it seems that hot is generally preferred over cold (though by no means is that preference universal).

For each month quality points would be assessed and summed for a yearly total (see formula below).

4. Daily Temperature Variance. As with annual temperature variance, the daily or diurnal variance in temperature must be considered. Santa Fe, New Mexico has a very comfortable June mean of 66 degrees, but the mean June low is a cold 46 degrees and the high is a hot 83 degrees. That's nearly a 40 degree diurnal temperature change, which is not very comfortable. Think of the practicalities of planning for a heavy coat in the morning and shorts in the afternoon. As with the annual temperature variance, the less the daily temperature varies the better. To give a counter-example to Santa Fe, the October mean in Key West, Florida is a balmy 81 degrees, but the mean low is just 76 and the mean high just 85, a very small 9 degree diurnal change. No need to worry about different outfits in Key West.

Like monthly mean temperature, quality points are added to the daily temperature variance; the daily temperature variance ranges for the associated quality points:

Daily Temperature Variance Quality Points
  • 0-10 degrees = 2 points
  • 11-20 degrees = 1 point
  • 21-30 degrees = 0 points
  • 31-40 degrees = -1 points
  • >40 degrees = -2 points

The Formula
My climate formula combines the four elements listed above in the following manner:
(1) annual mean temperature
(2) annual temperature variance

A. (1)/2 - (2)/2 = (3)    [so annual mean temperature divided by 2 minus annual temperature variance divided by 2. The dividend is necessary to properly weight annual and monthly statistics, otherwise the annual statistics will dominate too much.]

(4) sum of the total quality points for monthly mean temperature and one-half the total quality points for monthly temperature variance  [I consider monthly mean temperature twice as important as monthly temperature variance]

B. (3) + (4)/2 = (5) - final climate value [so I take value (3) above and add the total quality points from (4) divided by 2, again considering the annual temperature statistics twice as important as the monthly statistics.]

Chicago frozen in winter
Looking at this another way, annual mean temperature is worth 1/3 of the score, annual temperature variance is worth 1/3 of the score, monthly mean temperature is worth 2/9 of the score, and monthly temperature variance is worth 1/9 of the score. I think these proportions yield logical results, but judge for yourself from the list below.

Before we get to the list of the U.S. cities with best climates, lets apply the complete formula to two cities. I'll choose Chicago, Illinois and Houston, Texas. Note that all temperature data was taken from weather.com.

(1) annual mean temperature: Chicago- 51.7 degrees; Houston- 70.5 degrees
(2) annual temperature variance: Chicago- 50.0 degrees; Houston- 30.5 degrees

A. (1)/2 - (2)/2 = (3): Chicago- 0.8; Houston- 20.0

(4) quality points (monthly mean temperature / monthly temperature variance divided by 2):
Chicago- 1 (-5 / 6); Houston- 19 (13 / 6)

B. (3) + (4)/2 = (5): Chicago- 1.3; Houston; 29.5

Houston, green and warm
So Houston scores far higher than Chicago, meaning Houston has a far better climate. Note that the final climate values are relative only, they mean nothing in and of themselves. However, they do become meaningful once they are computed for a large number of cities. As a quick aside. I visited Houston for business in late April 2005. The weather was fabulous with highs around 80 and lows in the 60s. I visited Chicago for school in mid-May 1997. The weather was hit or miss with one nice day of highs around 70 contrasted by a cold day with highs only around 50. Such anecdotal experience provides some validation for the scores above. Now onto the list.

---

Conroy's Climate Rankings (Major U.S. Cities, metro. pop. >100,000):

Beautiful and warm Miami
[Note that I will be creating a separate page on this blog and populating it with a lot of the background data that went into creating this ranking. I also intend to provide charts, graphs, and maps to further illustrate the information. I would, at some point in the future, create similar rankings for European, Asian, and other cities.]

Click here to read Part 2

[Major cities (30 largest metro. areas) are bolded and annual and monthly values listed to provide additional context and comparison.]


