Monday, February 21, 2011

Considering the economic impact of weather

Like many active, outdoorsy people I spend a lot of time checking on the weather. Is it snowing on the hill? Will the rivers be up this weekend? Should I paddle or climb tomorrow?

The weather often dictates my daily schedule as I plan my exercise and fun around its whims. I consider temperature, wind, waves, precipitation and freezing level. But I rarely consider economics, until I read this article in The Economist.

The author considers the data on how December snowstorms in England effected economic output. Where others blame the weather for dramatic losses in productivity, the author is a little more cautious. The Snow Sport Industry of America chimes in to say an early winter in the east increased sales of things like jackets, skis and snowshoes.

I'm sure weather's impact depends on where you live. Here on Vancouver Island 10 centimetres of snow can shut schools for the day, sending parents outdoors to play with their kids instead of to work. The same amount of snow in Toronto would snarl traffic and make just about anyone that drives late. Yet, no one blinks at 10 cms in places like Winnipeg or Revelstoke.

And consider a town like Whistler, where many businesses have a 20 centimetre rule: if it snows 20 cms or more they open late. In December the mega resort got buried by 10 metres of snow. That's a lot of late starts.

And yet that's nothing like the impact of a hurricane or a major flood.

Just one more reason to pay attention the the weather forecast.

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