Not under the weather
August 14, 2018 1:23 AM   Subscribe

 
Everything about this is baffling. It lists San Diego with an average high of 76.4 and no AC needed but the average high for July and August is over 100, at which point you might want some AC.

"the temperature is wonderful year round"
posted by seraphine at 1:48 AM on August 14, 2018 [7 favorites]


...no AC needed but the average high for July and August is over 100..

Perhaps the problem in defining San Diego (city vs. county)? Along the coast, which is where the city is and where I grew up, we never had A/C or Heat. Days that went above 90F were extremely rare.

Inland San Diego county includes actual deserts.
posted by vacapinta at 1:52 AM on August 14, 2018 [12 favorites]


As a Sydneysider I would have put it in classification 2 (prefer AC). A climate-change boosted summer is tough here. The early European settlers agreed too, praising the cooler climate of Hobart compared to the "tropical lassitude" of Sydney.

I also reckon the Australian tendency to build shoddy, uninsulated homes negates any climate advantage we would have! I've seriously had Norweigans claim that the coldest they've ever been indoors was in Sydney.
posted by other barry at 1:56 AM on August 14, 2018 [21 favorites]


Europeans really like to make fun of Americans for using a lot of AC.

This annoys me so much, too! Whenever a Spaniard tells me that they don't like AC because it gives them a sore throat or whatever I'm always like YOU FOOL.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 2:00 AM on August 14, 2018 [11 favorites]


Actually the average high for San Diego (airport) on August 14 is 76.
posted by jkent at 2:13 AM on August 14, 2018


I live in southeast Alaska (where the temperature is a lot more temperate than most expect, but heat is certainly still a necessity in winter..) but I work for a non-profit that's based in Redwood City, California.

I'm always amused, when I walk around Redwood City, by the arches throughout the city bearing the motto "Climate Best by Government Test", which is alleged to celebrate a study which named Redwood City's climate as ideal.
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:28 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Sydney had a day of 47 degrees Celsius (116 degrees F) earlier this year. I'd call that AC worthy.
posted by nnethercote at 2:35 AM on August 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


Yeah and claiming South East New Zealand (or any part of New Zealand) doesn't need heat... That made me laugh heartily.
posted by lollusc at 3:04 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


Like, you probably won't DIE without heating in NZ, but that's because it's not uncommon to wear three thick blankets, a knitted hat, mittens and scarf INSIDE.
posted by lollusc at 3:05 AM on August 14, 2018 [17 favorites]


What's the deal with Glasgow? Pretty much everywhere in Europe is AC not needed, Heat needed: Paris, London, etc. But Glasgow is only Heat preferred. Do Glaswegians just prefer to be hard as fuck in the winter?
posted by biffa at 3:06 AM on August 14, 2018 [16 favorites]


Do Glaswegians just prefer to be hard as fuck in the winter?

Ya stay warm laddie ba headbuttin sassenachs.
posted by lalochezia at 3:13 AM on August 14, 2018 [34 favorites]


I couldn't get the map to give anything for Glasgow at all. Although my former Glasgow letting agents were definitely of the belief that heating was merely a nice-to-have luxury that I shouldn't be too needy about, so the view is definitely out there! (bastards.)
posted by Catseye at 3:17 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah that dot on Christchurch is way wrong, temp range in my experience is -8C to about 40, the nor-wester's (fohn wind) are getting harsher and pushing temps up. Nelson is better, but still -3 to -6ish C high of 30 but most NZ houses uninsulated (mainly due to wRong wing governments).
posted by unearthed at 3:27 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Like, you probably won't DIE without heating in NZ, but that's because it's not uncommon to wear three thick blankets, a knitted hat, mittens and scarf INSIDE.

This demonstrates what I'm saying, about how we build shoddy houses in Australia. You'd expect NZ to have a thoughtful building code (what with the earthquakes) but generally Kiwis have agreed with me that we just have a really inexplicable lack of insulation in houses down here.
posted by other barry at 3:32 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm also pleased to add: the traditional weather knowledge of the Sydney region. It's been a mild and pleasant Wiritjiribin season this year.
posted by other barry at 3:39 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


There certainly used to be parts of the Southern Appalachians that got cool enough at night in the summer that you didn't need AC. Most of the Asheville area used to be all windows open all the time. It's the place that I can most feel the effects of climate change--you don't see people in jeans and sweatshirts in the early morning or late evening in June anymore, because it just doesn't cool off like it used.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:53 AM on August 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


Do Glaswegians just prefer to be hard as fuck in the winter?
Ya stay warm laddie ba headbuttin sassenachs.


