“Do you miss the South now?”

That’s a question I am often asked in winter here in Boston by people who know me, especially on particularly cold days.  My answer is always no, no matter how snowy and miserable and cold it is.  And the reason for that is because while I don’t mind cold winters, I really, really don’t like hot summers.  Plenty of people don’t feel the same way, which is probably why so many people from the Northeast retire to Florida.  But I would always rather put up with nasty Boston winters than brutal Alabama summers.  And it’s why on days like today (when it’s supposed to get over 90 degrees) I long for winter to return.

Being the weather geek I am, let me break it down for you with some data.

On average, Boston experiences 10 days a year over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, at least according to one science website.  But because that is an average, there can be quite a bit of variation, as we have seen in recent years.  In 2010 we had several heat waves, which pushed us up to 25 days over 90 degrees.  But then in 2014 we had only 4.

In contrast, Huntsville, Alabama (where I used to live) experiences an average of 47 days over 90 degrees, typically with the first one in May and the last one in October.  Six months of summer heat and humidity?  No thank you.  Although this past weekend we got over 90 degrees here in Boston, in Huntspatch it was over 100 degrees this weekend, not even counting the heat index, which probably reached around 110 degrees.

What’s more, it is only going to get worse.  Climate Central has assembled data that shows that it is already getting worse, and that many Alabama cities are already experiencing more 90 degree days than they did circa 1970 (the year I was born).  In the list of the top 25 cities in the U.S. that have experienced increases in days over 90 degrees since 1970, Huntsville is ranked #14 with 19 more days – nearly three weeks worth of 90 degree days added just in my lifetime.  And Huntsville makes the top 25 list for increase in days over 95 degrees as well – ranked #22 with 11 more days above 95 degrees.

As a bonus, Alabama also has far more tornadoes than Massachusetts.  They are not even in the same ballpark.  Alabama has a yearly average of 47.1 tornadoes and Massachusetts has a yearly average of 1.4.  Alabama is ranked #8 in the U.S. for most tornadoes, according to recent data.  And most homes in Alabama don’t have cellars.

I don’t have any data for it, but I would imagine that Alabama also has to deal with thunderstorms, hurricanes and tropical storms more often, and probably has more flooding on a regular basis.  That is just based on my own memory and observations.

So yeah, again, I will take Boston winters over Alabama summers.

-Geoff

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14 thoughts on ““Do you miss the South now?””

  1. Wow looking at that data I can understand why you don’t miss living in that heat. Almost a month and a half of that is more than most want to bear.

    Our AC broke last night, so between last night’s heat and today’s the top priority is a new AC. Luckily there is only one month left of days like this.

    1. Did you see that Greenville is in some of those lists too? You are getting a lot more days above 90 degrees too.

      By the way, do you have cellars in SC? There are almost none in AL, despite all the tornadoes. I suppose it’s because of the water table being so high, but still, I would think that would just be a matter of sealing the basement and/or getting a sump pump. I don’t know why more people don’t have them, especially when you see those pictures from F5s when the concrete slab is wiped clean. That would make me want a cellar.

  2. I love talking about the weather. And you have such interesting weather! Tornadoes though… no thank you. Awesome to look at but too damn scary to ever want to see up close. And I’ve never understood why the hell it isn’t compulsory for houses in tornado alley to have cellars … or at least mass shelters, or even that people don’t build their house with an underground basement so they don’t have to run outside to get shelter. Is there reasoning behind this? So many people have died in twisters I would think it’d be a priority. Like earthquake rated buildings in California or Japan it’s the sensible thing to do, surely?

    1. I have seen several tornadoes up close. And I once slept through one that came within 100 meters of the building I was in.

      I honestly don’t understand the lack of cellars and storm shelters either. You will see rednecks spend thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on all sorts of stuff like ATVs, guns, jet skis, SUVs, boats, you name it, but so few spend money on tornado shelters. I think it is because there is no emphasis on getting tornado shelters by state and local governments, so no one does it. And so every year tornadoes in the US kill around 80 people on average and injure another 1,500. And some years it’s a lot more than that. I think in 2011 it was between 500 and 600 dead. If terrorists did that every year every redneck with two teeth to rub together would be calling his senators and representatives to do something about it. But it’s “just” tornadoes, and so for whatever reason, almost no one bothers to spend a few grand building a storm shelter.

      Priorities, or lack of them, I guess. And expecting Americans, especially those of the redneck variety, to do the sensible thing is an exercise in futility, as I have learned over the decades.

      -Geoff

      1. “every redneck with two teeth to rub together” -LOL. What a weird mindset! Stubbornness maybe? I’m being kind I guess, since the alternative is rampant wilful stupidity. Maybe they want to tempt …Darwinism?

      2. “every redneck with two teeth to rub together” -LOL. What a weird mindset! Stubbornness maybe? I’m being kind I guess, since the alternative is rampant wilful stupidity. Maybe they want to tempt …Darwinism?
        And OMG about the close call with the tornado. Seeing a tornado IRL has been on my bucket list since I was a kid but I’ve gotten a bit more sensible since then… I did see the top of a waterspout forming a few k’s out to sea a couple of years ago and that put the wind up me so to speak… it was miles away and I started wondering where I could hide. I can’t imagine seeing a big one up close.

        1. Stupidity is quite rampant. And they don’t believe in Darwinism, or science in general. A shame, because they fulfill “survival of the fittest” all the time by not surviving things they should, thus proving their un-fitness, I guess.

          Example: I read a study recently that found that several of the counties in North Alabama (including the one I used to live in) are among the highest in ALL the United States for people accidentally shooting themselves. Everyone is armed, and yet no one knows how to handle loaded weapons safely. I saw it with my own eyes. It’s why I refused to hunt on public land or shoot at public ranges. There were heavily armed idiots everywhere.

          Even stuff that seems totally like a no-brainer, like wearing a seatbelt, is questioned and often defiantly ignored because no one can tell them what to do, even if it’s for their own good. In many rural parts of the South, cognitive dissonance is taken to levels that most human beings can scarcely imagine possible.

          -Geoff

          1. Well, by the sounds of it it might just be a matter of time before the luck runs out – they might not believe in Darwinism but I bet it believes in them. 🙂

    1. Yeah, humidity is not quite as much a problem here as it was when I lived in Alabama, but it can still present problems. Our biggest humidity issues are in our apartment, actually. Our bathroom does not vent properly, so in the summer the humidity level in that part of the apartment is always way too high. We even have a dehumidifier we bought that runs quite a bit in the summer because humidity levels have gotten so high in that bathroom that we have literally grown mushrooms on some of the wood trim in there.

      -Geoff

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