When I was talking with my mom by phone recently, she told me she had received some photos I mailed to her North San Diego County home, including a copy of one showing an outdoor thermometer at our remote Texas County outpost with its mercury well below the zero mark (about four notches).

She’s 84, and even though she still lives in a three-bedroom home and stays quite active, she said, “I don’t think I could live there.”

I told her I completely understood and that she was probably better off residing in an area where the temperature is pretty much the same in July as it is in December. If you go to “inland” in gigantic San Diego County, expect to be baked alive in the summer, but bring a coat in the winter (FYI: this county is big – about the size of half a dozen Texas Counties). But within 10 or 15 miles of the county’s Pacific Ocean coastline, conditions are similar most of the time no matter what the date.

That’s not the case here, obviously, as we do get some cold weather. But “cold” is a relative thing, and what we call cold may be shrugged off as less than that by people elsewhere.

I’d say there has been plenty of what might qualify as cold weather around here this winter.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

Someone came into the office on one of the colder days recently and the small talk that ensued included the statement “I thought we were done with winter.” An interesting observation considering it was spoken in mid-January.

Someone else stopped by and said something like “I’m ready for warmer weather.”

Those statements bring to mind the relative nature of cold; a person living in one place may have a very different perception of it than someone living somewhere else.

Take for example Minnesota – a state from which some people move to the Ozarks to “escape the cold.” In the town of Bemidji in the northern half of the state, the normal high temperature this time of year is 14 degrees Farenheit and the standard low is -7.

Better throw another log on the fire.

Let’s say you lived in Fairbanks, Alaska. The normal high there in late January is zero (zip, nada, no degrees) while the typical low is minus-19. The record low in the city is a somewhat scary -62.

If that kind of temperature ever hits the Ozarks, make plans to run yaks or musk oxen on your land instead of black angus.

Consider Edinburgh, Scotland. If you lived there, you probably would never have to deal with frigid conditions, but hopefully you wouldn’t want to deal with much warmth, either. In July, the “hottest” month of the year in the Scottish capital, the average high is 59F.

So you say you want to share real cold with lots of other people and live in an urban environment that’s north of the Arctic circle?

Try Murmansk, a Russian port city on the Arctic Ocean not far east of Finland and the world’s largest city north of the arctic circle, with a population of 311,000. There, balmy breezes off the Arctic and the warm North Atlantic Drift ocean current keep the climate fairly temperate despite the latitude and average highs this time of year climb all the way to 18 degrees and average lows don’t even drop below zero.

Break out the tanning lotion.

Of course, you could also opt for a less populated location outside the U.S. – maybe in Canada, like Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories.

The good news is, you’re likely to see summer temperatures there reach the 70s or even higher. The bad news is, weeks could go by in the winter without the mercury rising into positive numbers.

The average “high” in January is about minus-8 and the lows usually read about -23.

Ouch.

The point is that cold is a relative sort of thing that’s measured and defined by what a person is used to.

We definitely get some cold here in the Ozarks, but I’m not sure we really “know cold.” And realistically, I think maybe we’re kind of lucky that this area’s four-seasons climate allows us to at least get a taste of it.

Maybe a good time to remember that would be the next time the temperature has been in the mid-90s for 13 straight days and the relative humidity has the “heat index” well into the triple digits.

Then someone will undoubtedly drop in the office and say “I’m ready for colder weather.”

Doug Davison is a writer, copy editor and advertising representative for the Houston Herald. E-mail: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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