Carl Wernicke: It's Hot.

Aug 4, 2015

I hate it when people say things like, everyone says … but everyone is saying how hot it is this summer. I thought maybe because I’m closing in on the senior discount at the movies, everyone I know is also getting old, and that accounts for it. But even younger people are complaining, so it must really be hot.

Or maybe it’s the humidity. That’s my latest theory. It’s not hotter, it’s just more humid than normal. I’ll get back to you on that if I ever do any actual research on the topic.

All I know is that in recent years strange things have been happening with the weather.  After our move to Garcon Point, 13 years ago this month, I did a lot of the heavy work in the woods during the winters. It wasn’t just the cool temps or lack of insects. Garcon Point is mostly swamp, and the winters were dry. I could cut my paths through the woods and mow along the driveway and do other work that is curtailed by high water.

But then the winters turned wet, leaving me unable to do the chores needed to hold back the jungle. And I noticed a strange pattern; it would be wet right up until the season flopped from winter to early summer, and then it would turn dry as a bone. We seemed to go from too much rain to not enough on either side of the first true warm front.

What I missed more than anything was what I had come to believe was normal Northwest Florida weather, with what today the forecasters call pop-up thunderstorms, those almost daily afternoon showers marked by short bursts of wind, lightning and heavy rain, followed by a quick return to clear skies and sunshine.

This year we seem to have returned to that pattern. We get brief, often violent, showers almost daily. That’s good, although it seems as if everything still dries up rapidly despite the rain. It’s hot, you know.

Of course, who knows what normal weather really is anymore. For California and the West, where drought conditions are scorching the earth, we’re hearing that it might actually be normal, that the West developed and boomed during an unusually wet period, and now a return to normal is desiccating the landscape.

While the earth measures things in millennia, we poor earthlings measure them by our own brief experience. Twenty years of anything is our historical norm, while 20 years to the earth isn’t a minor decimal point on a rounding error.

Still, all we can do is enjoy our brief time as well as we can. Recently I ventured out after one of our afternoon storms had blown over. The sky was blue and the beaming sun was drawing fog-like clouds of evaporative mist from the hard-baked ground. Walking up the driveway I found flocks of birds spilling from the trees to drink, bathe and frolic in the shallow puddles. They were having a grand time, and I enjoyed watching them.

A few short hours later, the puddles were gone, and so were the birds. But the memory remains, and now I’ll recall it every time I see an afternoon rain.