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Weather Almanac for September 2001
THE HIDDEN SEASON OF SEPTEMBER
"It seems that, for most Americans living north of the Florida state line, summer is more a matter of decrees, sartorial or Federal, than degrees centigrade or Fahrenheit: Memorial Day marks its official opening, Labor Day its closing."
Kimble's words ring as true today as when he wrote them nearly a half century ago. And now, Labour Day has passed and we are told by those conventions that summer is over. Perhaps even more so since now most schools, colleges and universities have begun fall terms by the second week in September. (Prior to the late 1960s, many non-urban schools, particularly colleges and universities, deferred opening classes until after harvest was complete.)
Early September only reluctantly relinquishes its grip on summer weather, and its days of heat and humidity often bring grumbles to students now shut indoors. The warmest water off all North American coasts generally occurs in September, so here on the Pacific Coast, we often enjoy many of the seasons best days during this month: pleasantly hot days with cool, dry nights and low likelihood of rain. The North Pacific High, which gives us this pleasant weather, attains its northern-most mean position by early month, around 39oN latitude, (alas, the great pressure cell has already begun to decay as Gulf of Alaska lows erode its northern rim). Off the Atlantic Coast, the Bermuda High slouches a little southward, its energy slowly waning. At times, this high cell gives way to tropical storms barging up the coast.
The early September storm track along the Polar Front typically lies across central Canada prohibiting energetic storm systems from worrying most of southern Canada and the US. Only tropical storms along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts raise concern.
For many reasons, September brings a hidden, bonus season to most North Americans, a season of many virtues and few vices. Here are a few generalizations about the climate of September across the continent:
Not only is the weather generally quiet during the month, but life in September has a certain sense of satisfied calmness about it. The kids are in school, most adults have taken their vacations, and cottage country and parks are left to those of us living on a different plan. Outdoors only farmers, bees and squirrels seem overly active as they push to harvest the summer's bounty. Even the vegetation, heavy with fruit and spent from a summer of growth, appears relaxed.
I find the subtleties of September weather most sensual: Mornings bejeweled with dew drops and, at times, first frost. Other September mornings dawn with fog patches hiding hollows and depressions in the terrain, sometimes bringing the first smell of wood smoke on the air. The soft murmur of leaves and branches caught in a gentle breeze. The warmth of the solar rays turned down from its broil of high summer. Warm evenings slipping into cool nights ideal for sleep. The first feel of fall in the air as September brings sweaters and lined jackets out of the closet. The howl of chilling winds rattling the window blinds reminding us of the future.
"September is a floating month on the meteorological calendar," David Ludlum said, "moving back and forth from summer into autumn, and autumn into summer." And thus September can give us both the heat of August and the chilling cold of late October.
Just passed mid-month, the Autumnal Equinox relinquishes the day to the quickening dominance of the night. And thus, September eventually surrenders Summer to the agents of Autumn and Winter across much of North America. First frost will soon raid southward, driven by arctic winds or pouncing on a clear, still night. Snows will whiten the Northern Prairies and cross the border into Wyoming and Montana, sugarcoating mountain summits as far south as Colorado and at times dusting the Great Lakes and St Lawrence Valley countryside.
In some years, Jack Frost has already come to town when September closes and with his deadly touch ends this hidden season. In many others, the calendar slides into October before we feel its finale. In either case, Jack's visit prepares us for the encore of Indian Summer.
September's hidden season provides many fine sensual experiences while keeping the essence of summer close at hand. For the great inner half of the continent, September is a month to be savoured like a fine vintage wine, not swallowed as a bitter pill. I call it the hidden season because as Kimble has said, the artifice of convention and calendar overrides our appreciation of natural rhythms and cycles and hides the denouement of Summer for busy lives.
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