Safe Places Report No. 6
In my last Safe Places Report, I introduced climate as one of the factors in determining where you will relocate:
Now we are looking at your tolerance for cold weather or hot weather. Humidity or aridity. How much rain or snow? Low or high altitude? Four seasons, or an endless summer (for sailing enthusiasts) or endless winter (for ski addicts)? Perhaps the length of the growing season is important to you.
As that introduction suggests, finding the right climate can be a complicated matter. You probably won’t find everything you want in one place, forcing you to choose what is most important. And other factors (natural threats, political preferences, etc.) may rule out some of the places where the climate appeals to you.
The first thing to do is to write down the climate statistics for your current location. Of course you are familiar with your current climate—you live in it every day—but do you know the relevant statistics? Probably not, and you will need them in order to compare your current climate with the climate in your prospective new Safe Place.
The easiest way to find this is to do an online search for your current town or city on Wikipedia. Now, Wikipedia is subject to the usual liberal/left slants on political issues, but these city profiles are normally pretty reliable when it comes to topics such as history or climate. And a place has to be pretty remote not to have a Wikipedia entry. If that’s your case, however, simply choose the nearest town or city of any size and look up the climate for it. In most instances, it will not be that different from the climate of your desired location.
Once you are on the Wikipedia site for your current location, scroll down until you get to the section on climate. Once there, look for the multicolored graphic, “Climate data for ______” (your location).
Climate Data: What to Look For
In general, I consider these to be the four most important statistics to record for your current location:
- Average high temperature for the hottest month (usually July or August).
- Average low temperature for the coldest month (usually December, January, or February).
- Average annual precipitation (the last statistic on this line, under “Year”).
- Average annual snowfall (again, the last statistic on this line, under “Year”).
Since the Climate Data chart lists its statistics by month, you can also check to see when most of the rain or snow falls, if that is important to you.
These statistics are almost universally available on the Climate Data chart. The one exception, I’ve found, may be the line on snowfall. That may be because the question is considered moot (you don’t expect any snowfall in Key West, Florida) or it may be due to some other reason. In that case, do a more detailed online search for your current location: “snowfall in ______.” You will almost always find it somewhere in the articles cited—unless, of course, you are looking for snowfall in Key West, Florida.
With these four statistics, you can now start to compare your present climate with the climate in your prospective Safe Place.
If you want to escape the summer heat or the winter cold in your current location, you can now see how your prospective Safe Place compares to your current location. Ditto with rainfall and snowfall.
This may not answer all your climate questions, but it is a good start. Another statistic to get, for example, is altitude. In general, this has an impact on humidity—the higher the altitude, the lower the humidity.
If you are searching for a Safe Place in Texas, for example, there’s a vast difference between Woodville in the Piney Woods (altitude 269 feet) and Alpine in the Big Bend area (altitude 4,475 feet) and that has a dramatic impact on humidity. Yes, it gets hot in Alpine during the Texas summer (average high of 90.8 degrees in June) but you can bet it will be less humid during the day than in Woodville, and Alpine’s nights will be cool and pleasant, even during the summer.
Wikipedia provides the “elevation” of each town and city listed. You will find it in the top right-hand column of key facts.
If You Plan on Growing Crops
If you are planning on growing crops in your new location, either for home use or commercially, you will be interested in the average growing season in your new location. For a general discussion, see the Department of Agriculture (USDA) site, “Growing Season Dates and Length.”
Here is a USDA “Plant Hardiness Zone Map,” and you can enter the appropriate Zip Code to find the appropriate zone for your prospective new location. But this is of limited use because the data provided is quite limited. Believe it or not, you can get specific dates for altitude, last spring frost, and first fall frost, with the resulting days in your growing season, by entering your Zip Code with the calculator of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, founded in 1792.
The “Harvest to Table” site offers an interesting discussion of growing seasons for vegetables, herbs, and fruits, with tips on how to extend the growing season. (In a future Safe Places Report, I will discuss the advantages of building a greenhouse to secure your year-round supply of food.)
The search for the perfect climate is pretty much like the search for any ideal. You probably won’t find perfection, but using these guidelines will help you get as close to it as realistically possible. Happy hunting!
Go here for a listing of my previous Safe Places Reports.