Here in Washington, the weather has been flat-out drop-dead, absolutely, positively, 100 percent, gorgeous this past weekend. We're talking highs in the low 70s, abundant sunshine, and no humidity to speak of. Perfection!
It was the first day in several months where you could actually turn off your A/C, throw open the windows, and air out the summer funk your home has been accumulating since, oh, May or so.
Which got me thinking: wouldn't it be great if the weather were like this every day? Or at least, not for just a brief sliver of time in April and again in the fall, like we have here in the mid-Atlantic?
So I dug up some 30-year temperature averages maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out which places in the country had the most days where the average high temperature was right around that 70 degree mark. But then, what if I preferred hotter temperatures? What about colder ones? Wouldn't it be great to have a tool that let me enter any temperature range, and then showed me the places in the country where the temperature was in that range the most?
So that's what I built! You can play with it above. It's especially fun to move the sliders around and watch the colors flow across the country in waves.
Here's what I found out: I decided that an ideal high temperature range for me is between 60 and 75 degrees -- any cooler than that and you might need the heat on at night. And any warmer and you might need the A/C during the day -- especially if it's humid.
The CDC data show that on average, the number of days the high temperature falls within that range runs from 34 days per year (Miami-Dade County) to a whopping 264 days per year (Orange County, California).
The interesting thing is that different regions of the country see these temperatures at different times of the year. So for instance, Northern New England sees a lot of days in this range, as does a wide band of counties in the Southern states. The reason? In the Northeast you get a lot of these temperatures in the summer, while in the South you see these temperatures as the highs in the winter months.
Or, you could set the slider to only include days where the high temperature doesn't get above freezing. In a big part of the country, the average daily high temperature never gets that low -- those counties are greyed out. That doesn't mean that we never see sub-freezing days in say, Baltimore County, but rather that over the past 30 years, the average high temperature -- even in January -- doesn't go below 40 degrees.
On the other hand, some parts of the country (hello there, northern Minnesota!) see, on average, hundreds of days where the high temperature doesn't go above freezing. And in Lake County, Colorado, (elevation: 10,000 feet), in the average year the temperature doesn't break the freezing mark over 160 days, or nearly half the year.
Practically speaking, the temperature slider goes from 9 degrees to 108 degrees Fahrenheit -- over the past 30 years, there aren't any places where the average high temperatures is lower than 9, or higher than 108.
You can also look at the opposite end of the temperature spectrum -- the places with the most days where the mercury tops 100.
In Imperial County, California, the temperature tops 100 degrees on 99 days of the year. Imagine spending 3-plus months of the typical year roasting in those conditions! I'm pretty sure I would die. Like, literally. To the 177,000 brave souls living in Imperial County -- I salute you.
Now of course, this is only considering one dimension of weather in the U.S. It doesn't capture things like precipitation or humidity. Or even time of year -- a 70 degree day is great in September, for instance, but I'm not sure how I'd feel about weather like that in January.
And condolences, again, to the folks in Alaska and Hawaii -- because these numbers are derived from satellite data, you guys aren't included in the database.