TAPS AFF!
posted by bwvol at 3:54 AM on August 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


The fact that he doesn't include humidity just invalidates this whole thing. As anyone who has lived on the East Coast of the US will tell you, AC is just as much about removing water from the air as it is lowering the temperature. You can tolerate 95 degrees and dry just fine, because your sweat will evaporate and do its job by cooling you down. But 80 degrees and humid, you'll just drip until you're a puddle on the floor.
posted by basalganglia at 4:04 AM on August 14, 2018 [58 favorites]


The fact that he doesn't include humidity just invalidates this whole thing.

And he’s from Kentucky, which is not exactly a desert.
posted by madcaptenor at 4:29 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Interesting article and list...but the results are a bit iffy. According to him, Tokyo ranks A/C as a PREFER. Summers in Tokyo range from hot to brutal, and this year in particular, in July, Tokyo had a heat wave that killed over 100 people. People who almost certainly didn't have A/C.


The fact that he doesn't include humidity just invalidates this whole thing.

So true. Tokyo is incredibly humid in the summer, even if the temperature is well under 100F / 40C.
posted by zardoz at 4:36 AM on August 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


It's not the heat but the humidity.
posted by Fizz at 4:38 AM on August 14, 2018


"It can't get much hotter ...can it?" Us Cities effected by rising and unceasing heat waves.

Heat: The Next Big Inequality issue : as 90 people drop dead in a week in Quebec, the question is not about comfort, but on who lives and who dies.
posted by The Whelk at 4:47 AM on August 14, 2018 [6 favorites]




Ya wait a second. Canadian houses are built for winter to keep heat in and it gets hot as f#ck around the great lakes in summer. I use ac less on the gulf coast of Florida than i did in toronto. And san diego??? Balls. Dont lie to me. Its been HOT various times I've been there. Balls.
posted by chasles at 4:56 AM on August 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


Most of the Asheville area used to be all windows open all the time. It's the place that I can most feel the effects of climate change--you don't see people in jeans and sweatshirts in the early morning or late evening in June anymore, because it just doesn't cool off like it used.


I came in to say this! I never lived in a house in Asheville with central air until my mom moved into a brand new McMansion-y place after I went to college. This was pretty normal among friends and classmates. Dad’s place still doesn’t have AC, but i give him a hard time about it because it’s a lot hotter than it used to be.
posted by thivaia at 4:59 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


As a native Southerner, I was not prepared for how humid Kingston, Ontario can be. Of course, I'm used to A/C so anyplace we've lived, I've insisted we have it.
posted by Kitteh at 5:11 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Bogotá is alright, I suppose, but it’s Medellin that is the City of Eternal Springtime.
posted by Segundus at 5:13 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Have to agree with the comments here about housing.

Growing up in Glasgow, we definitely needed heating, even in houses which were insulated and double glazed. I'm sure we could have used less heating if the houses were better constructed, but when it gets to -16 C it's hard to argue for using none at all.

Later, I found that New Zealand houses were made of thin pieces of plywood and as such meant that I had to wear more clothes indoors than I ever thought I would need to.

Later again, I found that Western Sydney (where most of the people in Sydney actually live, far from the Opera House and Bondi Beach) the weather was less benign, with no cooling sea breeze. Multiple consecutive days of over 40 C are hard to tolerate without AC.

The whole article seems to overlook several important considerations. Makes me wonder if it's part of the author's Master's degree in city and regional planning. Makes me further wonder if this kind of superficial study is part of the reason why city and regional planners don't appear to be doing a great job in places like Western Sydney.
posted by 1head2arms2legs at 5:19 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I've lived in San Diego, coastal North County and the city proper, for 10 years now and it's become noticeably hotter in that period. I recall a study last year saying the average temperature had increased 3 degrees F in just a few years. Many apartments don't have A/C, but I suspect that will be changing rapidly. I also don't have A/C at the moment and it's been a miserable summer so far. Sure, the temperature hasn't been that high, compared to the inland deserts where I grew up, but the overnight humidity is brutal and really interferes with sleep.

That said, it's true that I never heat the apartment in winter. I just create a giant nest of blankets on the couch and burrow into it.
posted by zenzicube at 5:32 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


I am somewhat aghast at the idea that the UK should be tearing down victorian terrace houses to build new ones. New buildings are bland, badly built boxes with cheap tiny windows, and modern building materials age pretty badly. I dislike living in them.

