Buffalonians could get all hot and bothered about the new data-crunch from WalletHub that puts Buffalo near the bottom of its “2014’s Cities With the Best and Worst Weather” list. But hot and bothered is not how we spend our beautiful summers, even when they are served a nasty slap from an upstart website looking for a little media attention.
Anyone with a sense of history understands why an outside observer might rank Buffalo winters in the bottom percentile, even though our community handles the season better than most places. After all, not everyone likes snow.
What is harder to grasp is how the calculus put the city near the bottom for spring (96th percentile) and autumn (99th percentile). It wouldn’t be hard to make the case that spring can be welcoming enough to pull the area into the top 75 percent, and that the bright, colorful, crisp autumns rank even higher.
And then consider summer. How in the world did Buffalo rank in the 97th percentile for SUMMER?!
The young survey author, Richie Bernardo, writes that he ranked 600 municipalities on temperature, humidity and precipitation. He placed Buffalo barely ahead of three cities in Alaska and Youngstown, Ohio. That isn’t just for his “cities with mild weather” list. That also is for cities in which people enjoy having four seasons.
It raises the question of exactly what seasons Bernardo was looking at based on his criteria. Optimum summer temperature was set at 80 degrees, which sounds about right for fun in the sun. And that should have gained Buffalo beaucoup points, since we have yet to ever hit 100 degrees. And yet Scottsdale, Ariz., where it was 102 degrees Monday afternoon, ranks in the 11th percentile for great summer weather.
On the other hand, the optimum spring and fall temps for this survey were 65 degrees – still swimming weather around here – and generally not the kind of day most people spend playing football or raking leaves.
And winter? The survey says the best winter temperature is 45 degrees – possibly using the same data as those who chose Sochi, Russia (average daily high 49 degrees) for the soggy Winter Olympics held earlier this year. In the real world, those who love snow sports and white Christmases would say it is either winter or 45 degrees out, but not both, at least not for a seasonal average.
Looking at the bigger picture of the “best and worst weather” list can be even more puzzling, since WalletHub says it is measuring the effect of weather-related events on our pocketbooks. The release puts it this way:
“In the United States, routine weather events such as rain and colder-than-average temperatures can cost the economy as much as $485 billion annually. An inch of snow in Washington, D.C., for instance, will force the federal government to shut down all nonessential operations.”
It does not factor in that the same inch of snow has zero effect in Buffalo, Chicago, Denver and other cities, or that in many parts of the country it is not rain but the lack of rain that is costing hundreds of millions of dollars in economic hardship.
Of the 60 cities in the top “10th percentile” on the list, 52 are in California, their locations roughly correlating with a deep scarlet blotch on the U.S. Department of Agriculture map of drought-stricken areas in the Western United States. Deep scarlet is as bad as drought conditions get, worse even than “severe” and “extreme.”
WalletHub also says its list was inspired by the fact that it is hurricane season, although its metric only takes into account the chance of wind and snow, rain and hail, not hurricanes or drought-precipitated wildfires. It apparently is worse to be cloudy than smoky, and still air scores better than a nice summer breeze off the lake.