Cold is a Relative Thing

2009-09-27 17:15:37.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

Fall with frosted winter tips.

The digital age has made communicating important and relevant information speedy and efficient but it has also sped the dispersion of irrelevant information as well. If you have an email account whether at work or for personal use, at some point you are going to get on someone’s forwarding list or spam list consisting of “bad” jokes, useless information and advertisements. Sometimes we know the forwarding party responsible for sending us the sheep jokes or blonde jokes but then other times, we get emails soliciting us to send $1000 to a foreign country in hopes to receive $1 million in exchange. Overall, these emails are a waste of inbox space and eat away our time as we click on the subject lines just to make sure that we are not throwing anything relevant and important away.

The summits email account isn’t immune and since we have hosted Russian and German students over the years, we have fallen on foreign spam accounts making for even more exotic spam. It gets to the point where you have to create a new email account to try and stay one step ahead of the solicitation. But even then, they find you and you’re right back to scanning the spam for those times where good emails might be buried in the lines of subject lines. Case and point was when I found one of these buried gems in my inbox under the heading of “FW: Cold is a Relative Thing…”.

This email was nothing new and has been in circulation for a few years now and I can even remember hearing my relatives telling me it in the oral tradition when I was younger. It is a temperature comparison “joke” where the person telling it is usually from a cold location and they compare there state with another warmer state to show how much tougher they are. I heard it when I traveled to Wisconsin when I was younger but I have read the email where the hearty folk were those living in Alaska, Minnesota, North Dakota or any other state that sees those temperatures well below zero in winter. And being from California, a state that has a rap as being always warm because everyone lives on the beach (due to television), my state (or Florida) was the state always being compared to as being weak.

Although I grew up in California, I didn’t grow up on a beach. In fact, I was a good five to six hours away from the closest one and even then, the water was freezing cold year round. No, I grew up near Lake Tahoe, CA so when I heard these comparisons, I was always like “Really?” But when I went to college and got adjusted to the temperate weather in the Bay Area of CA, I finally understood why we were getting the “bad” rap. And then I moved to the northeast and experienced a New England winter and truly knew without a doubt as to why beach laden states were getting the bad rap.

Like I mentioned earlier, I recently got this comparison email and in it, New England was being compared to California. I wasn’t offended, instead, as I read it, I thought why do we have to go to such extremes of comparing one state to another when you can do the comparisons in one state alone. I work on Mt Washington and live in Berlin, NH where the temperatures are can be similar but my reaction to those temperatures is drastically different. So, without further ado, let me show you what I mean in my rendition of the email I got:

Cold is a Relative Thing (Mt. Washington edition)

90 above zero
In the valley, I sit on the porch to avoid the indoors (since I don’t have A/C) and movement in general.
On the summit…well, this has never happened. If it did, I would be scouring the news for information on a meteor impact or something catastrophic as an explanation.

80 above zero
In the valley, I work on my garden.
On the summit…well, this has never happened. If it did, I’m sure we would be answering plenty of emails about “Global Warming” and Al Gore being right.

70 above zero
In the valley, I drive with the windows down rather than use the A/C.
On the summit, I feel like melting and dread the paper work that might come if we go above 72F as it would mean a new daily/monthly/yearly/station record.

60 above zero
In the valley, I go on a hike and comment on how comfortable it is.
On the summit, I toss and turn as I try to sleep and then complain about how hot and uncomfortable it is.

50 above zero
In the valley, I start wearing a pants and bring along a zip-up sweatshirt.
On the summit, it is shorts and short sleeves.

40 above zero
In the valley, I have my last cookout before it gets cold but I don’t sit outside to wait, just quick bursts to and from the BBQ.
On the summit, exchange shorts for pants but still don a short sleeve shirt.

30 above zero
In the valley, I start to use my heater.
On the summit, throw on a long sleeve shirt and complain about how long the wet-bulb is taking to evaporate.

20 above zero
In the valley, start using my winter coat.
On the summit, start wearing a medium weight fleece.

10 above zero
In the valley, start wearing fleeces indoors even though I have the heat set at 68F.
On the summit, start using the heater set at 60F.

In the valley, I start hearing grocery store checkers asking “Cold enough fer ya?”
On the summit, I start donning my winter coats and goggles.

10 below zero
In the valley, it starts getting quiet as pets are being moved indoors.
On the summit, we continue to let Marty, the summit cat, outdoors as he sits patiently in front of the door.

20 below zero
In the valley, I get upset because my car has trouble starting.
On the summit, we start asking “Cold enough fer ya?”

30 below zero
In the valley, I forecast ahead for a “warmer” day to run out and get my mail from my mailbox.
On the summit, we head out with a video camera to turn boiling water to snow.

40 below zero
In the valley, schools and places of business might open a bit later than usual or close altogether.
On the summit, I take a bit longer to go outside for my hourly observations as I am layering in extra clothing and using a mirror to check for exposed skin.

50 below zero
In the valley, all atomic motion comes to a stand still.
On the summit, overwhelming excitement as we pass a station/state record.


Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

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