Splintering gale force winds, stabbing cold, blistering heat, blinding fog, pitiless rain … the sky can foul our lives in endless ways to all degrees, from the mild sting of an icy breeze on our ears to the lethal crush of a hurricane's storm surge. Today, with seemingly endless terabytes of meteorological data from around the globe, we can identify locales where the sky routinely and brutally assails the land and anything on it. But what of those places on the polar opposite of the atmosphere's very worst, where the sky consistently bathes the land and its inhabitants with bliss, year round? Can we identify the very best weather places in the world?
First we need to define “best” weather—for humans. We know that a temperature of −90°F or 125°F will kill even the most hardy of us without adequate protection from these conditions, but what weather best promotes overall health, soothes and possibly even inspires us, never (or only rarely) nudging us even slightly out of our margins of comfort? Can we define a hypothetical set of atmospheric conditions that would optimize our very being, as humans?
We're all different; no “normal” exists throughout humanity for physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Each of us has a unique personal outlook on weather favorability and how the skies affect us—based on upbringing and direct experience. Some of us prefer annual—and even diurnal—consistency of temperature, a “place without seasons” where the “best weather is no weather at all.” Others prefer locations with starkly delineated winters, springs, summers, and falls. And some of us desire places where caprice rules the skies—hot, grating winds one day, frigid showers the next. All of humanity, however, share common traits and common needs rooted at much more fundamental levels of our existence than that of our consciously learned preference for seasonality, desire for inspiration from ephemeral rainbows and fleeting breezes, or nostalgia for dawns smothered in blinding white snow. Weather affects many of these fundamental needs—physical, mental, and emotional.
So by using a guiding rubic of “human fundamental needs,” we can compile a hypothetical “perfect weather set” for optimal living, humanity-wide. First, we can determine meteorological “best” criteria for ideal human physical, mental, and emotional health that includes temperature, humidity, average number of sunny days, and other criteria, by studying the results of research conducted on environmental effects on humans. We can then describe our hypothetical best weather set based on this information, and then we can analyze weather data from around the world to discover the 10 places with weather nearest to this hypothetical ideal. Truly objective and accurate? Of course not, since statistical errors and other flaws in data collection—particularly with respect to human mental and emotional fitness—sully even the most fastidiously conducted research studies. Furthermore, weather stations dot the terrestrial planet unequally, with some vast regions devoid of them and others—particularly in urban areas—densely populated by them. A tiny, uninhabited valley that hosts absolutely salubrious weather may never be “discovered” in this regard. That said, we can make a solid attempt by adhering to the spirit of our methodology.
Chemical reactions lie at the very root of all human bodily functions, from those that create fanciful images in our dreams to those that cause muscle contractions during a sprint. These reactions, collectively known as metabolism, create heat (“body heat”) as a byproduct that the brain regulates to within +/− 1°F of 98.6°F, so that these reactions may proceed at ideal rates for normal bodily functions. Temperatures above or below this alter the speeds at which critical reactions proceed, adversely affecting a human's functional ability, and potentially leading to death from hypothermia (too cold) or hyperthermia (too hot). Called temperature homeostasis, or thermoregulation, the hypothalamus of the human brain maintains the human body at its ideal temperature through a complex, body-wide network of mechanisms. If too cold, we shiver—creating heat through the chemical reactions involved in the muscle contraction process. If too hot, we sweat, the evaporation of which cools blood carried directly under the skin, and hence the body. Normal human metabolism, with its byproduct of heat, proceeds optimally with an outside temperature substantially lower than 98.6°F. How much lower? Multiple studies over the years show that, at rest, humans feel most comfortable and perform mental tasks best at a temperature of 68°F. Other studies have looked at heat and irritability, anger, violence, and crime, and many produced results showing that the higher the temperature, the more irritable, violent, angry, and aggressive we become. Our productivity and apparent attractiveness (as viewed by others) decreases with increased temperature.
We next look at humidity. Moist air impedes the body's ability to cool itself through sweating, as the rate at which water evaporates and hence transports heat from human skin decreases. However, moisture in the air moderates environmental diurnal temperature fluctuations, keeping daily highs closer to nightly lows than in dry environments. Dry air, on the other hand, causes and exacerbates numerous problems in humans, including skin irritation, eye irritation, nose bleeds, etc. The ideal humidity for humans? Study results vary, but most determine 50% relative humidity to be optimal. As a side note, the “heat index” uses a combination of actual air temperature and relative humidity to derive human perceived temperature.
