I ran across a really appealing job posting today. Among other things, however, it requires a writing sample. My technical writing skills have always been pretty solid, but it’s been some time since I’ve had to write anything. And most of my writing was so full of confidential information that it wouldn’t be of use even if it was current.
I decided that the best way to generate some current, relevant writing is to start a new project. I have lots of ideas I’d like to explore, but I’m going to keep it simple and do a study of the weather.
The idea I’ll be exploring is that Chicago doesn’t have much of a fall and spring. It’s something that we say all the time around here, but how true is it? How much Confirmation Bias is actually at play? I mean, nobody makes this complaint on a seventy degree day.
The first thing I need to do is to find a database. This is all the more reason to start with a weather-related project. There’s plenty of information out there for the taking. NOAA has data at surprising amounts of granularity. That’s where I plan to start.
In the past, I’ve done most of my analysis in spreadsheets, but that’s not going to cut it here. I tried to import just one year of NOAA data into Google Sheets and it wouldn’t even open. It’s time to move on to something real. I’ve done a great deal of SQL training, but I have yet to put it into practice. I’m downloading PostgresSQL and doing a quick training session to learn how it ticks, then I should be able to at least begin my analysis in there.
Beyond the technical aspects of the project, I need to spend some time defining my project. When I say that Chicago doesn’t have Spring and Fall, I’m not talking about the calendar or the position of the sun in the sky. What I’m saying is that it feels like we go directly from cold weather to hot weather and back to cold without many days in between. How am I defining cold? How am I defining hot? These are subjective measures. There are some who consider fifty-five to be downright balmy and others who need a jacket as soon as it drops below seventy.
Once I’ve defined my temperature range, do I count a day as spring- (or fall-) appropriate if the day’s mean temperature is in range? Or do the high and low need to be in that range as well? Is a chilly morning enough to disqualify an otherwise perfect spring day?
Finally, how many good days is enough to feel as though we’ve had our smooth, seasonal transition? Three full months would be the ideal, but that might be a bit inflexible. Is there an acceptable number, or should I be comparing to the seasonal transitions of other cities? Nearby cities? Cities known for their stable, clement weather?
Additionally, even though it’s not directly part of this question, it might be interesting to compare contemporary results to those of 10, 20, or more years ago. Just in case people are nostalgic for the seasons of their youth.
I plan to get my database up and running first, so I can dig into the NOAA databases and see what I have to work with before I finish designing my questions. I’ll keep posting here as I fine tune things.