Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Whither weather?

Gardeners and farmers love to complain about the weather. Weather is a constant in our lives, even as soil is. By our lights, Mother Nature never quite manages to get it just right. It is too hot. It is too dry. It is too cold or too wet. But Mother Nature would say to us that the weather is always just right. It is always exactly what it must be in response to the natural processes of the planet.

I've been thinking about weather quite a lot lately, because we've had an unusual summer of weather. While much of the Northeast and corresponding latitudes around the earth have been suffering from triple digit temperatures, we here in Southeast Texas have had a relatively mild summer with occasional rains. This is a stark contrast to what we experienced last summer with very high temperatures and drought that burned our plants and increased our water bills. Indeed, that is the usual pattern for our summers and so this spell of temperate weather has been a pleasant interlude. We should enjoy it while it continues for I fear it won't last much longer.

Weather is such an interesting topic, one that people never tire of talking about, and the most interesting thing about it for me is what generates our weather. Why do the rains fall and the thunder rattle our rafters? Why do the winds blow? Conversely, why does rain not fall for weeks on end at times?

Of course, there are complicated answers to those questions having to do with temperatures of the oceans and with air pressure and topography and the water cycle and many other things which I understand only sketchily. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is our agency that tracks and reports on such things. As well as weather, they track the larger, longer patterns that comprise climate and they just issued their latest report on that subject this week.

But climate is not weather. Weather is the short-term conditions that we experience and complain of, while climate is weather writ large. Climate is the sum total of conditions over decades, centuries, or millennia. Climate, though, may affect weather, and global climate change can have an impact on our daily lives, as NOAA points out, in longer growing seasons, increases in heavy downpours, earlier snowmelt, increased flooding, even in colder winters in some areas.

There are so many things that affect weather, though. There are well-known phenomena like El Nino/La Nina, the currents in the ocean, the humidity and temperature of the troposphere - it hurts my head just to think about it.

And that's another thing. Every summer as it gets close to my August 9 birthday, I start having headaches. I refer to them as my summer headaches because I don't have them at any other time of the year. Now, maybe it's partly psychological because I just don't want to face getting another year older, but I think it's mostly environmental. There's something in the air at this time of year that hurts my head, even if the weather is pleasant. Ozone, maybe?

Anyway, headaches are a good excuse for staying inside and leaving the garden to find its own way at this time of year and I almost always do. "Finding its own way" means returning to the wilderness that it almost is anyway. It's a time of rest for the garden as well as me when I don't struggle to bend it to my will.

So, I sit inside in the cool with my iced tea and read my books and think about things. I pity those people in the Northeast and elsewhere who don't have air conditioning because they thought they would never need it. And I ponder the origins of our weather and what next week will bring us. We are almost at mid-summer now. That point will come around my birthday. Will our relatively pleasant summer weather continue to hold, or will we see a return to normalcy? Whichever way it goes, I suspect we will find something to complain about.

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