Tampa - Florida cities dominate the top of these rankings

1. Honolulu, HA - 48.3
2. MIAMI, FL - 44.9
3. Ft. Lauderdale, FL - 44.7
4. West Palm Beach, FL - 43.9
5. Naples, FL - 40.3
6. Ft. Myers, FL - 40.2
7. TAMPA, FL - 37.8
8. LOS ANGELES, CA - 37.1
9. Palm Bay, FL - 36.8
10. Sarasota, FL - 36.6













11. ORLANDO, FL - 36.4
12. SAN DIEGO, CA - 36.0
13. Lakeland, FL - 35.9
14. Brownsville, TX - 35.8
15. Daytona Beach, FL - 34.3
16. Corpus Christi, TX - 32.3
17. Ocala, FL - 32.1
18. Oxnard, CA - 31.9
19. McAllen, TX - 31.9
20. Oceanside, CA - 31.2

21. Jacksonville, FL - 30.6
22. Santa Barbara, CA - 30.5
23. Gainesville, FL - 30.0
24. HOUSTON, TX - 29.5
25. Brunswick, GA - 29.0
26. New Orleans, LA - 28.9
27. Victoria, TX - 28.0
28. Oakland, CA - 28.0
29. SAN FRANCISCO, CA - 27.9
30. Beaumont, TX - 27.8



31. Biloxi, MS - 27.5
32. Pensacola, FL - 27.0
33. Lafayette, LA - 26.9
34. San Luis Obispo, CA - 26.8
35. San Jose, CA - 26.4
36. Laredo, TX - 26.2
37. Monterey, CA - 26.1
38. Lake Charles, LA - 25.5
39. RIVERSIDE, CA - 25.3
40. Tallahassee, FL - 25.3



41. Charleston, SC - 24.7
42. Panama City, FL - 24.3
43. Mobile, AL - 24.1
44. SAN ANTONIO, TX - 23.9
45. Baton Rouge, LA - 23.5
46. Yuma, AZ - 23.3
47. Valdosta, GA - 23.2
48. Austin, TX - 23.0
49. Palm Springs, CA - 22.7
50. College Station, TX - 22.7

51. Santa Rosa, CA - 22.6
52. SACRAMENTO, CA - 22.4
53. Tucson, AZ - 22.0
54. Savannah, GA - 21.8
55. Fort Watson. FL - 21.5
56. Alexandria, LA - 21.5
57. PHOENIX, AZ - 21.0
58. El Centro, CA - 20.9
59. Modesto, CA - 20.9
60. Hattiesburg, MS - 20.6


61. Dothan, AL - 20.5
62. Tyler, TX - 20.3
63. Columbus, GA - 19.8
64. Albany, GA - 19.7
65. Stockton, CA - 19.5
66. Columbia, SC - 19.3
67. Visalia, CA - 19.3
68. Wilmington, NC - 19.2
69. Shreveport, LA - 18.8
70. Montgomery, AL - 18.3

71. Bakersfield, CA - 18.2
72. Thomasville, AL - 18.2
73. DALLAS, TX - 18.0
74. Myrtle Beach, SC - 17.9
75. Merced, CA - 17.6
76. Fresno, CA - 17.3
77. Texarkana, TX - 17.0
78. Macon, GA - 17.0
79. Jacksonville, NC - 16.8
80. Lake Havasu City, AZ - 16.7


81. ATLANTA, GA - 16.6
82. Jackson, MS - 16.5
83. Augusta, GA - 16.3
84. Waco, TX - 16.0
85. El Paso, TX - 15.8
86. Chico, CA - 15.8
87. Virginia Beach, VA - 15.7
88. Monroe, LA - 15.6
89. Athens, GA - 15.5
90. San Angelo, TX - 15.4


