Sunday, January 6, 2008

Winter in the Northwest

I will continue Kristin's discussion about the differences between Washington and Missouri, focusing on winter. Winter here is not like a Midwest winter. First off, our professional football team is still playing in January!

A while back, I actually researched the lowest temperature ever recorded in Seattle’s history. It is….zero degrees. Everyone reading this in the northwest is saying, “Holy cow, that is COLD!” while all the Midwesterners will note that zero degrees won’t even cancel school in the Heartland. It’s all relative to what you grew up with.

For instance, I grew up in Seattle, so rain is just a fact of life. Just like I always wondered why you would pay extra for air conditioning in your car, I thought that all winters were cloudy and rainy (or snowy). When I lived in the Midwest, I understand why you would want A.C., and I saw that Midwest winters are not nearly as stormy. Sure, there was snow then, but it seemed relatively calm to me. What did bother me is when it was 15 degrees with no snow on the ground. That’s just cold for the sake of cold.

While Midwest winters are cold with a handful of snow or ice storms, Seattle experiences a constant barrage of Pacific storms from November to March. Each storm will blow moisture into the region, bringing snow to the mountains and rain to the lowlands. Since these storms are out of the southwest, it is rarely cold enough to snow in the lowlands. We get snow maybe three or four times a year, but it doesn’t last long. If you want snow, you’ll get plenty in the Cascades. Paradise at Mount Rainier and the Mount Baker Ski area go back and forth for "most snowfall in a single season" in the entire world!

But please don’t think that it rains all the time. For instance, right now, at 12:27 p.m. on Jan. 5, 2008, it is not raining…very hard. Granted, earlier it did rain, but then it turned to showers. The showers later turned to rain and the wind picked up. Then the rain stopped and the sun broke out. For those outside the Midwest, we actually have a name for this. A “sun break” is characterized by a break in the clouds that exposes the sun for a brief moment (see photo). Common reactions by locals include shielding one’s eyes, calling relatives to tell them to get outside quick, and searching for sun glasses that were lost or sat upon months ago. Sun breaks are typically followed by rain or showers. Right now, it is sprinkling.

But I digress. My point is that winter is different here. For me, winter is all about the light. In the summer, the sun doesn’t set until almost 10 p.m. The hills are green, the water blue. During winter, the leaves are gone, and the sun is low. The sun sets at 4:30 p.m. and rarely pokes through the clouds. Low clouds give a surreal appearance to the region. Lakes are grey slates, and the hills are nearly black in the shadows. This neutral background allows for subtle colors to take on new life. The rain and low light accentuates the texture of rocks on the beach. The green moss seems to jump out from the black bark of a fir tree. The rhythm of the rain and the rush of a stream are the soundtrack of winter. This experience is incredible to me and is something that only happens in winter.

I encourage you all to come visit us here during any season. Don’t be afraid of winter; we’ll loan you a rain jacket, because umbrellas are for tourists!

Go Seahawks!


Primo Bohanan said...

Bad weather is no reason to discount the North West for sure. I don't care if its sub-tropical, Missouri will always be a ghetto state to me (sorry Christen).
To Missouri's credit, they made a fine showing this year in NCAA Football, but considering this is their FIRST bowl win, I am not sure it is worth the points over the northwest (oh wait a minute how many Super Bowl appearances did the Sea Hawks have?).

Lisa said...

Thanks for the scientific explaination!! Only you Jon! Heres a fact... It rain's more in Portland than in Seattle!!

Spoon said...

First of all, Primo (nice name, by the way), my family doesn't claim the Missouri Tigers football team--we're Husker fans all the way.

But I digress. Before you diss on all of Missouri, let me remind you that you only lived in the "Missour-AH," Ozark part of the state, which I will admit certainly has some "ghetto" areas. Correct me if I'm wrong, though--aren't you from Jersey? Isn't that like the pot calling the kettle black?

Anonymous said...

Go Green Bay!!