July 7, 2004

Planting season is barely over, but this year's weather has already produced a bumper crop of grumbles. The popular consensus is that we had a cold and snowy winter which was followed by a cool and wet spring. Even as the calendar passes through the Fourth of July, people still wonder if summer is here yet.

I have to agree with the spirit of the grumblers, for there are plausible arguments that the weather has been something short of inspirational. On the other hand the winter which was so horrendously gray and oppressive left me unscathed; I was inconvenienced on a number of occasions and challenged on a few more, but there were no moments of great anxiety. I am not complaining loudly.

Yes spring seemed late, but the benchmark dates such as the blossoming of trees was pretty much on time. The first cutting of hay was fairly timely too, although I didn't see any that was able to cure properly until last week. We must remain grateful for the bottom line though; At some point in late April or early May we stopped scraping our windshields, and snow stopped falling to the ground.

Statistically, the month of June is supposed to have the best weather, but the first half of the month was a real clunker. For most of the time there was a stationary front that stretched from Maine to Utah, crossing overhead western New York. The weather blew hot and moist, cool and damp, and back again with no predictability. Life beneath a stationary front is predictably unpredictable.

The front didn't go away, but at least it went somewhere else. It slid south and has been providing Dixie with some good ol' fashioned heat and humidity. It has acted as a barrier which insulated us from the heat, allowing cooler air to remain overhead. We have had many good days and some days which have been really excellent.

I try not to complain about the heat because I know that winter will come again. Sometimes though, it is difficult for me to be tolerant when perspiration turns my neck-tie into something of a misplaced sweat band. I know that there will be evenings which are stifling hot on the ground and the cooler air at altitude will still be ninety degrees. With apologies to the folks trying to grow corn and tomatoes, I will state that the last two weeks have been quite comfortable.

I cruised through snow en route to Newark on the first of June and thought it quite a novelty. A measure of the recent cool spell is that I flew through a genuine snowstorm on the last day of June. At nine thousand feet, from Penn Yan to Owego, I was in snow that was as heavy as any winter night. Snow streaked towards the "headlights" in the front of the wings and the each flash of the wingtip strobes froze a galaxy of snowflakes against the inky black of night.

Snow was plastered against the front edges of the wing and everywhere else. Sometimes snow can make the plane glow purple with static electricity, but on this particular evening it chose to drive the radios crazy. Both of them erupted into a steady hash noise, and the same thing happened to the plane that went through a half hour earlier.

It was twenty nine degrees outside the plane, but an hour later as I descended into Newark the familiar smell and feel of warm humid air filled the cabin as I neared the ground. It was an interesting contrast between different places and different altitudes, but even the warmer air was cool for the season.

Remember, the weather is good on any day that there is no snowfall, and consistently cool weather keeps the weather channel from running their infomercials about global warming.

Anytime that I see snow in June, I consider it to be a rare event, This snowstorm 8000 feet above my back yard was special because it was so heavy, and because it was just an hour and a half short of being a July snowstorm.

I took a dozen pictures of the snow outside, and this is about the best that can be obtained with a small camera. It shows the snow "rushing towards" the bright lights in the wing, and also shows the individual snowflakes frozen by the strobe lights in the blackness beyond the wingtip.

This picture is also attached to a related story, Hurtling, written in November 2002.
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