Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Climate Change

As in “a change from the furious thunder and hail and heat in Colorado Springs.” Notes on the late summer weather in Monte Vista.

My wife and I moved into Big Pink in Monte Vista on 13 July, presumably the hottest part of the year. And it does get hot during the day, when the sun is out and pounding away at our southern exposure. My office window, beneath which I’ve parked my desk, faces south, so I work the sun-blocking curtains during the day. I’ve had to use the fan a few nights to cool it off. It’s never gotten terribly hot in my office, just enough to be uncomfortable. I remind myself that this southern exposure is going to be tremendous advantage in the weeks to come.

For no matter how warm it gets in the day—never more than the high 80s F (31 C), but that’s more than enough if you work out in the sun like most do here—it cools off at night. Oh, boy, does it ever. It’s not unheard of to go down into the 40s F. As we reach the end of August, that’s becoming more and more common.

Mid-afternoon on the 23rd of August, I’m closing my windows and putting on a sweater.
Looking south across the San Luis/Rio Grande RR tracks, a little over one-half mile east of my house.

The clouds that begin piling up so ominously in the southeast sometimes spread out over our lower middle part of the valley. The wind driven by the virga (rain evaporating before it hits the ground) will easily drop the temperature ten degrees. Sometimes it might actually rain. Most times it doesn’t.

Sometimes the sun comes back out and warms things up again. That didn’t happen yesterday.  I wore a long-sleeved pullover and my leather jacket when I went out to eat with my wife yesterday evening. In August. It was just about enough.

Autumn comes early to the high country; it’s not unusual to see leaves begin to change even in Colorado Springs by the middle of August. Here in lower central San Luis Valley, the yellowing foliage is only evident on a pin oak in our neighbor’s yard. At night, though, I’ve stepped outside in late July and could feel that autumnal chill in the air. 

This is not to be mistaken for a cooler-than-usual summer breeze. You feel it in the still, damp night air, that gently stabbing quality that separates a refreshing coolness from shiver-inducing chill. Autumnal. Even when temperatures are in the low 60s F, the night air reminds you that it’s cold more than days than it isn’t.

For now, the clouds still build in the southwest. A quirk in the local geography diverts the storms from unleashing their full fury upon us. The few times it has rained in Monte Vista, it’s fallen slow and easy, and for no longer than ten or fifteen minutes at a time. The restraint is eerie.

My wife has already called the furnace guy to make sure Big Pink is ready for freezes to come. It’s not yet Labor Day Weekend, but I have a feeling they’ll be here sooner than later.
The view from my porch just before sunset. I’m getting in all the time I can out here before the weather drives us inside for the next six months or so.