John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.
Say you’re a delicate individual who, like a wilt-prone poinsettia, doesn’t do well with temperature extremes. In fact, 69 degrees and below makes you shiver like a soaked kitten, and 71 and above makes you sweat so much you leave a shiny trail of floor-moisture.
Where would you have to run to in the U.S. to avoid these disagreeable temperatures … all year round?
All over the dang place, it turns out. Meteorologist Brian Brettschneider mapped the route that’s likely to keep a body exposed to daily high temperatures of 70 degrees, and it meanders for 13,000-plus miles from the southern tip of Texas up to Alaska and down again to San Diego. Brettschneider explains his thought experiment via direct messages on Twitter:
I have this obsession with weather perception (remember Seattle raininess and dreary weather?) We use terms like “nice,” “pleasant,” “dreary,” “crappy,” etc. to describe the weather/climate. My perception doesn’t always align with prevailing sentiment. Is a 60 degree day with a few rain showers a “nice” day? What about clear and 10 degrees? Here in Alaska, people complain when it is 40 degrees in January as being too warm. In Phoenix, people start complaining when there are two cloudy days in a row. It is fascinating to me.
For his data, Brettschneider pulled daily “normal” high temperatures from the National Centers for Environmental Information and Environment Canada. “Normals are a smoothed average of all days between 1981 and 2010,” he explains. He took temperatures from every weather station in the U.S. and Canada and “just connected the dots,” he says. “There were some decisions I made to maximize area and connectivity.”
Forging a route was no easy task, as weather stations hit normal high temperatures of 70 degrees over vast amounts of time and space. This visualization gives an indication of how America’s daily 70-degree highs shift throughout the year:
For folks who want to keep it in the Lower 48, Brettschneider also plotted a 9,125-mile slog ranging from the South to Virginia to a weird stopover in mountainous Colorado to SoCal. Here’s an excerpt from his itinerary:
- On January 1, the normal high temperature in deep south Texas is 70°F. This is a good place to start the trip.
- By February 1, our road trip has only progressed as far as Laredo, Texas. The next two months will be spent on Interstate 35.
- On March 1, the slow trek is only pulling up to the south part of San Antonio, Texas.
- Throughout the month of March, the higher sun angle warms things up and the trip has taken us to the Texas/Oklahoma border by April 1st.
- Now that April is upon us, we start heading east and northeast until we near the nation's Capitol by the end of the month.
- During May, we go through Pittsburgh and Chicago and end the month in extreme northern Wisconsin on June 1st.
- A tour of the northern states is in order during June. In fact, we go more miles in June than any other month and end the month in the mountains near Denver, Colorado.
- The next two months are spent leisurely traversing the Colorado high country ending up near Durango, Colorado.
However, it’s not likely Brettschneider will take this adventure anytime soon, as he’s content living in his native Anchorage. “I love the snow,” he says. “I hiked 2,000 feet up a mountain this morning just to get to the snow line and play in it for a few minutes.”