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Climate and Environment

Here’s Why Cold Weather Feels Colder In LA. And No, It's Not Just In Your Head

A pug is shown wrapped in a plaid blanket with just its face showing, sitting in a dirt path on what appears to be a hiking path.
Even this dog feels cold.
(Matthew Henry
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Between the atmospheric rivers and the ongoing cold, Angelenos are chillier these days than we’re accustomed to. Some of our more sarcastic Midwest or East Coast kinfolk might like to make jokes at our expense — “Oh, did it get down to 50 degrees? Better bundle up!” — but the truth is, colder temperatures in Southern California do in fact feel cooler than the same temperature in a crisper climate.

Says who?

Says science.

Also, history. Take heed:

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No Insulation

If you’ve ever woken up on a chilly L.A. day and decided it was simply not possible to remove your body from bed, you’re not alone — and there’s a reason. Most California residences weren’t insulated prior to 1974, having been built under the assumption that none was needed due to the Golden State’s temperate climate.

Building codes and regulations have since been updated and will continue to be, but not all structures have been retrofitted. That means that unlike our fellow Americans in colder parts of the country, many of our homes are basically planks of wood held up by chewing gum and a prayer.

Shoddy Windows

Similarly, state requirements for windows’ ability to insulate — known as the U-factor — has changed over the years as legislators update Title 24, the same bill that regulates other insulation factors. But the same problem applies; older buildings aren’t always retrofitted, meaning the breeze you feel seeping in from the other side of the glass is quite real.


A map of the U.S. has bands of color indicating whether temperatures are expected to be above, below or at typicall averages. The entire west coast is in blue, indicating lower than average temps.
(Courtesy NWS)

Okay, here’s the truth. Research shows that the human body does in fact acclimate to warmer or colder temperatures very quickly; like, within 10-20 days. That means folks who live in L.A. are simply less accustomed to cold weather, and so it feels more chilly.

But — and this is a big but — acclimatization happens so fast that anyone who travels to a warmer climate would start to experience, say, 50 degrees as pretty darn frosty within about a week, give or take.

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What does this mean? It means the most important question at hand has been resolved: your friends and family who live in colder areas aren’t any tougher than you. They’ve just… well, they’ve made their choices.

What questions do you have about Southern California?

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Corrected January 21, 2023 at 7:17 PM PST
An earlier version of this story had an image incorrectly labeled as downtown L.A. It was St. Paul, Minnesota. While we regret the error, we do think it felt that cold. It has been replaced with the map showing we aren't totally imagining it.