Equinoctial Storms

I’d already planned to be off the bike today because of the projected weather.  For the second time in about ten days, a strong squall line was supposed to blow through with a cold front behind it.  Sure enough, the morning started dark and cloudy; the streets were wet from overnight showers; the air was a super-humid 72˚; the wind was gusty.  Showers came and went during the morning.  Local terrorist weather came along later with a tornado watch before noon, a flash flood watch second, and a heavy thunderstorm watch about 2 p. m.  The online Doppler radar showed a long, narrow area of intense storminess moving northeastward, as the whole storm slowly drifted to the east.  By 2:45 there was a heavy thunderstorm warning until 3:15.  Shortly afterwards the sky opened up for about 20 minutes, during which time you could barely see across the street.  Nary a flash of lightning nor a rumble of thunder to be heard.  Now it’s raining just moderately, it’s dark again, and the watch has extended to 4:15.  The temperature has “tumbled” by eight degrees, and it has rained 0.7” today.  Tomorrow is supposed to be dry, sunny, and bright, with the high temperature possibly touching 75˚.

When this scenario first occurred a week ago Saturday, the atmosphere was juicier, so the results were more dramatic.  The pre-storm air was in the low 90s.  I had ridden in the morning, and was at the end of my rope with the humid air, which created the impression that one was underwater and could drown just by breathing.  I confess it was not truly Caribbean in its stifling heaviness, but it was more than I wanted to deal with any more.  As that frontal system blasted through, the temperature plummeted over thirty degrees into the upper 50s, a few branches came down in the wind, along with two barrels of pinecones from the neighbor’s trees, and a few distant rumbles of thunder might have been heard.  Rainfall was about 1”.

But on the next day, and every day since, the temperature has been moderate, the air has been dry.  This is the time of great, dynamic change in our days.  Low overnight temperatures are in the 50s, not the low 70s.  The Autumnal Equinox, coming up in four days on September 22, ushers in more darkness, when daylight hours are theoretically shorter than nighttime.  Actually, though, because of the refraction of the sun’s rays in the atmosphere, September 26 is the first day on which there are fewer than twelve hours between sunrise and sunset.  And the rate of change in day length is maximum right now, because that length, when plotted out over time, is like a sine curve, steepest at the equinoxes and flattest at the solstices.  During September the amount of time lost per day has been pushing up from 2 minutes 25 seconds to 2 minutes 30 seconds, where it’s been since September 16.  After October 2 the rate will again start to decline.

As a cyclist, I love it, especially when summer ends as definitively as it did on September 8.  My concern suddenly shifts from worrying about how early I’ll have to start to get my ride in before it gets too hot, to when it will be warm enough to get out there.  I can launch into a ride without thinking about having to cut it short from the heat, and there’s far less chance of unexpected dehydration.  I don’t lose visual clarity from sweat coursing down over my glasses.  I have more strength because my body doesn’t have to work so hard to keep my core from overheating.  It’s all just more fun!

I ride with full appreciation of how good autumn is and how good things don’t last forever.  Soon enough it will be too dark, too cold.  So I’ll live for the moment, and enjoy what’s here right now.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2012

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