My current flat is in an old converted warehouse with thick thick stone walls. It retains enough heat that in two years here we have never turned the heating on. Timber built houses are sadly just inferior to stone in cold damp weather.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:32 AM on August 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


I am somewhat aghast at the idea that the UK should be tearing down victorian terrace houses to build new ones. New buildings are bland, badly built boxes

Probably a number of those now quaint terrace houses were built on the rubble of earlier, less efficient, houses. New houses don’t have to be bland and poorly made, but many people are willing to sacrifice quality over size when determining their budget priorities.
posted by saucysault at 5:50 AM on August 14, 2018


Whoa, does that map say you don't need AC in Toronto? What?
posted by stray at 5:52 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


"I also reckon the Australian tendency to build shoddy, uninsulated homes negates any climate advantage we would have! I've seriously had Norweigans claim that the coldest they've ever been indoors was in Sydney."

My parents split their time between Chicago and North Carolina, and my mom vastly prefers to winter in Chicago because everywhere in North Carolina is SO FUCKING COLD because the buildings are just totally uninsulated. Sure, it's 30 degrees warmer outside, but you're indoors shivering all the time.

Also, yeah, same beef -- he marks Chicago as A/C preferred, but Chicago had one of the deadliest heat waves in American history in 1995 (more than 700 dead in 5 days), and that's basically entirely people who didn't have A/C ... and it's only been getting hotter and the urban heat island effect worse.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:52 AM on August 14, 2018 [7 favorites]


Later, I found that New Zealand houses were made of thin pieces of plywood and as such meant that I had to wear more clothes indoors than I ever thought I would need to.

San Francisco has the same problem. It's like the people who built the houses thought "oh, it's California, we don't need to insulate!" I was consistently colder there than I ever was in Philadelphia or Boston.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:06 AM on August 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


New houses don’t have to be bland and poorly made, but many people are willing to sacrifice quality over size when determining their budget priorities

The thing is, houses are generally built here by companies, not people. And those companies build them cheap as possible. I can't actually choose a smaller, better built place unless I buy an old house. I'm not at all convinced that what would be built on the rubble of the victorian houses is better. A restored victorian is probably good for another 100 years (although it is usually more expensive). Those new built houses I see going up around me will be falling apart in 100 years. And they're more efficient in part because they just have lower ceilings and small windows, which I find depressing. The only actual improvement in building materials we have is insulation, as far as I can see, everything else allows houses to be built *faster* and *cheaper* but not *better*.

I acknowledge some old houses are beyond saving, have been "terminally" badly restored at some point, or just were built badly to begin with. I'm probably having a gut reaction to the idea because you can have a new build anywhere, leave my old houses alone! (London, yeah, not so much). Maybe I'd feel differently if I lived somewhere that actually built new houses well.
posted by stillnocturnal at 6:08 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


New houses don’t have to be bland and poorly made, but many people are willing to sacrifice quality over size when determining their budget priorities.

Well in the UK they don't have to be energy efficient either since the Government watered down the Zero Carbon Housing regulations to be effectively meaningless. It's one of the many environmental policies that the 2015 Tory government dropped as soon as they were free from the shackles of the Lib-Dem coalition.
posted by biffa at 6:08 AM on August 14, 2018


I looked up the nearest "city" to me (I live in West Bumfuck, North Dakota). The map said we needed heat (no shit Sherlock, what was your first clue) but didn't need AC because our average was 85. That might be the average but spend July and August up here without AC and you're a fool. We just came off a weekend of triple digits, will have a couple days in the 70s, and then it rockets back up into the mid 90s by the weekend. Average temperature is achieved by averaging and it's not reliable for a place with our extremes.

Houses here are built to keep heat in and cold out. They tend to do the opposite in hot weather. Mrs Ber grew up with a mother who ran the AC from June to early September and thus hates it. So we often cool the house by open windows from the evening into morning and then shutting them up (if and when I can get her to agree to even that). But she will flip that AC on in weather like what we just had and will again in a couple days.

There's a fair amount of double wide trailers or "manufactured homes" up here. They're cheaper than houses but do worse in the extremes. Don't get me started on the foolishness and sadness of the folks in the oil boom who thought you could survive up here in a camper or RV.
posted by Ber at 6:08 AM on August 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


he marks Chicago as A/C preferred

This alone destroys the author's credibility on the subject.

