What climate is right for you?

I grew up principally in western Massachusetts and Pittsburgh. I honestly enjoy chilly temperatures, snow, rain, and clouds. Though I don’t like humidity, I’m used to it, and consider it somewhat of a fact of life, but I hate heat. Holly, my wife, grew up in the mild Sacramento Valley, and our current home of Philadelphia is sometimes too hot, cold, humid, and wet for Holly’s tastes.With this in mind, I wanted to find out what climates are the best fit for Holly and me.

I can stand Philly’s summers, but they are about as hot as I can handle, so it is important for me to live in a place that is cooler than Philadelphia in summer. Holly, on the other hand, is more concerned about being cold. When I asked her, she said that the coldest place she would be comfortable living in is probably Chicago. I turned to this site to compare climates.

This is the average temperature range we’re looking for.

Let’s start by comparing the top ten cities in America by population: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, and San Jose (as it turns out, the website didn’t include San Jose, so I substituted San Francisco). This is how their average temperatures compare.

All ten cities with the same range as shown in the last image.

As we can see, while Los Angeles, San Diego and the Bay Area would probably be comfortable for both Holly and I, Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio and Dallas would probably all be hotter in summer than I would prefer.

I took every city available on this website and compared them to Philadelphia and Chicago, and then mapped them to try and find patterns. Here is the map:

Cities that are warmer than Chicago in winter, but cooler than Philadelphia in summer.

Although all of these cities match the simple criteria outlined, they may not all be the best in reality. For an example, let’s look at two extremes: Hilo, Hawaii and St. Paul Island, Alaska.

Technically within the range, but…

While Hilo is slightly cooler than Philadelphia during the summer, it’s pretty much that same temperature all year round. There are many people who would love this, I don’t think it would be best for me. And while St. Paul Island is technically warmer than Chicago in winter, average temperatures never even top fifty degrees. Holly puts on a sweatshirt when it’s less than seventy.

These outliers aside, you can definitely see some significant patterns. Most of the south and southwest are off limits, except particularly high elevations such as Flagstaff. The northern plains states are also off limits, since they would be too cold for Holly. The West Coast, even up to parts of Alaska, is fair game, and the East Coast from Virginia up to about Portland, Maine is also up for grabs.

The problem with the information available is that it only covers the United States. How could I know if some other part of the world would also be a perfect fit for us? To compare these results to a world scale, I matched it up with a map of the Köppen Climate Classification system.

From Wikipedia.org.

I took the various classifications and reorganized them into three groups: Most Appropriate, which includes classifications where Holly and I would be comfortable within virtually the entire area covered by the classification; Somewhat appropriate, where we would be comfortable in at least one city within the classification area; and Least Appropriate, where at least one of us would not be comfortable. When broken down into these categories, the map now looks like this:

Climate classifications by Munson comfort.

And now with only the Most Appropriate classifications teased out:

The most Munson-appropriate climates.

These areas certainly aren’t the only ones where we would be comfortable, but they do help to give an idea of what places throughout the world might work for us. This isn’t the only criteria, of course. I’m not packing my bags for the coast of Algeria after this assessment. But it has been a fun exercise to help stretch my view and see what places in the world fit our needs. What sort of climates could you be comfortable in? What other criteria are needed to assess if a place is right for you?


About Dave Munson
This blog is about architecture, cities, and myself.

3 Responses to What climate is right for you?

  1. Karen says:

    Your last two charts didn’t show up using my Chrome browser.

    Certainly Los Angeles is a good climate for me, although with all the microclimates here, you have to understand that an 80 degree reported Los Angeles summer temperature would mean about 72 at the beach cities and 95 to 100 in the San Fernando valley where I live.

    If I had the opportunity I’d move to a different “community” in Los Angeles, as the summers in the SF Valley are too hot for me. In July 2006 there were 22 consecutive days of triple digit heat here.

    A temperature of even 90 degrees becomes too extreme when moisture from Baja California comes here as part of the Pacific hurricanes. (The hurricanes die out before they get to land because of the colder Pacific Ocean temperature, but we get the moisture.)

    • Dave Munson says:

      When I originally posted this, I used large-scale, print quality images for the last two maps, and they were too big to load on both mine and Holly’s computers. I have replaced them with smaller images, so hopefully they’ll work now.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think the biggest thing you’re missing in this analysis is that a climate is a lot more than just “highest high” and “lowest low”. Coastal cities have much flatter temperature curves (whether St. Paul Island or Hilo or San Francisco) than inland cities (Chicago or Philly).

    Of the people I’ve talked to about this, the biggest factor seems to be not average temperature, but “Are there seasons?” Lots of people hate to live in a city where there’s no ‘real winter’, and vice versa. If you like seeing a stereotypical white Christmas, then San Francisco is probably not the city for you! If you’ve lived through too many Chicago winters and never want to see snow again, San Francisco could be perfect.

    Precipitation and humidity can also be factors, at least at the extremes. Houston is a nice enough city but every time I step outside my shirt is instantly drenched due to their 99% humidity and my own sweat. But apparently lots of people are fine with it — or maybe they just don’t sweat as much as me!

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