My awareness of microclimates – ways weather conditions in small spots differed from the wider scene – came early one spring when I was dwelling in an orchard in Washington state. There were critical hours once the trees began blossoming when a frost could devastate a year’s crop. Cherries were particularly susceptible, but the apricots, peaches, pears, plums, and apples were also at risk. Remember, a whole year’s income could be wiped out in a few hours.
Frost-fighting measures, such as smogging pots, propane heating lines, airplane propellers pulling the slightly warmer air aloft down into the groves, or spraying the trees with water to form a protective ice coating around the blooms, were all costly. Essentially, it was a gamble. The orcharists relied on alarms sent out on special radio frequencies, usually in the wee hours, before taking action. Sometimes three feet of elevation made the difference in whether to act or simply ride it out – or, in the other direction, whether any action would be futile.
Years later, in New Hampshire, I encountered something similar, where a band somewhere between Manchester and the seacoast could vary by ten degrees within a mile or five. It could mean setting out in shorts and being uncomfortably cold on arrival. Or setting out in long pants and sleeves only to be sweating.
Once, in Dover, I saw an 11-degree drop – plus a cloud bank – between one side of the bridge into Newington and the other. Another time, I left for work in 39-degree favorable conditions only to encounter freezing rain and a hill that took a half-hour to go down midway to the office.
Now that I’m living on an island in Maine, I hear a common saying that our temperature is typically ten degrees cooler in summer and ten warmer in winter than it is even at U.S. 1 on the other side of the causeway, just seven miles away.
The differences were even more dramatic one morning when I checked last month. Our reading was plus 4, but inland had minus 8, on one ridge an hour’s drive away, or minus 14 at a lake a few miles away. Close by us but inland only 15 to 20 miles away were readings of minus 12 and minus 15.
A few days later, we had a minus 3, but Calais, 25 miles north and on a tidal river, was minus 25!
Do you experience anything similar where you live?
Add or subtract 22 degrees from 70 to get an idea of how much the impact can be. I mean, the 90s are usually miserable while the 50s mean keep the furnace running and maybe the car windows rolled up. Unless you’re a native New Englander. (I’m not.)
Well, it is Groundhog Day, which is really the end of Solar Winter, by one calendar, or the halfway point of Calendar Winter, another. Either way, we’re entering a stage when things warm up a tad but can produce some horrendous snowfall in my part of the universe.
Once again, I’m ever so glad I’m no longer having to commute to an office, day or night.