91. Odessa, TX - 15.2
92. Greenville, NC - 14.9
93. Greenville, SC - 14.8
94. Charlotte, NC - 14.4
95. Tuscaloosa, AL - 14.2
96. Abilene, TX - 14.2
97. SEATTLE, WA - 14.2
98. Memphis, TN - 14.1
99. Birmingham, AL - 14.1
100. Fayetteville, NC - 14.0

101. PORTLAND, OR - 13.9
102. Redding, CA - 13.8
103. Little Rock, AR - 13.8
104. Raleigh, NC - 13.5
105. Rocky Mount, NC - 13.4
106. Knoxville, TN - 13.3
107. LAS VEGAS, NV - 13.0
108. Hickory, NC - 12.6
109. Chattanooga, TN - 12.0
110. Bellingham, WA - 12.0

111. Decatur, AL - 11.9
112. Winston-Salem, NC - 11.8
113. Jackson, TN - 11.8
114. Nashville, TN - 11.0
115. Salisbury, MD - 11.0
116. Salem, OR - 11.0
117. Las Cruces, NM - 10.6
118. Wichita Falls, TX - 10.6
119. Asheville, NC - 10.1
120. Fort Smith, AR - 10.1

121. BALTIMORE, MD - 9.9
122. Richmond, VA - 9.6
123. Lubbock, TX - 9.3
124. Eugene, OR - 9.3
125. Lawton, OK - 9.2
126. WASHINGTON, DC - 9.0
127. Atlantic City, NJ - 8.4
128. Danville, VA - 8.2
129. Dover, DE - 8.2
130. St. George, UT - 8.1

131. Louisville, KY - 8.0
132. Tulsa, OK - 7.9
133. Roanoke, VA - 7.7
134. Jonesboro, AR - 7.7
135. Fayeteville, AR - 7.5
136. Clarksville, TN - 7.4
137. Charlottesville, VA - 7.3
138. Amarillo, TX - 7.0
139. Medford, OR - 6.9
140. Oklahoma City, OK - 6.8

141. Johnson City, TN - 6.7
142. Lynchburg, VA - 6.7
143. Albuquerque, NM - 6.4
144. Charleston, WV - 6.3
145. Bowling Green, KY - 6.1
146. Prescott, AZ - 6.1
147. Lexington, KY - 6.1
148. Evansville, IN - 5.8
149. Joplin, MO - 5.8
150. PHILADELPHIA, PA - 5.7



151. Kennewick, WA - 4.7
152. Morgantown, WV - 4.7
153. Harrisburg, PA - 4.5
154. Springfield, MO - 4.4
155. NEW YORK, NY - 4.3
156. Salt Lake City, UT - 4.1
157. Huntington, WV - 4.0
158. CINCINNATI, OH - 3.8
159. ST. LOUIS, MO - 3.6
160. Trenton, NJ - 3.4

161. KANSAS CITY, MO - 3.3
162. Wheeling, WV - 3.2
163. York, PA - 3.0
164. Marietta, OH - 2.6
165. BOSTON, MA - 2.5
166. Akron, OH - 2.5
167. Lancaster, PA - 2.4
168. Hagerstown, MD - 2.3
169. Boise, ID - 2.2
170. Boulder, CO - 2.0

171. Toledo, OH - 1.9
172. Columbus, OH - 1.9
173. Indianapolis, IN - 1.9
174. Dayton, OH - 1.8
175. Bloomington, IN - 1.8
176. Reno, NV - 1.6
177. Providence, RI - 1.6
178. CHICAGO, IL - 1.3
179. Wichita, KS - 1.1
180. Provo, UT - 1.1



181. Terre Haute, IN - 1.1
182. Columbia, MO - 0.5
183. Erie, PA - 0.3
184. DETROIT, MI - 0.1
185. PITTSBURGH, PA - 0.1
186. Springfield, IL - -0.2
187. Farmington, NM - -0.2
188. CLEVELAND, OH - -0.2
189. Youngstown, OH - -0.2
190. Manhattan, KS - -0.3

