Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Weather So Far

Double rainbow in Amsterdam last Sunday.
 The weather in the Netherlands “is pleasant throughout the year. Stretching out over a mostly flat landscape of reclaimed land, the charming country of tulips, windmills and bicycles experiences mild and maritime climate.” <>  Sounds pretty good, huh? 

We are often asked the question, “What brought you to Holland?”   My wife likes to quip, “the weather!”  This response often draws a laugh or sneer as many locals regard the weather as a bit dismal; cold and always prone to rain. 

So far I’ve been mildly sunburned while playing with our kids in the park, and I’ve had to change wet clothes three or more times in a day – even with some rain gear – after being soaked on my bicycle about town.  The fun thing is that this can all happen in the same afternoon.

Alkmaar is only about 10 kilometers from the North Sea shore.  I can walk out our front door to a blast of sunshine, while a heavy dark cloud can be approaching from behind to dump about 4 and-a-half minutes of rain on our back garden.  Sure we get the occasional high or low pressure system that will  bring sun or rain consistently until it’s nudged along by the North Sea forces, but it’s interesting how often there will be a mixed bag of conditions in a short period of time. 

One instance was biking last week under a pea-sized hailstorm while being able to see blue sky and sun not far away.  Growing up in Mississippi we used to say that when it’s raining and sun shining at the same time, that the Devil is beating his wife.  I suppose a hail storm and sun would mean that the Devil has progressed to knocking his Mrs. around with a baseball bat. 

Alkmaar at sunrise
All that considered, when it’s sunny and nice here, it’s something to see.  The colors  of the landscapes and cityscapes bolt out like a scene from a Van Gogh canvas.  Maybe that sounds a bit like a tourism commerical, but others I’ve spoken with agree that “when it’s good, it’s really good here.”   Maybe it’s no coincidence that our decision to move over here was taken while sitting along a canal in Amsterdam under the hot June sun.  That’s really no mystery.

It has been a small meteorological adjustment to North Holland after living in Paris.  While not famous for it’s beautiful weather – except maybe Springtime – Paris offers just a bit warmer average temperatures and more sun.  Paris averages 1800 hours of sun annually compared with 1580 hours in Amsterdam (40 km from Alkmaar).    The annual average rainfall in Paris is 585mm, while it mounts to 776mm in Amsterdam. 

Yes there’s a small difference between the two cities.  But it can be interesting to really put it into perspective when comparing the Amsterdam area weather to somewhere like Nice, in the south of France. I guess the name of the city says a lot while weighing in with 2775 yearly hours of sunshine.  But yes it certainly does rain in Southern France with Nice averaging 862mm of rainfall per year.  It obviously rains harder and faster there than in North Holland, because even though Nice has the most yearly rainfall of the three cities, it has the least number of days with rain annually; 86 rainy days compared to 164 days of rain per year in Paris and 185 days in North Holland. (source:

Average temperature comparisons are perhaps less clear indicators because the best question is “what’s the temp now?”  At 16h30 today, the numbers come on weigh in at:
Alkmaar:  12.2 celsius  (9.7 C average annual temp - Amsterdam)
Paris:  13.8 C  (11.5 C average annual temp)
Nice : 17.2 C (15.0 C average annual temp)

Back in my former U.S. home city of Orlando, Florida : 26.7 C  --- with 1221 mm annual pecip. in Orlando.  (Mornings/early afternoons there are hot and humid, then thunderstorms roll in almost daily around 16h00 and dump a lake's worth of rain on the area.  Evenings are often less humid and cooler.)  Avg. annual Orlando temp. 22.8 C

So what’s the final opinion?  So far the weather here is not so bad if you don’t mind occasional showers, and its even often downright picturesque.  But be sure to bring the all-weather gear when headed this way.   Locals are warning of the coming winter and speak often about ice-skating on the canals when they freeze over.  I believe them when they say the canals freeze, but so far that doesn’t seem to fit with the temp data I’ve seen. 

I’ll keep an eye on the canals this winter and will be sure to update when I see Tonya Harding doing figure 8’s on the canal in front of our house.  By the way, I think the Devil would need more than a baseball bat to have a chance against a Mrs. like her.


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