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Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get

Fugliest House
The Fugliest House in the Neighborhood
April 28, 2018
South Florida Climate Map

Okay, I didn’t make that up, but I really wish I did because I find it pithy, and I’m not above plagiarizing a good quote when I find one.

It goes without saying that in South Florida the weather is great but the climate sucks. Okay, not quite: the weather is both a blessing (in the winter) and a curse (in the summer). Beautiful winter days with highs in the upper 70’s while in The Hamptoms they’re freezing their behoovies off; stifling summer days with relative humidity slightly above 110%, but at least we can swim in the ocean without suffering shrinkage, as happens to half the population swimming off The Hamptons on Labor Day.

What is less well-known is that we South Floridians don’t suffer our climate uniformly: there are 4 separate climate zones down here, making it one of the most climatically – and, unrelatedly, ethnically – diverse parts of the country. Save, say where there are mountains, whose climate changes depending on the altitude. We here are dead flat, except for the occasional rubbish tip.

Now then, an aside: remember that “climatic” is the adjectival form of “climate,” whereas “climactic” is the adjectival form of “climax.” Do not confuse those two words any more than you would confuse “organism” with its almost-doppelgänger: the same word without the “ni”.

If you look at the pretty map above you see 4 different colors, each of which represents a different climate zone in South Florida. But first a primer on climate zones: climates are commonly classified using the Köppen climate classification system, invented by a German guy unsurprisingly named Köppen round about 1884, otherwise known as not-too-recently. What makes this fact important is the two useless dots over the o in his name, which for some reason are called an “umlaut,” whose purpose I have no idea. “Doppelgänger” has one, too – god only knows why.

Back to the map: as you can see the eastern half of Broward County is colored in an ominous looking dark blue. Initially I thought that meant “Place where it can rain on one side of the street while being bright and sunny on the other,” but I was wrong. That is reserved for elsewhere, as we shall see below. What it does mean is that we are in Zone Af, or tropical rainforest. That’s the reason why, while they’re freezing their behoovies off in The Hamptons, you’re sweating your behoovies off if you live in Broward east of the Turnpike.

According to Köppen, then, tropical rainforests average at least 2.4 inches of rain a month. I think, in August, the true figure is closer to 2.4 inches of rain a minute, but I never argue with a guy with an umlaut in his name.

West of the Turnpike in Broward, and south of Hollywood (not California, even though they once sued the Florida city to try to get them to change their name, which was a huge waste of money because they lost) and in most of Miami-Dade they are blessed with a more attractive blue but a climate with a far uglier name: tropical monsoon. I don’t like the thought of monsoons, and at one point I had vowed never to visit a place buffeted by monsoons, which I now find means I can’t go to Hialeah.

Oh well.

Tropical monsoon climates have precipitation of less than 2.4 inches in the driest month, but the driest month represents more than 4% of total annual precipitation. I don’t make this stuff up, I just report it. Report it, and wonder why anybody would sit around the living room nursing a Harvey Wallbanger thinking about things like this that nobody cares about – to me it’s like solving simultaneous equations in high school, and high school represented 5 of the worst years of my life.

Nonetheless, according to Köppel the Umlaut Guy, right about at Hallandale Beach Boulevard the climate changes, making it most likely the place where it’s raining on one side of the street but bright and sunny on the other.

But wait, there’s more! Right around Coral Gables and Cutler Ridge the climate changes again, this time to an even prettier robin’s egg blue, which is zone As, or a tropical savanna climate. This to me is very odd, because if in a tropical monsoon climate the driest month represents more than 4% of total annual precipitation, in a tropical savanna climate the driest month represents less than 4% of total annual precipitation. So according to Köppel the Umlaut Guy (and why doesn’t “umlaut” have an umlaut in it?!?!?!), north of SW 88th Street and the Arvida Parkway the driest month represents more than 4% of total annual precipitation, whereas south of SW 88th Street and the Arvida Parkway the driest month represents less than 4% of total annual precipitation, and precisely along the double-yellow line on SW 88th Street and the Arvida Parkway, the driest month represents exactly 4% of total annual precipitation.

This does not seem possible to me, but again I’m not one to argue with a guy with an umlaut in his name.

Finally, back on the map, there’s the chartreuse in the middle where nobody lives, straddling Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe Counties. Chartreuse is not only not blue: it is perhaps the ugliest color in the world. And it represents an entirely different climate type: subtropical, rather than tropical. So right there where nobody lives the climate is nicer even if the weather is the same; the full classification of the zone is Cfa, meaning humid subtropical, which stretches from central Florida right up to Washington, DC.

So next time somebody complains to you about the South Florida weather tell them it’s because they don’t know what to expect. Expect the unexpected – tropical rainforest, tropical monsoon, tropical savanna, and humid subtropical – and if it’s raining on one side of the street while bright and sunny on the other, now you know why.

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