By Bill Biddle
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” Quick – before you read the next sentence, who wrote that opening line in what famous book? (And this is not an April Fool!)
George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four, which he wrote in 1947. The first half of that sentence is the Weatherwatch forecast for much of April; the second half is left inNineteen Eighty-Four for your reading.
The weather in April is notoriously fickle. It promises so much of spring, yet delivers so little. “You’re like an April day – first warm, then cool. You’ve got me feeling like an old April Fool.”
But have no fear. Weatherwatch will lead you through the month with enough certainty so that when May Day arrives in just 30 days, all will be green, warm, and cerulean sunny. Spring will have sprung!
A short primer on the location of the sun during April will help explain its fickleness. The sun’s rays on April 1st are the same angle and height as on Sept. 10th. By the middle of April the sun is at the same place as it is during the end of August. Think of what August is like here in the Methow Valley. Then transfer that to an April sun and you can see how the earth warms up. This is what starts the flowers blooming and the trees greening. It may be cold in the air, but the flowers, trees and animals know that life is beginning to spring forward. Thank you, Mr. Sun!
A quick retro look at March before delving into April: March was windy and cooler than normal with about average precipitation. The snow left the south-facing slopes by mid-month, but it is still there on north slopes or in the woods or above 3,000 feet. This stored moisture will be a boon for the yellowbells and spring beauties and will make the quaking aspen shine with “nature’s first green is gold.”
The first two weeks of April will be mostly a hangover from March. Catch the wildflower bloom before the middle of the month when it will extravagantly warm up and some of the flowers will have wilted. The third weekend will be almost summer-like. The fourth week will be warm with summer-like cumulus clouds threatening – and delivering – April showers.
The fourth week is for Robert Burns and the opening stanza of his poem “To a Mountain Daisy, on Turning One Down with the Plough, April 1786”:
Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flower,
Thou’s met me in an evil hour;
For I maun crush amang the stoure
Thy slender stem:
To spare thee now is past my power,
Thou bonnie gem.
Go out in the fields and meadows of the Methow Valley and look at the “bonnie gems” of April’s sun before they give way to the yellow Methow “sunflower” of May.
Weatherwatch for May? Stay tuned!