Warm weather. Cold weather. We might prefer one or the other. Or we might not have a preference and love both.
The weather is different all around the world. Some countries have four seasons. Other parts of the world especially countries close to the equator don’t have four seasons and pretty much have a steady temperature all year round.
For as long as I can remember, I never liked cold weather. Never like it when the temperature dips below 20’C (68’F) in Melbourne and any place really. Summer is my favourite season and a day 30’C (86’F) or over is something I love. When I lived in Singapore, I loved that each and every day was a tropical, humid balmy 26’C (78’F) or more.
What’s warm or cold to someone may not necessarily be the case for someone else. Naturally each of us are suited to and like different kinds of weather and have varying degrees of tolerance towards different temperatures.
There are pros and cons of living in each kind of climate. Hot or cold, most of the time we need to put up with the weather as it is to get on with our lives.
Hot vs. cold weather
The warmer it is, the less we need to wear. The colder it is, the more we need to bundle up.
The warmer it is, the less items of clothing we need to pick out each day and chances are the quicker we can put together an outfit. The colder it is, usually we need to layer up; there’s more clothes to be bought, more washing to be done. Living in places where the weather changes erratically or a place such as Melbourne where we can actually experience four seasons in a day, it’s a good idea to have an extra jacket in the bag…if we carry a bag out.
No matter how many acrylic and woollen layers I wear during Melbourne’s winter that hovers around 5-13’C (41-55’F), I still feel cold. When I lived in tropical Singapore for seven years, I rejoiced throwing on just a shirt and shorts and leaving the house like that each day. I rejoiced at the humidity, moisturising my skin and throat, rejoiced at the tropical warmth making my body feeling not numb but warm, and really didn’t mind sweat magically pulsing out of my pores.
2. Mood and getting around
Perhaps the warmer the weather, the happier we feel and the cooler it is the more contemplative we are. When it’s warm, many of us seem to like venturing outdoors for a walk or a trip to the beach or just somewhere to unwind and relax. When it’s cooler, many of us seem to like staying indoors, curling up on the couch and reading or watching TV.
With cooler months come cooler temperatures and longer nights. During this time some of us might suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is when our mood plummets as daylight decreases leading to bouts of depression. A questionnaire conducted by Swinburne University hypothesised 3-4% of Australians could be affected by SAD and noted a drop in mood among Australians during winter. On the other hand, research by Auburn University in 2016 found there is no correlation between depression and seasons based on analysing survey responses collected from participants present n different sunlight conditions. Interestingly enough, research on human performance shows we’re more alert when our body temperature is high. That would explain why it’s harder for many of us to get out of bed in winter, harder to fall asleep in warm weather.
While I’m nocturnal and feel most alert at night, I do like daylight. I love long summer days and sleep better during summer nights. There’s something inviting about light and warmth: to be able to both see action and ambience around you, and hence feel what’s around you. Also, in warm and dry weather, there’s no need to worry about driving through snow or roads laced with ice. However, it might be uncomfortable driving in summer heat if the car doesn’t have air-conditioning and trains in Melbourne either run slower or get cancelled when it’s 35’C (95’F )or more.
3. Things to do outdoors
Whether warm or cold, rain, hail or shine, there’s plenty to do outdoors. Wearing the right attire, we can walk, run, hike, climb a hill, cycle and shop anytime of the year. Even if the weather is too warm or too cold for our liking, if we’re determined enough to go out and experience the world and provided there’s no safety risk, then no reason why not.
As such, no reason why we can’t exercise in most kinds of weather. Notably while a cold body needs more energy to warm up and get moving comfortably, this doesn’t necessarily mean we burn more calories exercising in cold weather. Rather, as metabolism researcher Aaron Cypress argues, sitting around shivering in the cold burns more brown fat and calories than exercising.
Each of our bodies are genetically and biologically unique and so will react differently to different kinds of weather. When it’s spring or summer, some of us might get hayfever, need to wear sunglasses to stop squinting in bright sunlight, get heat rashes or get dehydrated.
When it’s autumn or winter, we might get cold hands, suffer from hypothermia and frostbite, and maybe be more susceptible to catching a cold or flu. Notably, a study on human behaviour and personality spanning 1.6 million participants in the US and China found the temperature which we are most emotionally stable in is 22’C (72’F). That said, conditions such as asthma, dry skin and any chronic illness can flare up in any kinds of weather.
Living in humid Singapore, I never experienced hayfever even around blooming flowers but am a target for mosquitoes. Living in Australia, hayfever hits me hard in the warmer months but I’m not too popular with mosquitoes here. No matter the cons, I’ll always love warm weather.
