Can you believe this weather?

We often find each other complaining about the weather. Every day millions of people across the country complain to colleagues, friends or relatives regarding how unpredictable it is. It seems that, when it comes to weather, everyone believes their city is unique.

But how likely is it that all cities in the country have unforeseeable climate phenomena? Which areas and cities in the country have the most unpredictable weather? Nate Silver and Reuben Fisher-Baum from FiveThirtyEight attempted to answer these questions by comparing daily weather patterns of 120 American cities against their long-term averages (also known as “climatology”). The more these daily patterns deviate from a city’s climatology the more unpredictable is the weather.

The authors chose one city per each of the 120 National Weather Service forecast offices across the country and analyzed 10 weather statistics from three major categories: temperature, precipitations and severe weather. These indicators were combined into a general measure of weather unpredictability for each city.

The results indicate that the American city with the most unpredictable weather is Rapid City, South Dakota, while the most predictable is Honolulu, Hawaii. In general, cities located on the west have more predictable weather than the ones in the Center and Eastern United States.

The top 10 cities with the most unpredictable weather are in the Great Plains and Upper Midwest. What most of these cities have in common is their landlocked status. The absence of lakes and oceans affect the regulation of temperatures and severe weather, causing more unpredictability.

In relation to temperatures, Great Falls, Montana has the least predictable temperature of all the analyzed cities, similar to other areas located east of the Rocky Mountains. Houghton, Michigan, on the other hand, is the city with the least predictable precipitation, receiving twice as much snow as other analyzed cities and lots of rains during the summer. In terms of severe weather unpredictability, Rapid City, South Dakota also gets the first position. In general, the most unpredictable cities in this category are the ones located in states who get tornados with more frequency, such as South Dakota, Oklahoma or Texas.

Although there are some limitations to this method, it provides useful information and data for several cities across the country. If you live in one of the 120 cities analyzed at least now you can have data to back up your complaints.


Daniela Oliva

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