For all the whining and caterwauling about summer suffering in Washington, weather experts say that scientifically there is nothing all that special about the city's heat and humidity.
Washington summers are usually wiltingly hot, but the National Weather Service says the average summer is worse -- as far as heat and humidity are concerned -- in Nashville, St. Louis, Louisville and even Peoria.
"The talk about misery in Washington comes from people from the North who are not acclimated to the weather here, who work all the time in air-conditioned offices," says climatologist Helmut Landsberg, a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland and a veteran off 28 summers in Washington.
While Washington may not have scientific evidence that it is an expecially horrible summer city, it does have a 192-year-old tradition of powerful, articulate people who get sweaty and grumble about the heat. Word of their misery, reported by equally sweaty scribes, has gone out year after year across the nation. Every American has heard of summer suffering in Washington. The average man in Peoria probably believes he's more comfortable in the summer than a Washington bureaucrat, even though he isn't.
Subjective reports from Yankees unused to southern heat have helped forge a myth that needs no climatological sanction. Washington, the myth says, is one of the most hellish places anybody could spend a summer. For those who cannot flee the city in July and August, there's a certain masochistic joy in surviving Wasington's heat -- in conquering the myth.
But unusally, of course, it's too hot to enjoy anything.