As others have noted, failing to factor humidity into the equation is a fatal flaw in this system.
posted by she's not there at 6:38 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


The fact that this article isn't focused on climate change and what weather will be like in the near future rather than historically seems bizarre considering he's working on a master’s degree in city and regional planning.
posted by gwint at 6:40 AM on August 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


75F and sunny in San Diego feels to me like 100F when there are no clouds and the sun is beating down on the pavement, and that's true up and down the California coast, even as little as 5 miles inland. The weather is miserable without some A/C during the day. 5 miles west toward the beach then it's still hot, but the constant ocean breeze feels fine even at 90F.

Maybe it is a manageable hot, but it's still hot.
posted by The_Vegetables at 6:46 AM on August 14, 2018


LA is the same. The west side close to the ocean is great. A few miles inland is where wildfires are, and it's regularly hotter than heck.
posted by The_Vegetables at 6:50 AM on August 14, 2018


Mod note: Fixed "Guardian" spelling (yeah, I know it was on purpose, but every time you guys do this, moderators have to deal with a pile of flags on the "error")
posted by taz (staff) at 6:57 AM on August 14, 2018 [11 favorites]


Canada doesn't exist for him apart form Vancouver and Toronto. Was he afraid he'd need heating to go more than 100 km North of the border?
posted by arcticseal at 7:16 AM on August 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


Really?

Austin, TX US
Residents have no real need of air conditioning. In winter they'll need heat though. Days in the coldest month are around 11.6C. A bad winter day would see temperatures of 6C.


July 2018 had a high of 110 and 15 straight days of 100+ highs. They have an odd definition of "no real need". There's no waterfront excuse here either.
posted by jclarkin at 7:20 AM on August 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


This one's good too:


Phoenix, AZ US
Residents will be happier with air conditioning. In winter they'll need heat too. In the hottest month the daily average is 34.3C, and average highs are 40.1C. Days in the coldest month usually settle around 11.7C but can get as cold as 5.6C.


Happier? Is happier defined as "not dead"?
posted by jclarkin at 7:23 AM on August 14, 2018 [4 favorites]



The climate in San Diego - as in the actual climate zone- is completely different a few miles inland. Southern California is a place where home values are linked to climate and saying “I don’t have AC” can be seen as bragging about your ZIP code.
So yeah, I don’t have AC and I don’t use my heat most years [haughtily gazes at fingernails].
posted by q*ben at 7:31 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


Hi from Florida!
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:41 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


IME, a lot of homes in Quebec and Ontario don't have a/c mostly because it never stays hot enough to warrant running it all the time. Most people I know have only gotten central air-conditioning within the past couple of years and a few still don't have it all. There are more heat waves now than there used to be, I think, so the need has increased.
posted by Kitteh at 7:41 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I have married friends in Providence, RI (Boston is closest on the map) and it says AC no. I can tell you right now that one half of the couple's insistence that they don't need AC in their 2 story historic house is a major source of conflict.
posted by freecellwizard at 7:42 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


It's not the Victorian terraces per se that are the problem, it's the lack of investment in bringing them up to modern standards

This I totally agree with. They could be amazing, but nobody cares for them, and it makes me sad. All houses end up damp and moldy if you don't bother updating the insulation or checking for leaks or re-pointing or any of the various things you need to do to upkeep a house. The sound travelling issues could be fixed! (and anything with original lathe and plaster has superior sound-dampening properties, you just can't, you know, hang pictures or locate studs).

The worse house I ever lived in was a new build, but the landlord just didn't care. We regularly had to bleach the walls. When we moved the wall of bookcases in my room, the whole wall was black with mold behind. Slugs kept getting into the kitchen, and mold would grow on anything left too long in the cupboards. It was horrible, and in retrospect probably terrible for our health and we should have got the hell out. The landlord also sucked in a variety of other fun ways.

Also, that pebble-dash cladding that so often seems to be on new builds or council houses is just such a bad idea in the Scottish climate. It looks terrible in only a few years, and makes all the buildings look run-down when it first stains and then cracks off. And it's a sad fact of life in a damp climate that timber houses want to rot, if you're not vigilant then it's often too late and far too expensive by the time you realise the whole thing is unstable.

I think a lot of housing problems really come down to landlords and cost-cutting when building, but you know, Capitalism.
posted by stillnocturnal at 7:48 AM on August 14, 2018


Bizarre exercise, given that the international community already uses heating degree days and cooling degree days for broad climate tracking. Presumably you could do a classification scheme using that data with a HDD scaling based on climate type to deal with the desire for AC based on humidity.

