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I'm trying to figure out if a certain city, with these characteristics, is possible, geographically:

  • Assume the city's the size of Renaissance London...

  • With Renaissance London technology

  • Doesn't precipitate (rain or snow) in the daytime, for about one and a half months.

  • Has farms outside the city and can farm wheat, oranges, apples, walnuts, and (sugar cane or sugar beets or some other source of sugar for pastry and other confectioneries).

  • The populace doesn't need any special clothing to prevent heatstroke. They wear the clothes of commoners of Renaissance England. (No desert people clothing...)

  • There's a river running through the middle of the city.

  • The rest of the surrounding area can be anything you want.

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    $\begingroup$ Irrigation would solve this easily. $\endgroup$ – Jimmy360 May 29 '15 at 21:23
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    $\begingroup$ This is almost an exact description of coastal California, except maybe for the sugarcane. There should also be similar places on the Mediterranean. $\endgroup$ – Nate Eldredge May 29 '15 at 23:28
  • $\begingroup$ You might want to replace sugar cane with sugar beets as the later grows in temperate climates. $\endgroup$ – Ross Ridge May 30 '15 at 4:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Nate Eldredge: Also the Central Valley (again excepting the sugarcane). Though most crops are irrigated, it's perfectly possible to do e.g. dryland wheat farming. I know this because at one point in my life I spent many hours driving tractors around those fields. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf May 30 '15 at 4:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Cylindric - Oh... those were suggestions for answerers, of how to work around plants that need rain, but due to the "Doesn't rain/snow", can't get the water from the daytime... Gonna rework that sentence to use "Doesn't precipitate in the daytime..." $\endgroup$ – Malady Jun 2 '15 at 13:12
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The problem I see is with your listed crops. Sugarcane and oranges are subtropical/tropical crops, while apples, wheat, and walnuts are all temperate crops. There are some pretty big differences between the ideal growing conditions of those crops.

Example: sugarcane requires a lot of moisture, but walnut trees do poorly in wet soils. And if it's hot enough to support sugarcane the apple trees probably won't get the winter dormancy period they need to thrive. Subtropical crops don't tolerate frost well at all, either.

Is it possible to grow all of those crops in one place? Maybe, but it would be a lot of extra work to manage whichever crops are disadvantaged by the natural climate in the area. You can grow oranges in temperate regions, for instance, but you have to bring them inside in winter. That's fine if you have one or two small trees in pots, but not practical for a large orchard.

I'd say pick whatever climate you want and choose crops that all grow in that climate for cultivation around the city. If you really want those specific crops, you could say your city climate is fine for growing oranges, sugarcane, and other subtropical/tropical crops, but adjacent high elevation territory (a high plateau, for example), drier and colder in winter, is where your temperate crops are cultivated.

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Western California is a lot like this. Consider for example the city of Santa Rosa:

  • Current population: about 175,000, comparable to London circa 1575 according to Wikipedia

  • Average precipitation in July is 0.8 mm. It would not be unusual to go for many years with no measurable rainfall in July. There is typically only minimal rainfall between June and September.

  • Agriculture is a major part of the economy. Currently the most prominent crop is grapes, but apples and walnuts are grown commercially in the vicinity. I don't think oranges are grown there on a large scale these days, but many people have orange trees in their yards which produce fruit with a little care (they may need to be covered to protect them from occasional winter frost). Not sure about wheat but I have seen corn (maize), and wild grasses cover most of the uncultivated land, so I would assume grain crops are generally an option. Sugar cane may be a stretch, though, as I would think it's more of a tropical crop. You could grow sugar beets, if you want; Santa Rosa is in USDA Hardiness Zone 8, which according to this site should be suitable for sugar beets.

  • Average summer high temperature of 28 C. Heatstroke not a concern.

  • The Santa Rosa Creek runs through the city. If you want a larger waterway, relocate the city 30 km north to the site of Healdsburg, on the Russian River.

So in general your description seems very plausible, if you tweak your sugar crop a little.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, the sugar cane isn't that huge a part of my question, but I'm not gonna change the question, 'cause that would invalidate some answers... and, as the primary purpose of sugar cane is the sugar... then sugar beets are absolutely an acceptable substitute... ... If you want to edit the question and feel like taking that risk... go ahead! $\endgroup$ – Malady May 30 '15 at 0:05
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site Nate! Great answer! $\endgroup$ – Josiah May 30 '15 at 0:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Malandy: There is rain, about 75 cm per year, just not in the summer. You can read meteorological details on the Wikipedia page for Mediterranean climate: "During summer, regions of Mediterranean climate are dominated by subtropical high pressure cells, with dry sinking air capping a surface marine layer of varying humidity and making rainfall impossible or unlikely..." $\endgroup$ – Nate Eldredge May 30 '15 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Malandy: Much of the western US is like this (except the northern coast west of the Cascades). Almost all of the precipitation comes in the winter months. In summer, all you'll usually get are a few thunderstorms over the Sierra Nevada and eastwards. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf May 30 '15 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ There is a lot of rain actually, except for three months of the year. $\endgroup$ – Samuel May 30 '15 at 21:45
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Such a city could easily exist inside a desert which has a river flowing through it. Being a desert doesn't mean there is no water, it just means there is little to no precipitation. The city of Calama, Chile is in the Atacama desert.

  • It has a river running through it.
  • It gets about one inch of rain per year and most of that occurs in a single month.
  • The average high temperature every month doesn't get over 76°F.
  • There are not a lot of farms, but they likely could be built and irrigated from the river.

If you base your city on Calama then the conditions you're asking for are entirely feasible.

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