Like many others, I followed the story of the boys’ soccer team trapped in a cave in Thailand with rapt attention. It felt crazy to think they went for short walk into the cave to explore for what they thought would be an hour, and it turned into a 2-week long entrapment that transfixed the world. Fortunately for them, the story ended with a dramatic rescue in which all the boys got out safely.
Of course, their urgency in rescuing was forced by weather — the monsoonal rains that come each summer for 2-3 months lasting until October. Like Thailand, Colorado also gets its own monsoon. Typically in July and August, moisture is drawn up from the Gulf of Mexico resulting in rain and thunderstorms along the Front Range.
This phenomenon forces climbers and hikers to plan their summer adventures around them, since the heat of the day is what produces these afternoon storms. Thus, the old saying of making sure you should summit no later than noon.
But a disturbing trend is starting to develop. The last two summers, our monsoon has gone missing. Instead of drenching rains in the afternoon, we instead are getting hot, dry weather with not a drop of rain in sight. We’re already 2/3 of the way through July with very little precipitation. Even when the Weather Service has forecast rain, like last Friday, nothing falls from the sky.
The result of the hot weather with no rain is about what you’d think. As I walk our property in Nederland, sticks are snapping and pine needles crunch beneath my feet. The soil is cracked due to lack of moisture. A neighbor down the street tried to burn out an ant pile, and ended up starting a small fire a few weeks ago. Fortunately, other neighbors nearby were able to assist in snuffing out the fire quickly.
All this dry weather puts me on edge. As I drove down Boulder Canyon yesterday, I spotted a fire truck with its lights flashing. Immediately, I glanced up in the sky — were there smoke somewhere?
Some might blame the lack of monsoonal rains on climate change. But this is one of those occasions where theory and actuality don’t agree. Just recently, I heard an interview with a scientist about climate change and the monsoon. According to him, climate change should produce more monsoonal precipitation– a result of warming ocean waters producing more extreme moisture. And yet day after day, the parched conditions endure.
All this dry weather not only puts me on edge, but makes for poor sleeping as well. Living in a place with no air conditioning means hot nights. Last night as I went to bed at 11 p.m., the temperature was a balmy 65 degrees. Used to more typical lows in the 40s and 50s, I tossed and turned all night. The hot temperatures have even forced a change in bedrooms. Our master bedroom is upstairs where all the hot air rises, while our guest bedroom is on the eastern side of the house downstairs, which is much cooler. Until our rains and cooler weather return, we’ve resigned ourselves to the guest bedroom.
Though past history and the calendar says we should get rain and cooler temperatures, the reality doesn’t reflect that.
Just goes to show that the old saying about weather and climate are true — “Climate’s what you expect, weather’s what you get.”