Climate information

Oct 2nd, 2018, 06:31 PM
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Climate information

Whether, and how, to use climate data when planning a trip comes up on many trip planning threads, and evokes a variety of responses. I find climate data, properly used, very helpful, even though historic data can never be taken as a clear predictor of the weather I might actually encounter. For my purposes, historic averages (means), combined with information about historic variation around the averages, give me a sufficiently grounded sense of what I am likely to encounter to allow me to make realistic decisions about what items I should include in a limited travel wardrobe.

So I decided to check one specific situation – weather in Málaga during the week preceding Oct. 1, 2018 -- against the climate data on, which is my go-to source for climate information. Here’s what I found:

For the month of Sept., timeanddate climate data indicate that the low, mean, and high temperatures in Málaga were (in Fahrenheit), 66, 74, and 83, respectively. And according to that same source, the actual lows and highs were:

Sept. 24: Actual low and high were 66 and 91
Sept. 25: Actual low and high were 66 and 82
Sept. 26: Actual low and high were 75 and 81
Sept. 27: Actual low and high were 73 and 79
Sept. 28: Actual low and high were 73 and 79
Sept. 29: Actual low and high were 66 and 79
Sept. 30: Actual low and high were 64 and 79

I believe that this comparison indicates that the high temperature in Málaga on 1 of 7 days (Sept. 24) was unusually high, but actual temperatures -- low and high -- were otherwise very much in line with expectation. The actual low on Sept. 30 was below the climate-based low listed on timeanddate for Sept., but that source lists the Oct. low (just one day later) as 59, so I personally don't consider that a meaningful discrepancy. These climate data would definitely have served my purpose quite well.

What do the rest of you think? Would this climate data have been useful to you? If not, why not?

Last edited by Moderator1; Oct 3rd, 2018 at 08:06 AM. Reason: unnecessary personal reference
kja is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2018, 07:34 PM
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Yes. I like the climate charts that show from beginning to end of each month plus rain charts. It is not just important to me for clothing. Sometimes weather determines our activities or where we go at a particular time. If I really want beach time in the sea, I even look at charts of sea temperatures. Of course weather is not 100% predictable, and there are times things can take an unusual turn, but historic data is the most reliable predictor we have.
Sassafrass is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2018, 01:18 AM
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in my humble opinion, the averages are of little use. If you have one day at 15°C and the next at 30°C (which is well possible in some parts of Europe), the average is 22.5 but if you dress for 22° you'll be uncomfortable in either case.
It's the extremes you ought to look at, in order to see the range of weather conditions you might encounter, so you are able to prepare for all eventualities.
quokka is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2018, 02:15 AM
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Could you ever pack enough to cover all extremes of possibilities or the exceptions? I could not, would not even try. So, I do check the latest forecast and pack accordingly. At least in Europe, if it turns out I really need something different, I will just buy it. I have bought a sun dress in Spain, a Sun hat in Greece, a jacket and umbrella in England, a long sleeved fleece and umbrella in Italy, etc.
Sassafrass is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2018, 02:23 AM
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I use climate data (my fave is Travel Weather Averages (Weatherbase)). I don't expect to get exactly the weather that has occurred in the past, but it does give me an idea of what to expect.
Kathie is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2018, 03:43 AM
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There's a difference between climate and weather. No amount of statistical information would have prepared you for the kind of summer we had in northern Europe this year. Averages are pretty useless in places where weather can vary so much.
In April in Belgium it can be 25C or it can snow. Dressing for 12,5 degrees average, is bad for both situations.
Tulips is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2018, 04:23 AM
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"Could you ever pack enough to cover all extremes of possibilities or the exceptions?"

Actually, I did. This past late March/early April I traveled to Singapore, Seoul, and Japan. The breezy linen never saw the light of day outside of Singapore; the parka I thought I might need for Nagano was worn on a surprise (and not at all forecast) snowy day in Seoul instead; and the anticipated sweater for Tokyo gave way to a light shirt and fleece while I basked in the warm sun and blooming cherry blossoms. For the entirety of the 12 days of this trip I kept my case hovering around 29kg, souvenirs and shoes included. The last thing I wanted to be doing was looking for a store to purchase something.
fourfortravel is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2018, 05:11 AM
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If a person is going to take the data as precise (“it’s going to be 72 with four days of rain when we’re there”), well good luck to them. I think most people are smart enough to know that a range of weather around the mean is possible.
xcountry is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2018, 09:02 AM
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Sure, you can pack for all eventualities. The keywords are "onion system" (i.e. layers), taking clothes that can be combined, and hand-washing in the bathroom sink.

Checking the forecasts before takeoff for a two-week trip is of little use because any forecast beyond a range of 3-4 days is pure guesswork and not reliable at all. The weather is changeable in these parts of the world and you are very likely to experience a bit of everything.
quokka is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2018, 09:18 AM
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We check min and max, and pack accordingly. Since we pack late, we check on a site for the next days and then... we buy additional stuff if needed.
I like comments about average : I totally agree : having your feet in a brazier and your head in a freezer will give an average of 36 C but you won't be comfortable.