191. DENVER, CO - -0.4
192. Lafayette, IN - -0.5
193. Topeka, KS - -0.6
194. St. Joseph, MO - -0.8
195. Springfield, MA - -1.2
196. Allentown, PA - -1.2
197. Altoona, PA - -1.3
198. Scranton, PA - -1.4
199. Canton, OH - -1.5
200. Buffalo, NY - -1.8



201. Champaign, IL - -1.8
202. Coeur d'Alene, ID - -1.9
203. Bend, OR - -1.9
204. Pueblo, CO - -1.9
205. Williamsport, PA - -2.1
206. Norwich, CT - -2.3
207. Fort Collins, CO - -2.4
208. Davenport, IA - -2.5
209. Ogden, UT - -2.5
210. Santa Fe, NM - -2.8

211. Hartford, CT - -2.8
212. Kalamazoo, MI - -3.1
213. Rochester, NY - -3.2
214. Fort Wayne, IN - -3.3
215. South Bend, IN - -3.5
216. Grand Junction, CO - -3.6
217. Yakima, WA - -3.6
218. Bridgeport, CT - -3.6
219. Saginaw, MI - -3.7
220. Peroia, IL - -3.9

221. Poughkeepsie, NY - -3.9
222. Mansfield, OH - -3.9
223. Spokane,WA - -4.3
224. Iowa City, IA - -4.8
225. Elmira, NY - -5.3
226. Syracuse, NY - -5.3
227. Billings, MT - -5.4
228. Flagstaff, AZ - -5.4
229. Omaha, NE - -5.4
230. Colorado Springs, CO - -5.4

231. Des Moines, IA - -5.5
232. Utica, NY - -5.6
233. Grand Rapids, MI - -5.6
234. Lincoln, NE - -5.9
235. Binghamton, NY - -6.1
236. Milwaukee, WI - -6.4
237. Albany, NY - -6.5
238. Lansing, MI - -6.6
239. Missoula, MT - -6.8
240. Portland, ME - -7.1

241. Rockford, IL - -7.7
242. Cedar Rapids, IA - -7.8
243. Sioux City, IA - -8.1
244. Waterloo, IA - -9.4
245. Burlington, VT - -9.4
246. Rapid City, SD - -9.8
247. Idaho Falls, ID - -9.9
248. La Crosse, WI - -10.3
249. Bangor, ME - -10.9
250. Green Bay, WI - -11.8

251. Madison, WI - -12.0
252. Manchester, NH - -12.3
253. MINNEAPOLIS, MN - -12.6
254. Wausau, WI - -14.2
255. Sioux Falls, SD - -14.4
256. Eau Claire, WI - -15.0
257. Duluth, MN - -17.3
258. Anchorage, AK - -17.4
259. Bismarck, ND - -18.3
260. St. Cloud, MN - -18.9



261. Fargo, ND - -20.3
262. Fairbanks, AK - -38.8

Click here to read Part 2


Having trouble submitting comments, or are your comments not displayed after you submit them? If so, please email any comments or thoughts to conroyandtheman@gmail.com.

10 comments:

  1. Conroy,

    Great post! I love the analytical approach you took to determine the best climate. I'm actually from the Pacific Northwest (Eugene, OR) and I would argue that our gentle summers and cool winters deserve more credit than you give them, but then each his own (as you noted). One question. You wrote that humidity could be considered as a qualitative criteria, but you didn't address it at all in your rankings.

    I see that San Diego rates really high, and having spent a lot of time in "America's Finest City", I can attest that it has an almost ideal climate. I much prefer the dryer conditions there than the sticky humidity in Florida. I spent a weekend in Jacksonville during July and the air was so thick I could hardly breath!

    So is there any chance you will modify your rankings to account for humidity? Maybe in a second post (Part 2)?

    CT - Eugene (Go Ducks!)

