I'm interested in visualizing climate data across the conterminous U.S. to determine regions that I would be interested in living in. So far, I've pulled in NOAA data, and I've:

  • averaged the maximum daily temperature measurements per location
  • averaged the minimum daily temperature measurements per location
  • taken the difference between the average maximum temperature measurements and the average minimum temperature measurements to determine how much weather varies across the year per location
  • pulled precipitation in tenths of mm per location
  • pulled snowfall in mm per location

At first, these seemed like "good enough" approximations, but I'm discovering that this approach is somewhat inadequate because it is:

  • Not appropriately representing swings in daytime-nightime temperatures
  • Not appropriately representing the annual variance in temperatures between locations
  • using averages

I was initially seeking to discover areas with a high mean temperature, low variance in temperatures annually and daily, and low rainfall. What metrics could I be using to improve this investigation? Thanks!

  • $\begingroup$ I'm thinking that statistical variance could be a better indication of variance than the range between annual avg max and avg min temps. Is it incorrect to just average all the min and max temps together for the average temp to use in a variance calculation? $\endgroup$ – RubeOnRails Sep 5 '18 at 16:58
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Generally the average weather is comfortable ; it is the actual weather that is often soo bad. for example the averare rain in Houston is about 1.1 in. / week , but last year they got 40.0 in. in a week. $\endgroup$ – blacksmith37 Sep 5 '18 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ Very good point. May be worth investigating rainfall variance in addition to temperature variance. $\endgroup$ – RubeOnRails Sep 6 '18 at 16:08

The Köppen climate classification is a classic metric to classify climates:

N-America Köppen map
Source: Wikimedia Commons

It classifies climates based on the number of months with temperature below and/or above certain thresholds, and on whether rainfall is evenly distributed or concentrated in a particular season. You will find details on the definitions on Wikipedia.

An alternative is the Trewartha classification:

Trewartha map Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Note that the climate you seek may not exist:

I was initially seeking to discover areas with a high mean temperature, low variance in temperatures annually and daily, and low rainfall.

A low temperature variance tends to happen in humid climates. Dry climates tend to have large temperature variances. A subtropical highland climate may come closest to what you seek, although it's not particularly dry. In the Köppen classification, this would be Cwb. From the Wikipedia article:

Cwb = Subtropical highland climate or Monsoon-influenced temperate oceanic climate; coldest month averaging above 0 °C (32 °F) (or −3 °C (27 °F)), all months with average temperatures below 22 °C (71.6 °F), and at least four months averaging above 10 °C (50 °F). At least ten times as much rain in the wettest month of summer as in the driest month of winter (an alternative definition is 70% or more of average annual precipitation received in the warmest six months).

I don't think any place with Cwb climate exists in the United States. Quito is famous for being the city of eternal spring, and some areas of Mexico are classified as Cwb, as in Johannesburg. I suspect the closest you'll get in the USA will be somewhere not too high, not too low in the Sierra Nevada.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This is super interesting and informative; thanks for sharing. The criteria for classification appears to be 12-month average temperature above/below a certain pre-defined threshold and a threshold number of months with precipitation above/below another pre-defined threshold. Maybe worth clarifying that I'm less interested in broad classifications and more interested in comparing the individual microclimates/locations, which is why I gravitated towards the classification criteria. Surprisingly, this doesn't seem to be too far off from what I'm currently using. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – RubeOnRails Sep 5 '18 at 14:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.