Wednesday, December 2, 2009

January the Coldest Month?



I was sure that December was the coldest month. It is the darkest because of the Winter Solstice falling this year on the morning of December 21st. But when I went to Google and confirm my facts before posting I found the following information: January is the coldest month...Because water retains heat. Between 70 percent and 75 percent of the Earth's surface is covered in oceans, rivers, and lakes. (There's even more water vaporized in the air or stored in the ground.) During seasons of longer days and more sunlight, these geographical features are able to store up and retain heat over long periods of time, before emitting it as the days get shorter. A body of water is far more effective as a space heater than, say, a big field of rocks: The water holds on to five times as much heat per gram.

Since I have lived in the mountains of northern New Mexico my feelings run counter to this information. In my memory we often get about ten days every January where night temperatures hang around zero farenheit and below. Once it was coupled with ten days of no sunshine and people depending upon solar or passive solar heating almost froze. It seems to me that it is seldom that cold in January. But then there are no large bodies of water around here. And the condensation rising from the cooling oceans generates clouds that climb to the top of our mountains and become snow. So I think for the inner mountain west they are wrong.

Who is they? Weather forecasters (isn't that an oxymoron?) Just before the Utah winter Olympics the government put forth big bucks to study mountain effect weather. The end conclusion of this two year study is you cannot predict mountain weather. Duh? Saturday and Sunday of this last week we were warned of 6 to 10 inches around 7500 feet and more above that. We got a dusting. The front hitting the mountains took a dive south. Now we are facing our first Canadian cold front. They are pretty reliable with or without snow.

For the next three days we are not even expected to be above 20 F as a high. I am currently ignoring lows as it is four degrees at the moment! And the Canadian express has not arrived. But it is around this time every year it makes its appearance. And we seriously crank up the heat. Especially since it generally sucks up moisture from the gulf of Baja and we miss the solar warming of the sun. January generally brings a thaw and we have a couple of weeks of sunny weather. If you are out of the breeze like on my studio porch you can almost sunbathe.

I think I might look up all the climatic data for December and January in the mountains right after it warms up just a hair. I would rather not know January is going to be colder until I am through December. Call me chicken.

1 comment:

  1. I dare say that wether as we knew it and remember it from our childhood will change drastically over the next few decades.
    I remember when we lived in Greece during my childhood, January was indeed the coldest month, but for a few days in the second half of January there were a few warmer days that were observed to occur regularly since ancient times. Tehy were called Halcyon Days and are connected with the legend of Halcyone who was turned into a kingfisher, see:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halcyon_days

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