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Mysteries of the LA winter

Back as a Caltech undergrad in Pasadena, winter nights often felt cold. Really cold. Straight to the marrow cold. I was never clear whether this was some odd property of the air or simply not dressing enough. I don't remember ever really checking the temperature; despite it being Caltech there weren't thermometers lying around, there were no weather websites, I didn't check the lounge newspapers much, nor call the Weather Service phone line (does that still exist.)

Yesterday I thought "it's winter, check now!" to see what temperatures are actually like. Answer: cold! Lows of 3-4 C, barely above freezing! Okay, there's a cold spell now, but we can also check averages, and the average low is 9 C, or 48 F for the 4% of the world's population who can't get on the same page as the rest of us. Variation bands reach down as low as 6 C (43 F). In London I found that if walking and climbing stairs a lot, 10 C still feels chill in my T-shirt (but putting on my hoodie flipped me over to overheated). 6 C at night and just walking a bit or standing still, yeah, that'll feel cold, given that my one concession to winter was a light tan 'jacket' that was more like a corduroy shirt. Over in Boston, <10 temperatures easily have me thinking about my hat and gloves, not because I absolutely need them but because why have uncomfortable ears and fingers?

January ranges from an average high of 20 to a low of 9. Rule of thumb: a difference of 5 C makes you want to change your clothing or behavior, a difference of 10 C means you have to. So, yeah. And Monday's forecast is from 24 to 9, going from the low end of "too warm" to the upper end of "cold". Or in steps: 24 "high end comfortable, low end warm", 19 "low end comfortable", 14 "definitely cool", 9 "high end cold". Yeah, I never really acknowledged that in my dress.

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Damien Sullivan

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June 2018


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