Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sunshine, vitamins and clouds in the mountains

Last week, an email from a Belgian reader arrived. He wanted to know how much sun we get here in the Swiss Alps, and whether or not the mountains keep the clouds away. I wasn't sure, but I did understand the importance of sunshine, as I had started taking vitamin D-3 after listening to a James Altucher podcast with Dr. Sanjiv Chopra, who warned of vitamin D-3 deficiency.

You might already know this, but in case you don't: Vitamin D-3 is the stuff your body makes when it is exposed to sunshine, and it's been touted to ward off diseases like cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis,  and depression.

So, after googling around, I learned that certain places in the Swiss Alps are sunnier than others. Zermatt, for example, sees the most amount of sunshine in Switzerland, with 62% of its days being sunny (according the www.currentresults.com). The Valais town of Sion comes in second at 58%. Then I noticed that Junfraujoch, which is really high in altitude, only scores a 46% or just a little better than foggy Geneva's 44%. And San Bernard Pass, also high in altitude, scored a measly 49%. What was up with that?

So I googled further and learned that it really depends on which side of the mountain you live on and that mountains can actually create clouds. Thanks to an explanation by Daniel Watkins, a PhD student of atmospheric science on Quora, here's a clear and concise explanation:

"Clouds form when water vapor condenses. The amount of water vapor that can be in the air decreases exponentially as the temperature decreases. A mountain forms an obstacle to moving air - when wind hits a mountain, it has nowhere to go but up. And if you've ever climbed a mountain, you know the temperature goes down the higher you go. So by forcing the air to go up higher, the air is cooled and water vapor condenses out of it - i.e. clouds form."

So I guess, there are certain towns that are on the leeward side (dry side) of the mountains, places like Sion, which don't get much rain and hence more sunshine. I couldn't find data for Saanenland, but if we're anything like Adelboden or Interlaken, which score 47%-48%, we're somewhat better off than Bern's 42%, Zurich's 37% and poor Lucerne's 35%,

I'll keep taking my vitamin D-3 pills.

 

 

 

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