With respect to cloudiness and human emotional well being, a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, by Richard Lucas and Nicole Lawless, found that people who dwell in sunnier areas tend to be happier than those living in cloudier environments. They also found that rain showers put people in a bad mood, but only briefly. However, caveats lurk. A study in the journal Emotion found that a small percentage felt worse with sunnier, warmer weather. This may have more to do with increased irritability due to heat, however, than the presence of bright sunshine (that brought the heat). The Lucas/Lawless study also found that people who lived in colder climates felt less happy and satisfied than those living in moderate or warmer parts of the world. And what about wind? A study by researcher Jaap Denissen of Berlin's Humboldt University found that wind had a negative effect on human mood. And the changing of the seasons? Some studies revealed that nearly 90% of us experience mood changes due to seasonal transitions, primarily during the change of fall to winter, but also from the increased heat from spring to summer.
So how do we describe humanity's hypothetical optimal weather place, known for our purposes as (tongue residing a bit in cheek) “Anthro-Weathertopia”? Winds don't blow in Anthro-Weathertopia, nor do any clouds dare drift above this mythical place. Fog never invades this land, neither would the related smog, should the inhabitants decide to build a factory. Despite the ideal state of sun supremacy, however, the temperature never strays from 68°F throughout the day, and remains at that level all night long, throughout the year—a year experiencing no seasons, save for the effect of the tilt of the planet on day length throughout the earth's revolution about the sun. The relative humidity in Anthro-Weathertopia remains constant at 50%. Lightning, which starts fires, never strikes here. And no lightning means no thunder, which shocks the business ends of ears, causing a dramatic reduction in mental acuity and instills fear in many. Hail, which at pea-sized stings and at grapefruit proportions might easily kill, never falls. Hurricanes never smash ashore, nor do tornados grind through the landscape. Devoid of what most would call “weather,” Anthro-Weathertopia lies at sea level, providing the densest air for human inhabitants to breathe most efficiently and providing the greatest protection from carcinogenic ultraviolet radiation.
Nothing on our planet, of course, comes even remotely close to Anthro-Weathertopia's ideal conditions. So then what 10 places, in increasing order of similarity, come closest to this hypothetical meteorological anthropocentric ideal?
10. Manjimup Region of the Extreme South West Region of Western Australia
Derived from the concatenation of the Aboriginal words Manjin (a type of reed found in the area) and up, meaning a gathering place, this shire (inclusive of the town of the same name) lies in perhaps the loneliest part of the country—the lush nub of land on the extreme southwestern corner of Australia. Surrounded on three sides by the southern Indian Ocean, this part of Australia experiences cool winters and warm summer months. According to data taken from 1936-2013 by the Australian government's Bureau of Meteorology, the average daily high temperature in February, the warmest month, is 81°F, with a mean nighttime low of 56.1°F. The coldest month in the area, July, experiences a mean maximum daily temperature of 58°F, and an average nighttime low of 43.5°F. The area receives an annual average of 39 inches of rain, most of which comes in the winter, with July being the rainiest month with 6.8 inches falling, on average. Despite its hospitable overall weather regime, Manjimup does experience extended periods of cold and rain, although rarely.
9. Coastal Western Cape, Southwestern South Africa
Where the South Atlantic and the Indian Oceans meet, this coastal strip experiences relatively mild weather year-round. Cape Town, located along this coastal strip, receives an average of just over 20 inches of rain per year, with the winter months of June through August bringing the bulk of this precipitation. Temperatures at Cape Town almost never drop below freezing, with the record low being 29.7°F. July, the coldest month on average, experiences a mean nighttime low of 44.6°F and an average daily high of 63.5°F. February, the warmest month, sees an average daily high temperature of 79.7°F and a mean low at night of 60.3°F. Cape Town is relatively sunny, yet temperate, however, hot summer winds occasionally blow.
8. Adelaide, South Australia
The capital of the state of South Australia, Adelaide's weather and climate are strongly influenced by the Indian Ocean, which moderates temperatures throughout the year. The warmest month on average, February, witnesses a mean daily high temperature of 84.7°F, with an average nighttime low of 62.8°F. The coldest month, July, experiences a mean daily high temperature of 59.5°F and a nighttime low of 45.5°F. Adelaide receives 21.5 inches of rain per year, with the majority falling in the winter months of June through August. Despite the predominantly moderate conditions, Adelaide can get hot, with seven months (October through March) with record highs above 100°F.
