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January 30, 2014 / JayMan

Snow Nations

In the wake of the recent snow storm in the Deep South, The Atlantic recently released an article with a map made by Reddit user Alexandr Trubetskoy with the typical amount of snowfall it takes to cancel schools in the different counties across America. Since I couldn’t resist, I thought I’d put Colin Woodard’s American Nations boundaries over that map. Here’s the result:

Snow NationsYes, the American nations are visible even in snow cancellation policy. Now, as noted in The Atlantic article, the situation on the ground is a bit more nuanced than this map represents. Nonetheless, the relationship is striking.

This map is heavily indicative of climate of these respective counties. The snow policy is itself a response to the amount of snow these areas typically receive, as seen here:


If we closed the schools here in Maine every time it snowed, they’d be closed for a third to half the semester. And of course, the more snow you typically receive, the more you have to adopt contingency measures for dealing with winter weather. Many Mainers were quite amazed at the chaos that ensued in the South when they received (as my wife put it), “a dusting.” BfI7ibsCcAAq63n BfIODo1IAAAWU_9

But that the American nations would follow climatic lines isn’t surprising. Colonial expansion to the interior of the continent often flowed nearly due west, to places with similar weather.


It simply made sense, whenever possible, to expand into areas where you could simply copy the way of life with which you were adapted, instead of having to start fresh. This is reflected today in the snow cancellation policy, as it is in many other things.


Leave a Comment
  1. Ed the Department Head / Jan 31 2014 12:25 PM

    This is very cleaver Jayman. I have wondered in the past what the West English were thinking when they decided to start over in a wholly different climate in the 1600s in the Caribbean and the South, as opposed to the Puritans going to climatically similar New England or later Norwegian and Finnish immigrants choosing to live in Minnesota because of the weather similarity. The original Tidewater/Dixieland people must have hated the cold a lot to risk pre-modern bacterial infection.

    • Doug / Jan 31 2014 3:11 PM

      Interesting, one usually thinks of the American West as being warmer than the American latitude for latitude. But its really just the parts of the West that hug the coast that are warmer. Overall once you go even a little inland the West starts getting a lot colder.

  2. Anthony / Jan 31 2014 5:22 PM

    So in Contra Costa County (east of San Francisco), they didn’t close the schools for snow the last time it snowed back in 1976. I don’t know what they’d do now; snow is so rare that there aren’t any procedures for it.

    • JayMan / Feb 1 2014 10:10 AM


      It seems to me that the wise thing to do is that you don’t know what to do, close the schools.

  3. Janon / Feb 2 2014 8:00 PM

    Wasn’t this more of an ice storm than a snow storm? Ice storms can cause major traffic problems.

  4. Patrick Boyle / Feb 3 2014 7:30 PM

    I came to San Francisco in 1965. I looked at Powell street and the Powell Street cable car and was dumbfounded. It was so steep. I asked a native – “What do you do when it snows?”

    But of course it never snows here. I currently live at 1,000 ft. in the Oakland hills. There was a light dusting of snow in the early morning one day about ten years ago. Or was it twenty?

    The forecast says it will rain tomorrow. Maybe – we’re in a drought. We could use it. But it certainly won’t snow. Most days this winter it is 55 to 60 degrees.

    The point is that all the streets in the Bay Area have been engineered on the assumption that it will never snow. That’s why the car chase in “Bullitt” is so great. The night I left Washington DC it was snowing and 5 below. I probably can no longer drive in the snow. I’ve forgotten how – thank God.

    Some people hereabouts have chains so they can go to Tahoe but otherwise – no. A couple years ago I had to teach a class in Reno. I left the Bay Area in warm summertime weather wearing shorts. But two hours later the Donner pass looked like the high artic. A few weeks later and I wouldn’t have gotten through at all.

    I stopped driving in winter altogether after that. On the way back down the mountain I was stopped by the cops. I had been going 105 when I woke up. I had fallen asleep behind the wheel. But no ticket. I had gotten down to 95 when he pulled me over. My feet hurt from lecturing for three days. I was full of dope and sleepy. Not the best way to negotiate snow covered freeways.

  5. ashr / Feb 7 2014 5:30 AM

    It was in fact more of an ice storm, at least in terms of effects on the road. It’s very rare for snow to even stick to the road here, but this time the ground was cold enough for it to start icing up the road immediately; cars were skidding on the very gentle slope in front of our house within an hour of its start. A friend downtown told us of a neighbor who ice skated 5 miles on a major street that week. 🙂

  6. acheron / Feb 8 2014 1:58 PM

    This is so fascinating. I’m new to the HBD-spehere, but I wonder if anyone has studied or written about human history through the perspective of ecology? I think that’d be a lot like what I’ve seen on HBD blogs so far, but there are rhetorical and conceptual benefits, I think, to importing the jargon of ecology as well.

    Can I ask how you overlaid one map on the other? Did you use some kind of mapping software, or just clever image editing?

    • JayMan / Feb 8 2014 2:27 PM


      Jared Diamond would have been the closest, but he blew his shot with Guns, Germs, and Steel by leaving out one key thing: Genes. Greg Cochran’s and Henry Harpending’s The 10,000 Year Explosion comes closest to rectifying that.

      About the rhetorical benefits, yes, I hear you. To convince people, it’s not so much what you say, it’s how you couch it.

      Inkscape is what I used to make the map. The base map is not mine, don’t know what he used.

      Feel free to read around here (see my latest post).


  1. More Maps of the American Nations | JayMan's Blog

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