Tuesday, September 6, 2011
The Best Time of Year Is Here
It’s been a summer of weather extremes in America: Droughts, heat waves, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes. We’ve even had extreme weather here, though since “here” is coastal California, our extreme weather is kind of boring.
Nevertheless, the numbers don’t lie. Since I started keeping daily temperature records in 1989 this is the coldest June-August period ever. Our average high temperature for these months is in the mid-70s. This year, for the first time in 22 years, the average high for June and August was under 70. Better than heat waves and hurricanes, but still sort of steadily yucky.
Still, I’m feeling pretty good, because starting today is what I consider to be the best time of year in Santa Cruz County — the stretch from Labor Day to Thanksgiving.
In our Mediterranean climate we get good weather and diverse weather during that period of nearly three months. Take the fog that has been hanging around like a sponging house guest all summer. California’s interior valleys begin cooling off this month. That means they’re not sucking in our marine air, which means less fog and typically clear, sunny days.
Right now it’s definitely summer. Overnight lows are in the 50s, and if the fog burns off by noon or earlier, high temperatures will hit the 70s or 80s, with a couple of days in the 90s even possible. By Thanksgiving it’s winter, regardless of what the calendar says. Mornings will be in the high 30s or low 40s, and the daily high should be in the low 60s or high 50s.
Getting there is half the fun. We cherish the summer days now because we know they’re ending, The seasonal transition is more pronounced than winter to spring, and we enjoy that as well. Leaves are beginning to turn, and that will hit its peak in mid to late October.
Most years we’ve gone three or four months without rain at this point, the ground is bone dry and the grass on the hills has turned brown. We can expect the first serious rain of the year in October and more in November — enough to turn the hills green by Thanksgiving.
The rain is fun those first two months because it’s a novelty and it rarely rains steadily for days at a time as it often does from December to March. The fresh smell after the first good rains have wet the earth and washed away the dust is a joy. And with those first rains and shorter days come the first fireplace fires of the season as we spend more time indoors.
It’s not just the weather that makes this such a good time of year. This is a tourist town, and after Labor Day, the locals get it back to some extent. The roads are a lot less congested on weekends, and there’s elbow room at the beaches and parks. The university is back in session, and downtown Santa Cruz has more of a college-town feel than a tourist-town feel.
With summer over, the pace of work typically picks up a bit, and so, with cooler air and sunnier days, do personal energy levels. It’s even the best time of year for sports, with football on weekends and the baseball playoffs and World Series.
I try to enjoy each day for itself and live in the moment as much as possible, all year long, but these three months are special. I’ve always figured that if I’m ever diagnosed with a terminal illness and still alive on Labor Day, I do believe I’ll make it to Thanksgiving.