7. Coastal San Diego Region of California
A global destination for beach lovers, the cool Pacific Ocean strongly moderates San Diego's climate. Based on NOAA data measured at the city of San Diego, the region experiences an average annual daily high of 69.7°F and an average annual nighttime low of 57.5°F, with an overall daily mean annual temperature of 63.6°F. The hottest month, August, experiences an average daily high temperature of 76.4°F and a nighttime low of 66.7°F. San Diego's coldest month, December, sees an average daily high of 64.7°F and a mean nighttime low of 48.4°F. Each year, just over 10 inches of rain falls on San Diego, on average, with the wettest month, February, seeing just over two inches of rainfall. Only one hurricane has ever struck San Diego in its recorded history, and according to the Tornado History Project, nine tornados (all relatively mild, but tornados nevertheless) have struck the coastal San Diego region since 1980. Hot Santa Ana winds can blow through the region from late summer through winter. Although not perfect, the coastal San Diego region does rank as ideal to many.
6. Lisbon, Portugal
With an annual average daily high temperature of 70.7°F and nighttime low of 56.3°F, Lisbon ranks as one of the most comfortable major cities in the world. Located on Portugal's Atlantic coast, which moderates the city's climate, Lisbon's warmest month, August, sees an average daily high temperature of 82.9°F and a mean nighttime low of 65.5°F. Lisbon's coldest month, January, experiences an average daily high of 58.6°F and a nighttime low of 46.9°F. Lisbon receives roughly 30.5 inches of rainfall, on average, every year, with the months of November through February bringing the most precipitation.
5. Barcelona, Spain
Located in northeastern Spain along the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona experiences an average daily high temperature of 69.1°F over the course of a year, and an average nighttime low of 54.9°F. The coldest month in Barcelona, January, experiences a nighttime low, on average, of 41.4°F and a daily mean high of 56.5°F, according to the Spanish Meteorological Agency. The warmest month, August, experiences an average daily high temperature of 84.2°F and a mean nighttime low of 70.2°F. Barcelona receives just over 25 inches of rain per year, has moderate relative humidity, and is relatively sunny throughout the year.
4. Sassari, Sardinia
Located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea on northern Sardinia, Sassari experiences some of the most comfortable weather on the planet. The average annual daily high temperature for Sassari is 66.4°F, and the mean annual daily low temperature is 53°F. August, the warmest month, sees an average daily high temperature of 82°F and a mean nighttime low of 66°F. The coldest month in Sassari, January, experiences a daily average high of 54°F and a nighttime low of 43°F. Just under 27.5 inches of rain fall on Sassari annually, on average, with most falling from fall through early spring.
3. Northwestern Coast of Morocco
Strongly moderated by cold currents of the Atlantic Ocean, the weather of the northwestern coast of Morocco experiences little seasonal variability and extremely mild temperatures year round. According to World Meteorological Organization data for Casablanca, which lies in the heart of this region, January experiences an average daily high of 63°F and a mean nighttime low of 45°F. The warmest month, August, experiences an average daily high of 80°F and a nighttime low of 70°F. Just 5.75 inches of rain, on average, falls on Casablanca during December, the wettest month. July, the driest month, experiences less than half an inch. Severe weather conditions, of all types, almost never descend on this coastline.
2. Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
The largest city in the Canary Islands, which lie in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of southern Morocco, Las Palmas experiences one of the healthiest climates for humans on the planet, with comfortable warmth throughout the year. The annual daily mean temperature at Las Palmas is 69.3°F, with an annual daily high of 74.7°F and an annual nighttime average low of 63.9°F, according to the Spanish Meteorological Agency. The warmest months in Las Palmas, August and September, each see average daily high temperatures of 80.8°F and mean nighttime lows of 70.2°F. Just five inches of rain fall on Las Palmas, on average, annually, with June through August having no rainfall whatsoever. Although Las Palmas has copious sunlight, clear air, and little wind, it isn't without its severe weather threats. In 2005, Tropical Storm Delta plowed through the Canary Islands, causing substantial damage.
1. Viña del Mar, Chile
With an average annual high temperature of 66.2°F and yearly average nighttime low of 55.1°F, and with only slight variation in temperature throughout all of the months of a given year, Viña del Mar, on the central coast of Chile, ranks as the best weather place in the world for humans. Flushed by the cold Humboldt current of the Pacific Ocean, Viña del Mar sees an average daily high temperature of just 75.2°F during its warmest month of January, with an average nighttime low of 59°F in that month. The coldest month at Viña del Mar, July, experiences a mean daily high of 59°F and an average nighttime low of 50°F. Each year, Viña del Mar receives just under 19 inches of rain, with most falling in the winter months of June and July. Globally renowned for its white sand beaches (and absolutely beautiful weather), and free from the threat of ferocious cyclonic storms and tornadoes, Viña del Mar is not quite an Anthro-Weathertopia, however, as fog can occasionally envelop the region.
ED DARACK is an independent writer and photographer. Visit his website at darack.com.