Simon Calder: The man who pays his way in the USA

Big country, big weather

On a plateau in eastern Washington State, not far from the Grand Coulee Dam, you can stare down into a chasm created by extreme weather: a flood so powerful that the course of the Columbia River was changed, ripping up primeval topography. Yet within an hour's drive, the benign climate helps to nurture some of America's finest wines.

Big country, big weather: the havoc wrought by Superstorm Sandy is a reminder of the meteorological intensity and diversity of the USA. The people who brought the world the concept of storm-chasing reside in a country of extremes. The south-west is the sunniest place in the world, while away from the beaches of Hawaii you can find some of the wettest conditions on earth. Add the deep freeze of northern Alaska, the dependable perfection of southern California ("Forever Summer" is the slogan of Orange County) and the temperate glories of Maine: almost the entire climatological repertoire is on offer.

Weather is an essential component of America's great outdoors. It helped to create the vast landscapes to entice us from our crowded corner of north-west Europe, and it helps travellers enjoy them. The powder snow in the Rockies (below) reliably returns each winter, which also happens to be the best season to enjoy the theme parks of Florida. Spring transforms locations from the Texas Hill Country to the shores of the Great Lakes. Summer is simultaneously the best time to explore Alaska and New England, and a stormy time in the Deep South and the Midwest (just ask Dorothy). And autumn? A season painted with a palette from deepest red to purest gold.

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