Checking the weather is one of the first things I do as I drink my morning coffee (it’s often more uplifting than the news). One of the reasons is our myriad Bay Area micro-climates, another reason is because of El Niño and La Niña influences on our weather, and, lastly, it’s because our nights and mornings are often very chilly – you can’t just pop your head out the door and think, ‘well, I guess this is today’s weather.’ By the way, Kron4 has a very precise weather app, if you’re looking for one.
Summers here start with June Gloom: cold mornings muddled with grey clouds, which inspire nothing but a sense of ‘meh’ as you stare out the window, clutching your hot drink, and which (hopefully) burn off by mid day. Once we hit July, that’s when the sun feels strong, because the skies open up and it’s cerulean in every direction with rarely a cloud in sight – the same goes for August and September – and it’s hot. But it’s a dry heat that makes you simultaneously perspire and thank the weather gods for not introducing more moisture into the air because it’s noticeably cooler when you duck into the shade (the opposite of the east coast where sheltering in shade is pointless on swampy summer days). Again, summer nights are often chilly, and sometimes windy, in the Tri-Valley.
Autumn is another interesting period that is very different from the east coast, where I grew up. This season may start in October (we do have the occasional, frosty mornings), but sometimes we skip right over this period and go straight into December before the rainy season starts – we can thank the push and pull of La Niña and El Niño for such inconsistencies. The point is, we may experience a ‘true’ autumn that calls for cozy sweaters and makes us think about soups and stews, or we may sigh and shrug and give up on autumn entirely because the sun and heat continue, all the way to Christmas.
Winter, the rainy season! In a good, ‘wet year,’ the rains start in October and end in April, but, on average, it rains in the Tri-Valley during the months of December, January, February, and March. It’s very rare, but occasionally it also snows at the lower elevations, which means that Mt. Diablo and the Livermore Hills are crowned in white. Only once, in recent memory, has the valley floor been blanketed with snow, and that was in 1952. When it does rain, it can be a deluge – the valley floor turns muddy with seasonal creeks and ponds, and disappearing springs. For those of us who are used to grasses dying in winter and coming back to life in summer – here it’s the opposite – you’ll notice that our hills turn a spectacular shade of emerald or kelly green in winter. It’ll remind you of Ireland! (Even if you’ve never been, you’ll tell yourself that this is what Ireland most definitely, probably looks like.)
Spring, the season of flowers and sneezing. As if the valley weren’t gorgeous already, with its lush, rolling hills and trees coming to life, springtime produces flowers by the thousands. On windy days you can watch funnels of pollen as it’s whipped from fields and branches. The valley scene is breath-taking, not just because of allergies, but because there are some spectacular wildflower displays – along Mt. Diablo, Morgan Territory, down in Sunol, and at Del Valle. Bright orange poppies plant themselves in the least expected places, like scrubby roadsides, corner plots, and between rock outcroppings, and these tiny, yellow flowers, which grow immensely tall, populate just about every open field and pasture (I’ve heard them called everything from mustard seed, to rape seed, and some other invasive). Whites, blues, purples, and pinks also abound. And you’ll hear people asking each other for suggestions on “good places to see lots of flowers.”
Where are some of your favorite places to go view the wildflowers?
Copyright © 2010 by Rita Szollos. All rights reserved. Be wise. Don’t steal. For permissions to use any of the above images or written material, please contact me.