More so than any other capital city in Australia, Canberra's story is a tale of its weather.

''The history of the world shows that cold climates have produced the greatest geniuses,'' King O'Malley told Australia's Parliament in October 1903, during the search for an appropriate site for a capital city for the brand new federation.

''Take the sons of some of the greatest men of the world and put them in a hot climate like Tumut or Albury, and in three generations their lineal descendants will be degenerate … I want to have a cold climate chosen for the capital of this Commonwealth.''

The Canberra Times columnist Ian Warden's digging through the archives shows the 10-year search for an appropriate location immediately turned towards the cooler climes between Sydney and Melbourne in the early 1900s, based on the assumption that a bracing winter would produce a more intelligent, hardier breed of human to run the burgeoning nation.

But it wasn't just the climate that saw Canberra emerge as a frontrunner. Almost by divine fate, the day-to-day weather proved itself to the site seekers, as visits to other potentials threw up extremes of heat (Albury), rain (muddy Mahkoolma), or Siberian-like ice (Dalgety). Canberra, on the other hand, produced bracing cold, and clear, crisp skies.

Come 1913, Australia's new capital had already had its weather tested a number of times. And, over the 100 years that would follow, the skies above Canberra have provided not just a favourite topic of conversation for nearly 36,700 days, but also a defining sense of identity for the territory and its surrounds.

Compared to Australia's other capital cities, Canberra is unique. It has the fewest average rain days each year and is the country's third-sunniest capital, but also freezes through an average of 99 frosts and 44 fog days each year. In summer it's much hotter than its big neighbours to the north and south, and in winter it's significantly cooler. Sometimes it even snows.

According to senior climate scientist Blair Trewin with the Bureau of Meteorology, it's not the skies but the land that makes Canberra's weather the way it is.

''The thing which makes Canberra distinctive among the major Australia cities are (a) it's inland, and (b) it's at quite high elevation, at least by Australian standards,'' he says.

''That has a pretty strong influence on the fact that Canberra does get cold in winter compared to the other major Australian cities, which also opens things up for phenomena such as the very occasional snowfall and that sort of thing.''

For many recent residents of the city, significant snow in the city feels like an almost mythical event. The last big dump was in May 2000, creating a sensation at Bruce Stadium where the Canberra Raiders were taking on the Wests Tigers, and the commentators could barely see through the shroud of white. There were reports of people skiing on parts of Mount Stromlo, as a few centimetres were left on the ground in some suburbs of the city.

But hark back to the winters of 1949, or even 1929, when much of the city was still under construction, newspaper reports show multiple snowfalls in winter - no less than three in 1929, and two straight days of snow in 1949.

Then there is the old story of unseasonal snow making for a white Christmas Day in 1968. It was a few years before Trewin was born, but based on the available data, he says it appears unlikely.

''The best estimate is the snow level would have been about 1100 metres. There certainly would have been snow on top of the Brindabellas, but the question would have been whether there was enough and if it lasted long enough for it to be visible, because of course the summer sun is going to melt it off quite quickly,'' he says.

Trewin says the story itself is a good reminder of the variability of Australia's weather, particularly in the south-east corner where Canberra lies, nestled up relatively high.

''We think of Australia as being a hot country, but because we've got the Southern Ocean quite close to us … that means we've got a source of cold air pretty close to us even in summer, and what that means is that relatively low-elevation summer snowfalls are much more common in south-eastern Australian than they are at comparable latitudes in most parts of the northern hemisphere,'' he says.

That doesn't mean Canberra escapes the summer heat, nor does it evade the dangers of storms, floods, and fire that often accompany the warmer months. ''Although the elevation takes the edge of the highest extremes, you can get very long runs of hot days in Canberra. You can get runs of 10 or more days in a row over 30 in Canberra, whereas that's pretty rare in any of the coastal cities, except for Darwin,'' Trewin says.

''When the drought was at its peak that really focused people's interests, just because of water restrictions and the fact that so many people in Canberra do have gardens and take strong interest in that.''

Trewin points to the drought of 1982-83 as one of the most severe, despite it being relatively short compared to the dry times of more recent years.

With about 300 millimetres of rain, and an average maximum temperature of 21.4 degrees, it was, at the time, Canberra's warmest and driest year on record.

Across the nation an estimated $3 billion was lost to the impact of the drought, and El Nino became a household term.

From extreme dry to extreme wet, the city has also seen a number of floods - some of the pre-lake deluges, as in 1925 and 1959, filled the flood plain beyond what are now the walls of Lake Burley Griffin. Then there was the devastating flash flood in Woden in 1971, in which seven people lost their lives.

But as a planned city, Trewin says Canberra is generally well prepared for the dangers that can accompany an influx of wet weather.

He points towards the recent flood conditions in February and March last year, which saw the under-construction new Cotter Dam wall overflow and small parts of Queanbeyan evacuated, but little in the way of devastation.

''Rainfall-wise, it was one of the most significant events recorded in the region, but as far as I know I don't think any properties were flooded in Canberra, and that's largely a product of planning policy over half a century and more,'' he says.

When it came to the horrific firestorm of January 2003, it was a different story. Four lives and 500 homes were lost. But from the ashes of disaster rose the strength of community spirit, and now the disaster is remembered as much for the inspirational stories of recovery as for the tragedy and loss.

As can be seen in Sunday Canberra Times editor Scott Hannaford's award-winning Faces of the Fire 10-year anniversary project, it was a defining moment for the city's identity, internally and in the eyes of the nation.

For local meteorologist Sean Carson, Canberra's story is one of the seasons. He believes its ''true'' citizens embrace the city's extremes, from summer's heat to winter's bite.

''There's nothing better than being outside, I think … on a cold winter's day when it's 9, 10 degrees, there's snow on the hills, it's windy with some light showers coming across Canberra,'' he says.

''I think a lot of people in Canberra like the seasons. I know when I get to the end of every winter I'm looking forward to summer, and by the time I get to every summer I'm looking forward to winter again … Imagine forecasting Darwin, for instance. What do meteorologists do up there for eight months of the year when there's no wet season?''

Carson says his childhood in Canberra is probably one of the biggest reasons he became a meteorologist - something he had wanted to do since he was just seven years old.

''We've always got something that's pretty unique to Canberra's environment. Growing up here in Canberra, I think there was no fluke that I got really interested in the weather, because it is so variable across the seasons.

''You see the snow on the hill from the city, you feel that heat in summer,'' he says.

''I think it's fantastic to watch. There's never really a quiet season here, that's for sure, when it comes to being a meteorologist.''

After 16 years with the bureau, Carson says the thirst for weather information, on both a local and a national scale, is only getting stronger, and with advances in technology, forecasts are able to look further ahead at a broader array of variables.

''As our forecasts are becoming more and more reliable, more and more reputable, people are starting to see the value there, and if you're not going to use the weather in your industry or your planning or your projects, you're costing yourself money, really,'' he says.

But he concedes his Canberra-built core remains - Carson is a weatherman, through and through, and hopes he'll always have an eye on the skies over the place that ignited his passion in the first place, a city and a community built on the back of its weather and climate.

''I never want to lose that, that's for sure, otherwise I'd lose sight of why I joined the bureau,'' he says.