So... it's been a while, and I want to share my take on what went wrong.
As others have pointed out, one issue is that I phrased my question as a yes/no. That in an of itself isn't necessarily a problem, as:
- A yes/no question, if answers provide sources or other evidence to back them up, can still be useful.
- The phrasing ("is there such terrain") should have implied that a "yes" answer should include more information than just "yes".
Nonetheless, this didn't help.
However, the real issue I see is that people didn't bother to read and understand the finer points of the question. AlexP's summary is quite appropos:
[T]he question asks whether there can be a place with the climate of San Diego, California, which is close to a place where it snows in winter
...and the flippant answers and CV's seem to follow this. It is also wrong; this simplification ignores (or fails to understand) the details that were in the body of the question. Other comments pointing out the "irrelevancy" of identifying the various locations exhibit the same problem (I'll get back to that).
The short, generic answer to this question would appear to be "because people can't be bothered with the details", which, unfortunately, is entirely believable.
(If you don't care about picking apart details of my original question which prompted this one, you can stop reading now.)
Because I deleted the original question since all it was accomplishing was attracting downvotes, here it is, reproduced for posterity:
I'm writing a story with several locations:
- A boarding school. The campus is around 1km × 1km and should be relatively flat ground.
- House A. Modest size building, relatively flat lot maybe 60m × 60m.
- House B. Larger building (closer to 20m × 20m) on a somewhat larger lot (say, 100m × 100m). The lot is mildly to moderately sloped in back, but the house itself should be on a flat spot around 30m × 40m.
- A zoo. Not flat; very similar to, or even an exact copy of, the real San Diego zoo.
I also have the following distance constraints:
- Travel time between the houses, or between either house and the school, should be less than 30 minutes; 10-15 is better.
- Travel time between House A and the zoo is at least 20 minutes but not more than 90 minutes. (About 40 minutes would be best.)
- Travel time between House B and the zoo can (and possibly should) be longer, within other criteria.
Assume building and transport technology equivalent to our modern world (e.g. "travel time" implies driving in a modern car, with modern US-like road systems). However, the story takes place somewhere other than "our" world; it might Earth in an alternate universe, or a totally different (but still Earth-like) planet.
The houses and school should be located in or near a large suburban area. (I don't need New York, NY, but the population density must be higher than middle-of-nowhere, WY.) The area should not be overly arid (temperate forest would be perfect).
The zoo should be able to support vegetation similar to what occurs in real life San Diego. Said vegetation should be green and healthy nearly year round (in particular, through mid-autumn), but the surrounding area can be semi-arid (like San Diego), i.e. it's okay if the zoo needs a bunch of irrigation.
Given the above constraints, is there a biome / terrain that would allow me to have deciduous vegetation at House B which change color come autumn? Can I have (regular, not fluke) snow at House B, or somewhere within about an hour's drive?
Again, this doesn't need to actually be San Diego or any location that exists on our planet. Something like having a significant elevation different between the zoo and everything else, or having the zoo's vegetation only able to survive because of some geothermal heat source or specially sheltered valley, is acceptable, as long as such features could plausibly occur on an Earth-like planet.
(I'm assuming that covering the zoo in a giant dome is not feasible, as the technology to do so would not be available.)
Offhand, the most plausible explanation would be that the houses and school are on top of a mesa, where the top of the mesa has a midwest-like climate, while the bottom has a California-like climate. Is this plausible, both from a climate perspective, and for having roads that would allow driving between a city on top and a city on the bottom in about a half hour to an hour?
Answers that "it snows in San Diego County" are inadequate. Some of this could have been stated differently (lesson learned), but the additional requirements are:
- The general area must have a minimum population of at least 2 million people; 3-5 million would be better. Further, the zoo must be located somewhere that is reasonably "central" to the majority of said population. If these requirements are not met, the zoo won't exist or will be somewhere else.
- The school can't be up in the mountains, if they are mountains. Mountains don't have light suburban population density, and they don't have mostly level school campuses. Level areas in the mountains of the requisite size are rare and tend to have rivers or lakes in the middle of them if they do exist, and lack the surrounding houses to be anything other than "isolated". Plateaus might meet the requirements (Abha, Bogotá), but this excludes simply asserting that "California already has snow".
This isn't exhaustive, but the above are the requirements that seemed to be most critical as far as viable answers and also the most overlooked.
So what would constitute a good answer to this question?
- Showing what terrain would make the different climates possible, preferably with examples of each that would plausibly share similar geographical influence (ideally two places that are actually near each other). Additionally...
- ...showing an example of terrain that would support the school and surrounding suburbs. (Bogotá is actually reasonable here. The mountains in California are not.) And...
- ...showing an example of a road that traverses the required elevation distance for the two locations in the desired travel time, keeping in mind the need to allow extra time at the beginning/end to get from said road to the destination endpoints.
- Or: Showing that no reasonable change in elevation can supply the desired difference in climate.
- Or: Showing that the required elevation change cannot reasonably be traversed in the allowed time.
- Or: Showing what modifications are necessary to achieve the stated goals.