Finding my ideal climate
August 11, 2014 10:00 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to find all the areas of the US that have my ideal climate, and I'd like to do so by playing with data. Is there an app, site, or method that can help? (Or can you?)

I think all the data is available at a site like this, but I can't figure out if there's any way to access it that supports my use. and articles called things like 'America's Best Climates' try to, but only include a limited set of places, and don't let me get my hands on the data.

My ideal would let me adjust filters and show the qualifying locations on a US map.

The climate I'm looking for:
-Seasons, including color change in fall and a little snow in winter. E.g., I might filter to average annual snowfall 5"-25".
-Notably milder winters than Boston. E.g., I might filter to average daily high in January >44°.
-Notably cooler summers than Boston. E.g., I might filter to average daily high in August < 85°, maybe with humidity considered, too.
-Rainy enough to be green, but not remarkably rainy. E.g., I might filter to >190 sunny days per year, or maybe < 60" annual precipitation, with some limits for 'too dry' as well.
-Not climactically obnoxious in other ways I might not have thought of yet.

With all of these filters, I'm not interested in the results for any one particular year, but across years -- say the last 5 or 20. Depending on the results, I'd like to adjust the filters, tightening them if there are tons of results, loosening them if there aren't many at all, or otherwise trying stuff out.

So far, I think there are parts of the North Carolina mountains and parts of Oregon and Washington east of the mountains to look into further. If you know more spots, I'd love to hear them. Even more, I'd love to know how I can discover all the spots that qualify with these filters, and with others I might try out.
posted by daisyace to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe something like this.
posted by dfriedman at 10:07 AM on August 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

East of the Cascades the temperature swings are much greater. Ocean effect stops with the mountains, so winters in eastern Oregon and Washington are much colder, and summers are much hotter. There's also a lot less rain, so it isn't green most of the year (except on the actual slope).

Google Earth used to have a mode where you could see climate information (highest temp, lowest temp, rainfall) but I can't find it now and I think they may have removed it in the latest versions. (You could also see the tectonic plates, and a lot of other cool stuff.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:31 AM on August 11, 2014

For a purely visual take, check out the climate maps at The Biota of North America Program.

For raw data, try the National Weather Service starting here. The interface is clunky, but if you click on a spot on the map, you will be taken to a page where you can select Preliminary Monthly Climate Data by month, archived for several years back. That will give you daily temps, precipitation, etc. The same page gives you many other data options.

The City Data site can deliver all sorts of data about a specific place. If you pull up a city and scroll down far enough, it gives general climate information, including snowfall, sunshine, humidity, etc.
posted by Longtime Listener at 10:45 AM on August 11, 2014

One trick I've used is looking for plants that require my ideal weather, and tracking where they thrive. (I'm an olive trees kind of girl.)
posted by you're a kitty! at 11:03 AM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: If it were possible to get a custom view of the Biota maps that Longtime Listener linked, that would be pretty close. I wish I could get one that displays which places are all of the following:
-yellow or better on the 3rd map AND
-teal or better on the 4th one AND
-in the greenish bands on the 5th.
posted by daisyace at 11:25 AM on August 11, 2014

That might not be too hard to figure out, but your language is a little ambiguous. What temperature ranges do you mean by "better" for Map 3 (warmest month)? Same question for Map 4 (coldest month). On Map 5 (annual precipitation), which numbers from the key are in the shade(s) of green that you like?
posted by Longtime Listener at 11:58 AM on August 11, 2014

Those are pretty strict limitations, to be honest. I believe you're looking at coastal regions, north of San Luis Obispo, CA on the west coast, and probably somewhere similar on the east coast. SLO, CA doesn't really get seasons, but you get some colors changing in the area, and it starts getting that good going north, which also will keep the summer temperatures down. SLO isn't too green in the summer, though, and going north will also help that. In the area of San Luis Obispo, you can get a significant change of weather (and seasons) by traveling 15 minutes north and 800 feet up, where Santa Margarita usually freezes in winter, with some snow, and can be rather hot in the summers.

In other words, you'll need the coastal effect to moderate temperatures, so you don't really need broad maps to show you information, you could get by with browsing coastal cities where you might like to live, then looking at historic weather records on Best Places or other sites that have historic records.

But if you'd prefer to browse maps, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center has a page of Regional Climate Maps for the US. There's also the global, dynamic map with weather history of records and averages for the entire world.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:05 PM on August 11, 2014

Are you going to need data that will adjust for climate change, or just historical data?
posted by epanalepsis at 12:14 PM on August 11, 2014

My dad used to live near Oakhurst, CA. A small town between the larger city of Fresno, and the western gate to Yosemite National Park. High enough in elevation to not get the blistering summer heat that Fresno gets, and also to get snow a couple of times a winter (an inch or so) but not so high as to get a full winter's worth of snow.

Of course, most people then had to drive to Fresno for work, which was a good 30-40 min drive on winding roads.
posted by vignettist at 12:19 PM on August 11, 2014

Response by poster: Longtime Listener, I mean yellow (64.4-69.8) or cooler for map 3 and teal (32-37.4) or warmer for map 4. For the greens on 5, I guess I'd start with 28-40" and 40-46". Then, if I've eliminated everyplace, I could add something back in, and if I've still got lots left to choose from, I'd tighten something up.

epanalepsis, ideally, I'd love to consider historical data as well as out about 50 years, but I'd be interested even if I can only find historical data.
posted by daisyace at 12:36 PM on August 11, 2014

How about the Olympic Rain Shadow?
posted by benbenson at 2:53 PM on August 11, 2014

Seconding Asheville, and Chattanooga too. Maybe you know someone who could plug all your criteria into a GIS program to make you some maps.
posted by mareli at 6:44 PM on August 11, 2014

This interactive map (via this MetaFilter thread) is very similar to what you want. It's based on data from NOAA.
posted by mbrubeck at 12:25 AM on August 12, 2014

Response by poster: This thread may be old enough that I'll need to try this as a follow up question next week, but I'm wondering about doing some map manipulation myself. I have access to Photoshop, but don't really know how to use it. Would it be the right tool for taking a few of the maps that Longtime Listener posted, making the unwanted color bands black and the desired ones transparent, stacking them, and then coloring the areas that are transparent on all layers? If so, would instructions for doing so be easy enough to post here?
posted by daisyace at 5:49 AM on August 12, 2014

Response by poster: So far, I used Photoshop and made this from the ranges I mentioned in an earlier comment. It uses the ©BONAP images shared above.
posted by daisyace at 9:02 AM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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