“I’ve Looked at Clouds that Way”

August 3, 2009

clouds 3

… quoth Joni Mitchel.  But to be honest I’m not often inspired to stare up at the clouds, let alone take pictures of them.  I usually don’t think much about the sky one way or another.  An inveterate sun-shunner such as myself is usually scanning for the nearest tree cover or else obsessing about the SPF rating on their sunscreen rather than observing the heavens.  But lately I’ve been finding my eyes turned upwards more often than usual to marvel at the astonishingly beautiful clouds up there.  Its been a week and a half of truly stunning days.  I don’t know the meteorological terminology but they are individual clouds, separated by splashes of blue and each one has its own MO, one will menace you with a dark underbelly and scatter big rain drops while the next one over is cheerily white and puffy. 

I’m wondering if so many days of this same type of cloud is indicative of some peculiar weather phenomenon or just a coincidence.  I’m inclined to think its the former as its also been correlated with an unexpectedly (and from my point of view delightfully) cool summer thus far.

Its not just a Midwestern thing either.  I visited Boston for a few days in June for an ad hoc reunion of college friends and found the eastern seaboard collectively mourning week three of dim gray days and lots and lots of rain (spiked with high humidity to keep people grousing).  My friends in the city (and the whole rest of the population, so far as I could tell) were downcast at the continued lack of warmth and sunshine.  I didn’t really mind but sympathized with their desire for classic summer weather.  Then last week my sister went out to Seattle to see family and called me in shock as she started packing to say that she’d checked the weather and it was mid 90s in the Pacific Northwest.  When she got out there the city of Seattle did indeed spike past 100 F.  We seem to be living in upside down world!

According to a recent New York Times article on the subject last Friday,

“this summer has been conspicuously different in New York City. Not one 99-degree day in Central Park. Not a single day that the temperature even approached 90. For just the second time in 140 years of record keeping, the temperature failed to reach 90 in either June or July.

“The daily average last month was at or below normal every day but two. The temperature broke 80 on 16 days in New York — one more day than in Fairbanks, Alaska. Depending on Friday’s high, this was the second or third coolest June and July recorded in New York. If August follows the same pattern — and the latest forecast through midmonth predicts that it will — this could be the coolest summer on record.”

We shouldn’t consider this to be particularly good news overall and it does nothing to dispute Global Warming.  The warming part of GW is actually a misnomer and it would be more accurate of the science media to talk about it as Global Temperature Shift.  (I guess it doesn’t sound as catchy.)  In any case, the NYT continues,

“Scientists believe the shift is connected with the temperature of the oceans and their pattern of heating and cooling the atmosphere but, Mr. Gadomski said, “our understanding of how a persistent pattern locks in isn’t very good.”

Meanwhile though I’m really enjoying the fact that I’m not even tempted to touch my AC this summer.  And … of course the clouds.  Here are a couple more snaps if you’re looking for a soothing view.

clouds 2

clouds 1

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