Thursday, February 11, 2021

There’s something about the weather….

There’s something about the weather, particularly when it comes to hydrology, that creates an almost eye-rolling cycle of stories. If it’s not too dry, it’s too wet. With a changing climate, the normal also changes — for instance, while reporting a story on pollution running into Lake Champlain, I heard from officials on both sides of the lake that they’re seeing more rain and storms so intense they’re called “rain bombs,” a recipe for uncontrolled flashes of water that sweep pollution into the lake from fields and streets.

Some people notice all this. Others do not.

Two years ago, while I was reporter in the Southwest and had spent a few years covering a major drought, we had what seemed like an awfully rainy and cold winter for that part of the world. A few people I talked to regularly said, Oh yeah, this is strange weather for here. So, I called the National Weather Service and asked, Ain’t it awfully rainy and cold? Not really, the local meteorologist replied, it was only the 55th coldest stretch on record.

Such is the nature of human perception: We forget what happened or remember things that didn’t.

Through the end of January, there were abnormally dry and even moderate drought conditions in the Adirondacks, according to the most recent report from the U.S. Drought Monitor last week. There’s still a heck of a lot of water here compared to the southwest, but the relative dryness showed up a few times during my reporting: In July, because of a dry spell that had begun with last year’s mild winter, the Town of Long Lake told residents to stop washing their cars and watering their lawns to conserve water (that restriction has since been lifted). In late September, just before a good rain, I visited the Boquet River and saw worries that continued low flows could hurt the return of salmon (a few days later, after a rain, more salmon returned).

A big snow, of course, can change the regional picture and end the dry spell.

If it seems paradoxical to worry about more intense storms while also dealing with stretches of dryness, it’s not: If you average seven beers a week but have them all on Monday night, that’s different than having one beer each night.

But then we can start into another cycle of woe. We might go from drought to flood, if the snow melts too fast or a rain comes too hard.

With weather and water — it’s one thing to worry about and hope for after another.

Almanack archive photo

Editor’s note: This first appeared in Ry’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Ry is a reporter who covered water-quality issues for the Explorer.

6 Responses

  1. Bill Ott says:

    The photo above shows a house plowed in. The photo linked below is even more beautiful.


  2. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “Such is the nature of human perception: We forget what happened or remember things that didn’t.”

    This is the norm. Is why journaling is good as you can always rely on them for data. Through my journals I have learned that there are cycles year to year, but which aren’t always exact. A thing I have been noticing the past six months or so is early morning temperatures. It used to be that this time of the year you could always rely on the temperature to drop as sunrise nears, the mercury going down continuously until the final drop as the sun comes up over the horizon. This isn’t so anymore… generally.

    I have a digital thermometer which I have found very reliable. I’ve been discovering the lows at 2 or 3 in the morning, sometimes earlier, then the thermometer starts climbing as the hours advance. Oftentimes the temperature goes up and down between 2 and sunrise, but what is the norm for the longest time is the temperature climbs continually as daylight nears. Has anybody else noticed this? I have heard nothing similar from anyone else on this. My guess is that this phenomena is tied to global warming.

  3. Boreas says:


    I am NOT a morning person, so I can’t vouch for your observations. But what you are describing may be one of the predicted warming consequences for our area – increased precipitation and HUMIDITY. The more humidity, the more heat energy it contains. This is why desert temperatures fluctuate 60 degrees in a day while the tropics remain hot and humid all night long. You may want to start tracking morning relative humidity.

    I am becoming increasingly intolerant of the summer heat – even though the temps have not been particularly high. I blame much of it on age, medications, and HUMIDITY.

  4. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Since I can remember it’s always been…as daylight nears the temperature drops. With great consistency this is the way it has been. No more!
    Humidity? That’s means I’d have to go out and by a whole new contraption. It’s always been temperature readings ‘only’ for me.

    Intolerant of heat? Don’t move to Florida, or anywhere south of the Dixie line, or south of New Jersey. I’ll take cold over heat meself.