We also avoid to travel in april in climates such as Belgium where the weather is like home : unpredictible. But since we have our car, we can take a lot of luggage to cover all bases.
As to kja, your climate data would have been of NO use for me, I just can't get with fahrenheits... absolutely no meaning for me... which is why I understand US asking in F, but I can only answer in C.
thibaut is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2018, 06:25 PM
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I agree with everyone who said that averages by themselves aren’t particularly useful -- although I’d say that knowing averages is better than knowing nothing, as it is, at least, a starting point. As I noted, and as some of you echoed, what I find most useful is the climate data regarding the range of likely temperatures, because IME, those data give a sufficiently useful sense of what weather I’m likely to encounter to allow me to pack, and to pack lightly. As someone who typically travels for a month at a time, forecasts aren’t going to me any good when packing! I always take layers and have an item or two for unexpected extremes, but it helps to know (for example) whether one pair of longjohns might prove useful, as opposed to knowing that I better have two so I can wash one pair out each night.

I’m embarassed to admit that I always have trouble moving from Fahrenheit to Celsius; fortunately the major climate resources – like and – let you use either.

Thanks for sharing your perspectives!
kja is offline  
Oct 4th, 2018, 09:07 AM
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folks often want general weather expectations - not knowing much about the area - and averages and means and number of days of wet weather are very useful for general planning - that Rome will be much warmer than Munich in January, etc.
PalenQ is online now  
Oct 10th, 2018, 12:35 AM
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Parts of Spain are a wash out. So much so a few deaths have occurred.
8th October warnings.
9th the actual weather
another area, news in Spanish
Toledo in English
ribeirasacra is offline  
Oct 10th, 2018, 03:58 AM
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The Netherlands is enjoying ridiculousy warm weather. even up on the north coast it is 21C today. 24C further south. No doubt Belgium France and the UK (or parts of them) are also enjoying it, worrying though it is in many ways.
I don't think past averages are of much use now that the climate has gone haywire.
hetismij2 is offline  
Oct 10th, 2018, 06:38 PM
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Switching to Celsius for those you complained about my use of Fahrenheit....

Obviously, Spain is huge, so I'll go with the data for Toledo on Oct. 9th, the place and date to which ribeirasacra made specific reference:
Climate data for the (entire) month of Oct: average low 9, average 14, average high 19
Actual: Low 11, high 20
The climate data would have worked for my planning purposes, and honestly, I have trouble imagining that someone would have found that 1 degree difference between the actual and likely high temperature meaningful, particularly as IME, most Fodorites aren't planning entire trips that last for only one day and so would require very precise forecasts. But others are free to disagree!

hetismij2 doesn't provide a specific location, instead referring to temperatures on the north coast and "further south", so I looked up Den Helder, a place that my maps identify as far north -- but timeanddate doesn't track Den Helder, so I turned to (Kathie's recommendation -- and the more I play with it, the more value I find to it! -- thanks, Kathie!)
Climate data for 10 Oct.: record low = 5, average low = 10.3, average = 12.7, average high = 15, record high = 21
Actual: Low 8, high 20
So it would definitely have been at colder at its coldest and hotter at its hottest than I would have expected, but not so far out of range as to have made a difference to my packing. Again, others might see it differently.

To be clear, I believe in climate change, and I think it is causing major -- and terrible -- changes around the world. But I still think that climate data provide a useful basis for preparing for one's trips. JMO.

Thanks for providing these examples!

Last edited by kja; Oct 10th, 2018 at 07:07 PM.
kja is offline  
Oct 11th, 2018, 02:17 AM
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1) Climate change is happening and humans are causing it, not least by flying tourists, I hope you guys pay for tree planting when you fly of course this does only partially protect the planet, as westerners we are doing so much damage
2) Climate data tells you a lot, for instance if the month has more rain than others normally or if the range between min and max is especially large, being able to understand statistics is surely part of a basic education
3) Local weather forecasts are also very useful, certainly even in Britain, where we get a lot of weather, the 10 day and 20 day forecasts give us a general view that is roughly right.
bilboburgler is offline  
Oct 11th, 2018, 05:26 PM
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@ bilbogurgler: Thanks for that link!
kja is offline  
Oct 12th, 2018, 11:01 AM
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forecast for coming years - hotter than hell some places cooler than ever some places - more strong storms - if Gulf Stream changes as many climatologists think Europe could be back in Ice Ages sometime this century. and yes flying is amongst the worst polluting means of travel.
PalenQ is online now  
Oct 12th, 2018, 12:36 PM
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I find the averages to be very helpful in early planning. But the average between small data (two days) and the last 10 years of October days would be more realistically useful. Once I get outside of the early planning stages, I would actually pack based upon the current 10 day forecast, or long range forecast. The 25C one day and 0C example is absurd, BTW. If the weather was 25C, 25C, 0C and 0C, the crap shoot would be which two days you estimated, ranging from 25 to 0, with a 12.5 on the middle days. An actual 10 forecast would let you know that likely on day three of those four a cold front is coming in . . .
apersuader65 is offline  
Oct 12th, 2018, 07:19 PM
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@ apersuader65: You raise a great point about the value of information included in longer-ranger forecasts about cold fronts or similar major changes, even if that won't help those who -- like me -- are planning trips of a month in length. Thanks for raising that important consideration!
kja is offline  
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