Actually, I might do that. Off to dig on noaa.gov!
posted by ptfe at 7:54 AM on August 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


I really like this. It's a bit strange though that the author mentions that he didn't include humidity as a "hedge" in order to avoid "annoying negative comments" because as mentioned above, that seems a very valid point. People pointing that out are not being annoying and negative, it's a legitimate weakness of this data.

There are some errors and omissions in the data (the spreadsheet with the Medium article). There's no way that winters in London are worse than in Moscow (with regards to lowest temparature) for example. The average low temperature in London is not -13 degrees Celsius, it's about 16 degrees Celsius higher than that. The reason that Glasgow doesn't need heat seems to be that information about daily mean temperatures are not available for Glasgow, and the 1.72 Celsius for average lowest temperature is just above the cutoff point of 1.67 degrees Celsius for lowest temp. The "need heat" calculation is based on either average daily mean or average low. If the daily mean were included, Glasgow would likely have been classified as "need heat" because it seems to be about 4 degrees Celcius.

The author also doesn't seem to understand what average temperature means. He mentions (again, to ward off annoying negative comments) that averages are averages, that sometimes temperature is higher and sometimes lower, but that he is "only interested in how things are 95% of the time. If 5% of the time you are uncomfortable, well hey, that’s life". But "average" certainly does not mean: how things are 95% of the time.
posted by blub at 7:57 AM on August 14, 2018 [10 favorites]


I do think in a lot of the more northern-US places, living without AC is kind of a skill, and one that a lot of people don't have anymore but could regain if they needed to. But beyond that, there's also another piece of it where everyday stress levels even when life is "good" are quite high, now, and tolerance for something like non-optimal sleeping conditions changes a lot when you're under stress.

But I have a pet theory that part of the low tolerance for not having AC now has to do with almost everybody now having sateen sheets. Sateen is a terrible weave for hot nights. Some locations are definitely places where you can sleep at night if you've really set up your sleeping situation for summer but not at all if you're expecting to largely use the same bedding and pajamas (if applicable) year-round.
posted by Sequence at 8:00 AM on August 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


What about Hawaii? I think there's a month or so when the trade winds die down and it gets uncomfortable on Oahu but heh, if you work in A/C then after work, it's plenty tolerable. If you live at a slightly higher elevation, it's pretty temperate.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:02 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


There are some interesting surprises, here--like I did not realize or expect that Nairobi would have such a moderate, pleasant climate year-round. Washington DC, OTOH, is no surprise with its big fat red X.
posted by drlith at 8:06 AM on August 14, 2018


I was annoyed that Tripoli Libya isn't available but Tripoli Lebanon is. I remember it being very hot there (Sahara, after all) but also very dry, so tolerable. I also lived in Tucson AZ a long time, in a trailer with a swamp cooler, and it worked fine. Humidity is a huge factor is comfort.

Asheville is some hotter than it used to be, but we still don't have a/c in our house and it's fine. Of course, we close windows and curtains during the day, and open up when it cools off at night. That's the same thing we did in Wilmington NC, where I grew up, which is a tropical climate. The problem there was that it often didn't cool off at night, which made sleeping tricky. Sleeping porches were on the way out so the only way to capture a breeze was a fan to aid in evaporative cooling. So far this summer, Asheville has snuck up on 90F but hasn't hit it. In winter, it's staying warmer with less snow than before, so heating is necessary but less than before (I'm on equi-pay for my tiny house through the elec. company and I pay $70/month year-round.) I think I'll stay here.
posted by MovableBookLady at 8:15 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


MovableBookLady, I’ve been in ILM for the past 10 years and it has steadily gotten hotter. My HVAC died about 2 weeks ago and it was 4 days before the part came in and they could make the repair. My dog and I mostly went to Topsail and sat on the beach or sat in the yard (which was more tolerable than being inside the house). You could try to open the windows at night, but usually I can’t do that until October/November. But there are a few months where I don’t have to run AC or heat: November, March, and into April. It starts warming up in May and June is ungodly hot. This year June was worse than July and August so far. I also do the equal payment plan because my heat pump runs non-stop in January and February and AC in the summer. And I keep my house at 68 in the winter and 76 in the summer. Used to keep it at 78 in the summer, but I have a smoosh-face puppy and that’s just too hot for him.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 8:34 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'd also add that temperatures and humidity don't capture everything. Here just east of Seattle we may not need a/c per this map, but this week it's been stiflingly smoky due to wildfires elsewhere, and people who depend on opening the windows at night to cool their homes have the choice between a cooler but smoky house and a stifling house with clean air.
posted by potrzebie at 8:38 AM on August 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