    ReplyDelete
  2. CT,

    I have to tell you that whenever the sun is shining and I can be outside and feel comfortable in a short sleeve shirt, I am happy - humidity or not! My husband is in the Air Force and he was recently posted to Minot Air Force Base in northwest North Dakota. Previously he was stationed in Eglin Air Force Base near Pensacola, Florida. You can imagine the adjustment moving from the sunny Gulf Coast to frigid Minot. A few days ago the HIGH temperature was 3 degrees! Right now they are forecasting wind chills of 30 below zero! What horror!!

    So back to the issue of heat and humidity. Certainly if I had to be outside all day mowing lawns or walking dogs in either Orlando or San Diego, the latter would be more preferable. But since most of my daytime hours are spent inside (thank God!), I would go for either of these places - humidity or not - before choosing a place like Minot where I could literally freeze to death 8 months of the year.

    Celeste
    (dreaming of the beach and counting the days till summer)

    ReplyDelete
  3. CT and Celeste,

    (By the way Celeste, thanks for sending me an email. I hope others will follow suit.)

    Regarding the issue of humidity. There are positives and negatives to high humidity. I touched on a couple in my column. CT's position seems to be that high humidity coupled with high temperatures is oppressive, and certainly this is the major drawback of a hot and humid climate. And there can be no doubt that heat and humidity are uncomfortable.

    However, again, as I noted in my post it's really the high temperature and not the high humidity that make Jacksonville less comfortable than San Diego in summer. Believe it or not the relative humidity in July in San Diego is 75%, and in Jacksonville it is 74%.

    Also, and important to note, the absence of humidity can result in wider diurnal temperature swings. A coworker of mine who relocated from Los Angeles noted that often times at night you needed a sweater or jacket outside - even during summer. Exposed to the warm East Coast summers, she seemed to like the warm nights.

    Humidity has it's good and bad aspects, but in the end I can't give it enough weight to factor it into my climate formula.

    And, Celeste, I think CT and I can both agree that arguing over the merits of Florida versus Southern California seems perverse when you have to suffer through a long northern winter. I hope you husband get transferred somewhere warmer soon.

    Conroy

    ReplyDelete
  4. [Comments submitted via email]

    Conroy,

    I read both of your climate posts and I must say that I am impressed at the depth of research. However, I have a few thoughts based on my experience from actually visiting many of the locations you note.

    First, humidity matters a lot. You addressed this in your post, but for me it's a huge factor. Hot and humid conditions are a huge factor in overall comfort. I also think you need to lend more wight to coastal proximity. I think being closer to a cost is way better than being far removed from one.

    Other variables also play a large factor. Many of your top 10 cities are located in Florida, which I find unbearably hot in the summer. Key West, however, is perfect because its coastal breezes take away the humidity. Phoenix, as you noted, is just plain hot, unbearably hot, even though humidity is not a factor. Elevation in places like Albuquerque and Las Vegas turn otherwise perfect climates into variable much-less-than-perfect climates.

    In Hawaii, the prevailing winds account for most of the climate - and you must take into account whether a location is on the windward or leeward side of each island. The windward sides get most of the rain and the leeward sides are sunny and pleasant. I think Hilo, your highest scoring city, might be on the windward (rainy)side.

    I'd argue that the frequency of hurricanes (Florida and the southeast), monsoons (West Coast), and cyclones (Pacific) in an area also would have a subjective effect on one's definition of the "perfect climate".

    I hope you get a chance to respond, I think this is a great subject.

    -Anonymous by request from the Commonwealth of Virginia

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow! Having escaped Houston's oppressive humidity and 100º heat even in June for Denver's 300+ sunny days/year, I gotta pick my subjective observations over your methodology for picking a place to live!

    Thanks to Denver's altitude, you can walk outdoors in short shirtsleeves the day after a major snowfall (which are kinda rare these days). Low humidity and a mild deserty climate count a lot to me!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nowitall,

    Thanks for you comments. I've received several responses along these lines. I'm considering some approaches to incorporate humidity into my climate ranking formula. High humidity is very uncomfortable when coupled with heat, and for that matter low humidity is uncomfortable when coupled with cold. Hopefully I can work something out that seems to address the general discomfort associated with hot and humid summer days.

