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Wednesday, 24 June 2009

So when is summer exactly?

Summer for me was always pretty clear - it was that really stinking hot, humid time around Christmas and beyond in which we lay in our beds at night with the fans blowing gales and our bodies flushed with heat.

Then I moved to the Costa Rican Pacific coast where for the first couple of months the thermometer in the local open-air restaurant at Tiskita Jungle Lodge read 27°C no matter what time of day it was, day in and day out. A couple of months later we had a bitterly cold spell in which all the locals were irritable and grumpy because of the cold. It was 25°C / 77°F. I kid you not! So there the seasons were either Summer (approx Jan - July) and Winter (Aug - Dec). Otherwise known as the wet and very wet season. But I must admit that over the years it came to annoy me intensely (irrationally so) when people would assume that because Costa Rica is in the northern hemisphere (only just) that Christmas time must be Winter and that July is mid-summer. by definition, the tropics cannot have the four temperate seasons.

Anyhow, so having lived in the southern hemisphere, I always knew of midsummer and midwinter to be coloquial terms for the two soltices (about 21 June and December). It seems that things here in continental Europe are a little different. There is evidently a much greater temperature lag here so that the warm period is a lot longer after the solar peak than in the southern hemisphere. Consequently, the soltice is often thought of as the first day of the summer or winter.

Yes, all this season classification stuff is rather complicated. And it is never without conscious thought that I am able to say whether December is warm or cold. or wet or very wet. or white. or good for birds. or great for migrants. or breeding time. or not. I'm all confused.

But it seems like whatever way I look at it, we in the Alps should be in summer. Certainly the days are long enough. 10pm and it is still lightish out. Bizarre.

But then again, it really should not be snowing outside!
The peaks are all beautifully sugar sprinkled and there are photos in the local paper of people building great big snowmen in Nordpark, just above Innsbruck.

Snowman in midsummer. photo by VOL_Live/Dominik Heinzle

The great news is that Stubaier Glacier has just gotten 35cm of snow! and more likely to fall over the next few days. This is great news for our fast disappearing glaciers - the spectacular wonders of nature soon destined [?] to be the fillers of boring high school textbooks and tragic fairy tales.

7 comments:

Chris said...

Hi Dale,
yeah climate is not really fair to all, isnt' it?
I guess it is alos changing in the world quickly.
Here in Iceland, you do not feel that much of differences between season except for the light. Winter temperature are around 0-5°C, but can go down to -20°C some nights, and the summer is around 15-17°C. The bad thing is that whatever the seasons are, you can get rian, sunshine and wind storms in an hour and this is very common!!

Dale Forbes said...

Chris, I would love to experience 24hr days - some of your recent photos have been stunning!

gwendolen said...

Snow in summer? *sob

Anu said...

wish i could see the snowfall... always wanted to see it.... but have never yet been able to... reading all those books in childhood about a white christmas, and living in a place where in wnter meant the temperature falling to maybe 20degrees celsius for a few hours... i used o dream of living in a place where there would be snow... havent got lucky yet...

on a more serious note, the weather seems to be really irrational these days, just about everywhere.....here in india, we are looking at drought if the rains dont come on in full force.... god forbid!!!

Flowergirl said...

Snow.. something really I wanted to feel .. but never have got a chance, wish I could some day ...

It's summer monsoon here in India, looking at the clouds to shower a little but only in vain.. as Anu has it is really dry in so many places ..

Gaelyn said...

So is it winter or summer there?

I have visitors constantly asking me, "is this normal weather?"
What is "normal" about weather anywhere in the world? Is it time for the global wakeup call? We have to adapt to the changes.

To fix a date for seasonal change is just human BS anyway.

So is that your snowman?

Dale Forbes said...

Hi Flowergirl and Anu, I grew up in south africa and had never really played in snow before coming here. now I get to play for many many months a year in lots and lots of deep snow.
I hope you are blessed with rains like we have been blessed with deep snows this year.

but then again, one never knows what the weather will bring, as Gaelyn said. its all kooky.