But I have a pet theory that part of the low tolerance for not having AC now has to do with almost everybody now having sateen sheets. Sateen is a terrible weave for hot nights

Truth. Percale for life! Cotton or linen only, no synthetic blends in summer. It does help a lot without AC (and with it, makes it easier not turn the AC down so low.)
posted by asperity at 9:27 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


I do think in a lot of the more northern-US places, living without AC is kind of a skill, and one that a lot of people don't have anymore but could regain if they needed to.

I developed this skill when living in older buildings in southeast Michigan. There was more to it than judicious use of windows. On hot nights, I slept under damp towels with an electric fan blowing on me. When going out (and occasionally even at home), I'd slip a few ice cubes under my sunhat so they'd slowly melt and cool my face. My summer clothing was white from head to toe.

Nostalgia notwithstanding, it's better not to have to live like that. One of the blessings of AC is that it lets you not think about the weather all the time.
posted by aws17576 at 9:35 AM on August 14, 2018


(Though, undercutting my own comment, if I lived in Michigan with AC I'd probably still keep it off most of the time, because of guilt about energy usage. But there's no way I'd choose to suffer sleepless nights covered in wet towels!)
posted by aws17576 at 9:39 AM on August 14, 2018


The whole article seems to overlook several important considerations. Makes me wonder if it's part of the author's Master's degree in city and regional planning. Makes me further wonder if this kind of superficial study is part of the reason why city and regional planners don't appear to be doing a great job in places like Western Sydney.

Makes me wonder if the article was offered for publication elsewhere before landing on Medium.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:48 AM on August 14, 2018


Point: Vancouver BC is “Category 7: You definitely need heat, but you definitely don’t need AC.”

Point: Vancouver was 29 degrees several days this summer; with a relative humidity typically around 80%, which gives it a humidex of 41 Celsius.

Point: Screw you, buddy. Oh, the humidity!
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:49 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


I live in Minnesota, our climate is near perfect all year round. A few years ago I was camping in the BWCAW and when we went to sleep it was -26F. By the time we woke up and were packing up camp it was 29F. See, all of the climates!
posted by misterpatrick at 10:24 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


I was excited for this because I have kept an AskMe question at the back of my mind (and probably will until I'm done with grad school) that is basically, "Where can I live where I'll never need AC (that isn't Alaska)?" but if you don't factor in humidity and the highest temps, hoo boy. That's less than useless.
posted by brook horse at 10:26 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I actually, just for fun a couple of weeks ago, went a a search for what I thought would be a city with perfect-for-me weather. The biggest thing for me, as opposed to the temperature, is the loss of sunlight in the winter. (I live at about 38N, which means just 8 hours of sun in the dead of winter, which also means the sun is just barely visible on my way to work but it's completely dark on my way home. Utterly unacceptable).

I used this daylight chart to figure out which latitudes contained the best amount of sun. So, between 20N and 30S would be ideal for me. That poses a problem, though, heat. I live in a humid area with over a dozen days over 90 per year. I wanted to improve on that. The solution to my "lots of sun with less heat" problem was elevation.

Anyway I wound up with Quito, Ecuador, which is one of the cities that made in one the map as "Zone 1". This doesn't account for politics or culture or anything, but i still daydream about moving there sometimes
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:31 AM on August 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


you need AC in the summer in alaska bc if you open your windows for a breeze your house will be overrun by mosquitoes the size of preschoolers
posted by poffin boffin at 10:32 AM on August 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


Not only does he overlook the role humidity plays (which as a desert native who now lives in the Midwest, is a LOT), he also misses that lots of people in the American Southwest (and other arid areas) have evaporative cooling, not air conditioning.
posted by heurtebise at 10:55 AM on August 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


The two greatest things I've done to my 1959 house (Bay Area) is add insulation (blow-in for the walls, 36" into the attic) and install a whole house fan. The AC is practically superfluous now; when it's 95F it'll turn on once or twice in the afternoon, and I think once I finally get some damn window blinds installed it may not turn on at all below 100F because it's reliably like 65-70F overnight and the whole house fan means the inside of the house reaches that temp after about fifteen minutes when I activate the fan in the morning.

