Saturday, March 15, 2014

Ideal Winter Climate

We all have our "ideal climate" - the type of climate where we're most happy year-round. Personally, I like living in a place with distinct seasons. I like it to get occasionally cold in the winter and to get some snow, but not too much snow, and not so cold that I can't go outside and ride by bike, for instance, for a two-week stretch or longer. In other words, I like the occasional "taste" of "real winter", but I don't want three months straight of it. (By the way, I've gotten a lot better at dressing for cold weather bike rides. A 40°F bike ride is no big deal to me. I won't even hesitate.)

In terms of my "ideal climate", how do the places I've lived so far stack up? Florida doesn't get cold enough, obviously, and summer lasts way too long. A Pennsylvania winter is too long and too snowy for my taste. So if I think Florida is too hot and Pennsylvania is too cold, then it makes sense that I looked for jobs in North Carolina, no?

The average Raleigh winter is close, but it's still a little warm compared to what I would consider to be "ideal". I'd say, Lynchburg, VA might give me the "ideal" winter. ... But what if Raleigh had a colder and snowier than average winter? Would that the perfect winter?

Well, I'd say this winter here was* pretty close to perfect. (* - Even though I'm speaking past tense, I recognize that winter is not over yet. Slim chance of non-liquid precipitation early next week!)

Raleigh hadn't reached the single digits in over a decade, certainly longer than I've lived here. This year? Two mornings in the single digits, and two mornings with below zero wind chills. Hooray! And the nice thing about a North Carolina "cold snap" is that the temperature usually doesn't take long to moderate afterwards. Like I said, I like a "taste" of "real winter", but I don't like it to stick around.

(Disclaimer: What constitutes "cold" or "real winter" varies by location, of course. Someone from Minnesota might not consider a Central Ohio winter, for instance, to be a "real winter". When I say "real winter", I mean, snow, wind, and cold enough for me to wear a heavy coat.)

The RDU airport has reported 5.8" of frozen precipitation this season, which is actually right on the average. But, our house outperformed RDU by a good 2+ inches during our biggest snowstorm of the year, so I'd say that our house experienced above average snowfall. While it was the closest we've ever come, perhaps, I still wouldn't consider it absolutely "perfect". The number of "winter weather events" was plenty, but I'd like to have nudged the amount of snow we got from a couple of them up by an inch or two. Winter weather events that don't produce any meaningful amount of snowfall, but are still enough to close schools / day cares, are annoying. Ice storms, of course, are especially annoying. Winter weather events resulting in several inches of snow, however, are fun!

Maybe my idea of an "ideal winter climate" doesn't actually exist. If I like big snow storms, I have to live somewhere where it also stays cold for long periods of time. with week-long stretches where the temperature never gets above freezing, for instance. Otherwise, I have to live in a place like North Carolina that has a lot of annoying "mixed precip" events. If I like changing weather, then living in the middle of the country - say, Kansas City or Tulsa - might be fun. Those places can experience wild temperature swings over a short period of time. Problem is, a Kansas City winter is probably too cold, and a Tulsa summer is...well, it's pretty brutal. Living in the plains, I'd either have to contend with a summer that's too hot, or a winter that's too cold. Can't have it both ways.

So, it's better to live closer to the ocean where the seasons are a little closer in temporal proximity to each other, but still far enough north such that I still experience four distinct seasons. But not too far north, of course. I think I just described North Carolina! Or maybe Virginia.

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