Friday, December 15, 2006

The World Acccording to Köppen...

I know, I know, you've been having trouble getting the Köppen climate classification call letters straight as you designate seasonal weather patterns around the planet. Hey, stop beating yourself up, it happens to all of us at one time or another. Maybe you just need a refresher course. I wouldn't go by the map above either. Sure it's pretty, but it's waaay simplified and will only get you into trouble. Try the Köppen-Geiger map instead for a more granular look at global climates.

But don't expect perfection. Let's take the two-tiered Mediterranean or Chaparral biome for example. I mean, it's obvious that San Francisco is a Csb climate but is Los Angeles Csa or Csb? It has warm/hot summers, true, but... it's on the coast. Tough one. Me? I say Csa because as far as I'm concerned, it's more important to be able to locate places with hot, dry summers and mild semi-wet winters than places that are on the coast. Anyone can see that just by looking at a map. But officially, because of its coastal situation, LA is labeled "Csb". Which technically means we would have the same weather as San Francisco. Well, anyone who's arrived in San Francisco in July with only shorts and t-shirts will quickly curse Mr. Wladimir Köppen for lumping these very different climes together. For that error he should have been exiled to a Dwd.

Weather is often scoffed at as being empty conversational fodder, but I believe the climate you choose to inhabit is one of the single most influential factors a human can experience in terms of quality of life. Fed up with your igloo? Planning a mosquitoless vacation? Growing grapes? Trench foot got you down? Learn the Köppen system and you'll have little to complain about. Except the frequent errors in the Köppen system, that is.


Blogger pigatschmo said...

As different as LA & SF seem, they are both two ends of one of the world's Mediterranean climates. What throws off the neatness of Koppen's system is the "overlap" factor: the redwoods extend as far south as Big Sur, and really start to pick up north of Santa Cruz. But the same conditions that favor vineyards extend north of SF. Microclimates abound, but the overall weather pattern is Mediterranean.

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Areas near the beach are arguably Csb, while inland areas of the city could be Csa. Santa Monica isn't much warmer than SF in the summer.

As far as zone overlap: there are even places in the Pacific Northwest that fit into the Csb category. Check the statistics for areas around Port Townsend and Sequim in NW Washington. You'll see the characteristic summer drought/winter rain precipitation pattern of mediterranean climes, although temperatures aren't as mild. Almost everywhere in the PNW has this actually, but not nearly as pronounced as in the Olympic "rainshadow" in Washington. Even the plants (garry oak, madrone, manzanita) of this area remind me of central/northern CA biomes.

Just goes to show that climates are not cut and dried.

2:48 AM  

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