Whole house fans. If your nighttime temps allow it, they're fantastic. Be warned, you may need to add additional attic venting or you can overpressure your attic (these fans can be crazy-high CFM).
posted by aramaic at 12:05 PM on August 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


This is a reasonable first stab here, but if the results are to be useful you definitely need to account for humidity and go beyond just looking at the average. Like maybe you weight the average temperature according to the average humidity and then also include how many days per year the temperature/humidity exceeds a certain threshold?
posted by breakin' the law at 12:20 PM on August 14, 2018


overrun by mosquitoes the size of preschoolers

Admittedly I have not been to Alaska but I have spent time in the neighbouring Yukon. In Yukon they use the new ‘screen’ technology. Just sayin’.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:00 PM on August 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


Mexico City gets a perfect score, and I believe it, though perhaps even more remarkable is Cuernavaca, about 80km further south. I spent a winter there and the weather was perfect every day. It's known as the City of Eternal Spring and the average temperature for every month of the year falls within the range of 26 degrees C to 32 degrees C and the humidity never goes above 75%. I dream of retiring there.

In the meantime, I live in Montreal, where you can die of heat stroke in the summer without AC and of exposure in the winter without heat.
posted by 256 at 2:08 PM on August 14, 2018


I did not realize or expect that Nairobi would have such a moderate, pleasant climate year-round.

Nairobi has the loveliest weather and it doesn't change very much cause its from the altitude not the latitude.

The air pollution is off the hook, but you'll feel comfortable as you inhale all the particulates!
posted by smoke at 2:21 PM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


Cities in high deserts/high plains environments like Denver are great, although the summers get a little hot. BUT, if you live in an older brick house with an old tree or two shading the house, and you get a whole house fan (they're small, not too noisy), you can suck in all that cool night air and you're fine all day. A window AC unit for the kitchen helps if you want to cook, though. A swamp cooler (evaporative cooling) works great in our dry climate, but I have a piano, so that's out.

Heat we need.
posted by kozad at 2:50 PM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


I grew up on the other side of the densely inhabited portion of greater San Diego from vacapinta (the both hotter and colder, inland side), and I can pretty much vouch for not really needing AC or heat there. I lived in different parts of metro SD for 35 years and only had AC in my home for one of those years. I don't think I ever had AC in a school building. When living at home with my parents, during the winter we'd turn the heat on at night if it was decently cold (like, in the 50s), but turn it off when we went to bed, then turn it back on again in the morning until we left for the day. When I had my first apartment by myself, once I had the gas company inspect my heater (a wall furnace), I had them turn off the pilot light and left it that way for four years.

Were there times when I would very much have liked AC or heat? Sure, but I think that's the difference in the link between needing it and it just being nice. There were days in my unheated apartment where I could see my own breath inside, but maybe twice a year, and I could just get in my sleeping bag and watch TV and be fine.

I also lived for 3 years in central Virginia without AC, but just during the school year, so I missed the really hellish portions of summer. I also did a summer in western Wisconsin without AC and that was perfectly fine, but holy shit did we need heat there. Going from my home setting of "we'll turn the heat on if we start feeling really uncomfortable, maybe" to "leave the heat on at all times our your house will explode" was a shock.
posted by LionIndex at 5:43 PM on August 14, 2018


I developed life threatening adult onset asthma after moving into our uninsulated home and enduring a Sydney winter. It can get absolutely freezing at night and the houses aren’t built to cope. Oh, and summer here is starting to really become A Thing. So yes, I agree with those who say you need some form of AC in this city because now we’ve got it, my asthma has all but disappeared.
posted by Jubey at 6:46 PM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Eyebrows McGee: "it's only been getting hotter and the urban heat island effect worse."

One of the things to be cautious of when doing these sorts of studies is that official temperatures in many places are often at the edge or way the heck out of town at the airport and naturally the microclime there is different. Even in my small Canadian city the airport is on the edge of town and is essentially right on a big deep (and therefor cool) lake that seriously depresses the air temperature at the airport compared to where I live 10 kilometres east of the lake.

stillnocturnal: "The only actual improvement in building materials we have is insulation, as far as I can see, everything else allows houses to be built *faster* and *cheaper* but not *better*. "

There are lots of building technologies that allow for better single family and low density housing to be built. Some of them are even in wide spread use. I'd put up the average house built today against the average house of a 100 or 200 years ago as the better house as being better no problem. These sort of comparisons tend to be though of the average (or even cheap) housing of today compared to the survivors (and therefor generally the best constructed and certainly the best maintained) houses of 100/200/500 years ago so of course the old places look better. Ain't nobody pining to live in a Wattle and Daub thatched roof single room cottage or tenement that would have been so common even 400 years ago. No one yearns to live in a tar paper shack from a 100 years ago that would have housed 100s of thousands of Americans. Heck the vast majority of log cabins built in the last 500 years in North America are mulch and justly so.

arcticseal: "Canada doesn't exist for him apart form Vancouver and Toronto. Was he afraid he'd need heating to go more than 100 km North of the border?"