5. Cooking and eating
What we cook each season depends on seasonal produce available, either grown locally or imported. Depending on the season, we may prefer certain comfort foods. Often colder weather triggers a survival instinct within us and many of us are prone to eat more.
Ice-cream, icy poles, cold drinks and salads tend to be the choice foods in summer. On the other hand, hot chocolate, soups and hearty roasts are usually popular go-to foods in cooler months. When we’re done cooking at home in the cooler months, we might find ourselves opening the windows to get rid of lingering cooking smells – and face the wrath of cold winds coming into our house.
6. Insulation at home
When we’re at home, we want to feel comfortable and ambient temperature plays a part in that. Turning on the air-conditioner or fan is one way to cool the house down on a hot day. Cranking up the heater makes the house less chilly in winter. Or we may use a reverse cycle or split system air-conditioner for all seasons, all year round. Which kind of conditioning unit we use more really is dependent on when we feel we need it. Statistics by the Australian Energy Regulator show Australians seem to use more electricity in the summer months.
I’ve never been a fan of using the heater or air-conditioner at home. Both make the air drier in my place and my eyes and throat get dry as a result, and using either adds hundreds of dollars to my electricity bill. I really don’t mind summer heat of up to 40’C (104’F), and a fan is enough to keep me cool on these days. As much as I hate layering up, that’s what I do at home in winter to stay reasonably warm.
No matter the season, there’ll be insects and creepy crawlies around. In Australia, dry summer warmth tends to invite more snakes and spiders to the backyard. Warmth and dampness can bring around more dust mites and mosquitoes. Studies at the Woolcock Medical Research in Sydney show that people with allergies often come into closer contact with allergy sources in winter, and mould and mildew can circulate through heater air vents.
I’ve never encountered a snake in summer here in Melbourne, but I’ve had many spiders the size of a hand crawl through my bedroom window. Also when it’s 30’C (86’F) or more, annoying enough the smells and hence potentially bacteria from the rubbish chute in my apartment permeates out into the lobby.
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A number of factors affect our individual tolerance for cold and hot weather. This could be the food that we eat, genetics, age, illnesses and just how well our body regulates and maintains its optimum temperature. The longer we live in a certain place, the more acclimatised we may become to the climate there, or at the very least learn to put up with it.
The more we live in a certain place, the more prepared we may be for certain weather conditions no matter how unpredictable these conditions may be. However nothing seems to be able to prepare me for temperatures less than 20’C (68’F). After more than a decade of living in Melbourne, winter still comes like a slap in the face to me each year. The cold makes it hard at times for me to breathe (partially due to asthma) but over the years I’ve discovered clothes such as wool jumpers that make my chest feel a bit better this time of the year.
The weather impacts on how comfortable we feel, and inevitably an impact on mortality rates. In 2015, an international study analysing over 74 million deaths across the world found moderately cold weather kills 20 times as many people as hot weather. The same study found around 6.5% of deaths in Australia are attributed to cold weather, compared to 0.5% from hot weather. It’s also been suggested many Australian homes are glorified tents not prepared for cold temperatures.
Judging from some of the apartments I’ve lived in in Melbourne, perhaps this is true. Almost every night in winter there’s interior condensation on the double-glazed glass windows (or sweating windows) at the places I’ve stayed, up until the condensation rains down the glass and I’ve to spend time wiping it all up while I’m shivering. Wet windows inside is usually a sign of inadequate ventilation and poor air circulation indoors.
Interestingly enough, while heat and light can make us feel better, it also has the potential to make us hot and bothered. The summer months in Australia are usually the highest months for homicide, with murder rates rising with temperature in Darwin – more warm nights out, more tipple consumed, the higher likelihood of aggression.
Living in a place that’s too hot or too cold for one to handle isn’t ideal. The more comfortable we are with the weather, the more we can get on with our lives and focus on what we want to do and most importantly, feel at home. Most of us reading this will probably live in a place that’s moderately hot or cold temperature-wise. However it’s possible to live in extreme weather such a living in a desert or within the Arctic Circle (think places reaching 40’C (104’F) or -30’C (-22’F) ) or experiencing raging monsoons many days in a year. The adventurous among us probably wouldn’t mind experiencing these kinds of climate extremes on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. I’m all up for experiencing warm weather extremes, just not cold.
At the end of the day, I’d much rather sweat than shiver. Much rather feel sweaty and sticky than numb to the bone. To me, feeling warm is not just being able to feel what’s around me, but it also means feeling the present moment and being present where I am.
Do you prefer living in a warmer or colder climate?