Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Late summer on the High Plains: morning cloud

The prevailing weather patterns here on the Llano Estacado (so-called the "Staked Plain" because, apocryphally, Coronado the Conquistador got lost here, and was only able to avoid walking in circles by leaving a trail of stakes behind him) are from WNW (out of Northern New Mexico and Colorado) or WSW (out of Southern New Mexico and the Texas Big Bend country). Both tend to mean lots of wind, lots of dust and dry heat, and thunderstorms when those prevailing westerly winds smack up against the damper air that bumps up against and flows up over the Caprock Escarpment that runs N-S about 40 miles east of town. So the prevailing weather pattern is from the west, blowing east, in a roughly clockwise direction.

But occasionally, especially during hurricane season in the Gulf, we'll get anomalous weather patterns--more frequently than they used to here, reputedly. When that happens, damp, warm weather blows out of the SE, up across the Hill Country, bumping against the Caprock, and (if fierce enough), flowing up across the Llano. Then the weather turns cooler, much damper, and much more prone to thunderstorms. And the weather patterns shifts, to a very unsettling and bizarre anti-clockwise direction. Sometimes it blows through, sometimes it just sits there and stews, but most frequently the westerlies prevail, and the damp weather burns off.

In such atypical situations, if you're from where I'm from, you walk out in the morning, feel the humidity on your skin, smell the quality of the air (dust-laden or dust-free), look at the clouds and the quality of the light, and think "storms coming." Because where I'm from, that's what these kinds of clouds mean. They can mean that here too--but more likely, it means "they're getting hammered in Houston and Galveston, and this is gonna burn off here."

But occasionally you get some nice light.

Playing when published: Dave Burland (Yorkshire), "The Blacksmith"

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