Are you saying he's mistaken? By his criteria Canada is a no go zone. Even Victoria gets ice and snow on occasion (though I'm not sure if that would be captured in the dataset).
posted by Mitheral at 7:43 PM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


European visitors get a nasty shock from how cold it actually is in Aussie winters. "It doesn't snow, we'll be fine!"

I've been to Europe in winter. People have insulation, cheap heating, and set their internal temps to disgustingly warm. You don't have to put on a ton of layers. You'll either be warm or walking.

In Australia? Good luck finding somewhere that warm that isn't half of you pressed up against a radiator cringing from a draught and your power bill, or in a combo of doona + multiple blankets + flannel sheets + 2 layers of clothes.

It's a great climate... on paper, and depending on the comforts you assume. I grew up poor without heating or a/c, and developed the trick of wedging an unwrapped freezer block between my thighs so I could sleep in summer and layering four t-shirts at once to stop my teeth chattering in winter. It was miserable.

I'm not overstating the power bills either. The cost of heating or cooling is a real concern in Australia in a way I don't see much from other places. Again, assumptions.
posted by E. Whitehall at 9:26 PM on August 14, 2018


People have lived in most of these places, without AC, for pretty much ever. Even central heat is relatively recent. People who have the ability to precisely control the temperature in their home and car typically lose their ability to tolerate even small differences in temps, and tend to dress for convenience and comfort, not weather. Houses are built for sales appeal, not better living, something to do with capitalism.

I've visited Guatemala City. On an American retirement budget, maybe it could be okay to live there, but for many, the gangs, poverty, corruption, etc., prevent an awful lot of people from enjoying the climate.
posted by theora55 at 7:09 AM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'd put up the average house built today against the average house of a 100 or 200 years ago as the better house as being better no problem.

I'd put the average house today against the high quality houses of yesterday and they'd still come out ahead. People live in these historic, mostly unimproved places today - they know they are uninsulated, the systems are all crap and the balloon framing (a single board goes from the ground to the roof if a 2 story instead of 2 single stories stacked like pancakes) is a serious fire hazard and termite treat. Yes, there are some great old houses from yesteryear still standing, and the finery is all great, but all that stuff has to be constantly maintained and it is a lot of work. It hasn't sat unoccupied or knocked down a class rung to people who had to spend money on food instead of periodically refinishing their house and come out fine.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:18 AM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'd put the average house today against the high quality houses of yesterday and they'd still come out ahead

If you put the average new build in Scotland (I was only talking about the UK, not the US) up against the Georgian stone buildings of Edinburgh New Town, no, it would not come out ahead (although if you want to keep the heating bills low you'd have to split all the rooms in two due to the sheer size). I wasn't suggesting that modern houses are worse than the average house 200 years ago either, a lot of which were also cheap and terrible and distintegrated, I was specifically comparing them to the survivors. And yes, to be any good those survivors need modern electrics, plumbing and insulation, I just think that doing that often results in a better house than starting from scratch with modern materials - we simply don't use the quality or thickness of wood they had back then. You can't get pitch pine any more. We very rarely build in stone because of the expense. Fire wise, there was an article on the blue recently about how modern houses can burn much, much faster than old ones (not this one but I can't find the original)

The maintenance can be an issue, but honestly in 20 years those new builds will need maintenance too, house ownership is just expensive. A restored Victorian can be a thing of joy, and nobody is building anything like that today, but sure if it's impossible to add insulation/electrics/plumbing/ the structure is fucked then knock it down. If it's in London city centre and you can house twice as many, sure, knock it down. And they're never going to be cheap for the poor. But dammit they're our history and if they can be brought up to date they should be because they can't be replaced.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:50 PM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'd feel a lot more comfortable (haha, get it?) if he incorporated dew point data into his analysis.
posted by smcdow at 6:44 AM on August 17, 2018


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