By Bill Biddle
“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.”
That just about says it for April in the Methow Valley. But look at this third stanza of “Two Tramps in Mud Time” by Robert Frost more carefully. It is replete with weather lore and a wonderful sense of place. Look at his use of sunlight. The angle and intensity of the sun’s rays on April 13th are the same as on Aug. 28th. After the middle of April the sun becomes more and more an August sun.
Remember how HOT last August was? And virtually every August in the Methow? Why, then, shouldn’t we have August heat in April?
No. The earth is heated primarily from the ground up, heat rising from a sun-warmed earth. Until the end of April, or even the middle of May, the sun has not had a chance to warm the surface of the earth enough so that heat rising from that surface brings us warm or hot summer days.
So April is here and the valley can look up to the “frozen peak” of Gardner Mountain, feel the chill wind (did you notice that wind is mentioned three times?), and “dare to speak” – and wait for May.
But in the meantime, we’ll live in April and take what we get. And what we’ll get is an extra hidden deposit that we can bank on all summer. For example, Moses Mountain east of Omak has a snow pack that is 178 percent of normal. (Look up this mountain on a Washington state map or on a topographic atlas – Weatherwatch did just that and learned a lot.) This snowpack will pour moisture via streams into the Okanogan River as well as provide moisture to the whole area east of the Methow Valley. This is an unusual alignment for our coming spring and summer weather patterns. Many of our thunderstorms come from the east, over Tiffany Mountain (another “frozen peak”), and there will be plenty of moisture to fuel those thunderstorms.
So live with a wet and cool April and watch what happens to the wildflower displays as the month progresses. Felicia Hemans (1793-1835) will take Weatherwatch out with the first stanza of her poem “Bring Flowers.”
“Bring flowers, young flowers, for the festal board,
To wreathe the cup ere the wine is pour’d;
Bring flowers! they are springing in wood and vale,
Their breath floats out on the southern gale,
And the touch of the sunbeam hath waked the rose,
To deck the hall where the bright wine flows.”
A toast and thank you to Robert and Felicia!
May? Stay tuned!