    In addition, keep in mind that my methodology is based on a warm weather preference. If you like colder weather, simply adjust the values accordingly, but I hope the overall methodology holds.

    As you noted, Denver has variable weather, which is something I find undesirable. I can understand your desire to escape the oppressive Houston summer, but those mild winters must have been enjoyable?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Regarding diurnal temperature variance, my mother tends to think that large diurnal temperature variations are often not uncomfortable at all.

    She argues that people will sleep most comfortably on quite cold nights and that the worst aspect of hot weather is when the nights are hot, not the days, which can be enjoyable at quite warm temperatures. My mother says that an ideal minimum is as low as 45˚F (7˚C), but that an ideal maximum is around 72˚F or 22˚C. My own experience, if less comprehensive, inclines myself towards the view that large diurnal temperature variations are not so uncomfortable as you make them.

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  8. If you think that humidity is just an incidental part of the formula, then I submit you've never lived in a truly humid place. You may have visited, but not lived year round. Living in parts of Florida where the 20 foot walk from your front door to your car leaves your shirt dripping with sweat is far worse than having to live in cooler climes. I can be perfectly comfortable at 40 degrees with a jacket on, but NOTHING can make me comfortable at 100 degrees (though a desert level of humidity makes the heat less oppressive).

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  9. I really appreciate the thought and effort you have put into these posts. You are on to something. Before I comment further let me share with you the locations where I have spent of time in my 50+ years. Places where I lived, worked or visited a lot. St. Louis, San Diego, San Francisco, Memphis, Jacksonville, Honolulu, Anchorage, Key West, Puerto Rico, Denver, Norfolk, Riverside, Nevada Deserts, Western and Eastern Texas, Southern Maryland, Egypt, Corfu and Equatorial East Arfica.I have also studied from books that relate ideals for perceived human comfort. These texts are in complete agreement with what I have personally experienced. I most also share that in my work I was outdoors, constantly exposed to the elements.

    Besides the obvious extremes of heat and cold, the condition that makes the most difference is humidity, followed by air movement (wind) and rounded out by thermal radiation. If feel if you find a way to effectively incorporate a scale to quantify humidity, you'll really be on to something.

    For example, to make a meaningful comparison between San Diego and Jacksonville (or any location) at any given temperature you must examine humidity. If it's 85 with 69% RH in San Diego it is pleasant with a breeze or not, in Jacksonville with the same temp. and 79% RH it's not as nice but a nice breeze makes the difference for comfort. However, in Key West at 85 deg. with 89% RH and no air movement it is unpleasant. FYI - during the summer in Key West, a breeze is a welcome but rare event. Key West is surrounded by a lot of shallow water that heats up, therefore little air movement. Puerto Rice is surrounded by deep water, go there on the same day (and I often did) and you'll find the same heat and humidity by a steady wind that was a great relief. I would pick San Juan, Puerto Rico over Key West on any summer day. If I was in the Nevada Desert, West Texas or Egypt, working in the shade with a breeze at 95 deg. it was pleasant compared to Key West.

    Same goes for cold weather and humility. Late August in San Francisco I never could put on enough layers to feel warm because of the damp. Late September in Anchorage with snow was much more comfortable. Working on the Chesapeake Bay in Southern Maryland during winter was no fun either because of the damp. It can get really cold at night in the South Western desert areas but with the low humidity, it's easy to stay warm by just putting on a sweater or jacket. I also never complain about A/C being too cool in a building, I can always put another layer of clothes on but it's not possible to take a layer off if it's too hot.

    Many places I stayed in Key West were not Air Conditioned. As a result, in the summer, when you step out of a refreshing cool shower, you have all the windows open and you're toweling off, you will already be breaking out with sweat before you put your clothes on. The rest of the year there is great. . .if you don't mind hurricanes.

    Keep up the good work. I look forward to Part 3.

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