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U.S. Counties, Ranked by Scenery and Climate

The USDA Economic Research Service crunched a lot of numbers to come up with a rather arguable measure of how pleasant the “natural amenities” are in 3,111 counties in the U.S. The results are available in an interactive map.

…in the late 1990s the federal government devised a measure of the best and worst places to live in America, from the standpoint of scenery and climate. The "natural amenities index" is intended as "a measure of the physical characteristics of a county area that enhance the location as a place to live."

The index combines "six measures of climate, topography, and water area that reflect environmental qualities most people prefer." Those qualities, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, include mild, sunny winters, temperate summers, low humidity, topographic variation, and access to a body of water.

As you can imagine, these rankings have caused some indignity and hurt feelings. Red Lake County, Minnesota, came in last place of the 3,111 counties ranked (Alaska and Hawaii are not included). This has Minnesota crying foul. After all, the importance of temperature, humidity, and topographic variation to an area’s overall “pleasantness” is a matter of opinion. And you can’t put a number on “scenery.” Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what they were thinking. I live within spitting distance of a county line. One of the counties ranks in the top third, while the other is in the bottom third. As far as I can tell, the two counties have exactly the same climate and number of sunny days in winter. Click on your own county to see how it ranks at The Washington Post. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Christopher Ingraham/The Washington Post)

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