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Turn Down The Heat

POSTED September 29, 2009 3:31 p.m.

Too darned hot. It’s too darned hot. Here we are, the end of September and the temperature is still hovering in the high nineties. It even touched 100 degrees in the past week.

What’s up? Global warming or just an Indian summer?

An Indian summer is defined on the Internet as a period of sunny, warm weather, typically in late October or early November, after the leaves have turned but before the first snowfall. In the southeast states, they use it of the hottest time of year, typically late July and August.

The term Indian apparently was given because the raids on European settlers by Indian war parties would generally end in autumn. The settlers also often viewed the natives as deceitful or treacherous so the phrase Indian summer simply meant a false summer.

But the Internet dictionary is talking about a region of the U.S. with normal weather. Here in the Central Valley the sun can burn down on us until the final months of the year.

I remember a few years back calling relations in England to tell them we went swimming in the balmy waters of Woodward Reservoir on Thanksgiving Day when the British were already muffled in coats and scarves against winter’s rain and cold.

Last Wednesday’s high temperature in Modesto was predicted at 97 degrees with the high for the day before recorded at 99 downtown and the low 66. Temperature extremes records for Sept. 22 showed a high of 102 back in 1939 and a low of 44 in 1945. The normal temperatures for that date are 87 and 57.

But the fall is officially here. The sun is sinking lower and the days are shorter with darkness looming by 7 p.m.

Shouldn’t it be getting cooler?

I’m no stranger to temperature extremes, mainly experienced in the Navy. When my ship visited Gibraltar and the Mediterranean during summer, we sat on our mess decks in that metal box with the sweat pouring down our bare backs — the air conditioning was rudimentary. That autumn while off the coast of Norway and standing watch on an open bridge at night, I was encased in layers of wool sweaters and oilskin coats but still so cold I was huddled against heaters set in the bulkhead and burning my skin. That was the Navy. You couldn’t do much about it. You expected to be uncomfortable. It was part of the job.

Later still I experienced the California desert around Death Valley. But that was by choice. I was on vacation and had a beer in my hand. I discovered desert temperatures can range from blistering hot by day to chilly after sundown.

But back here in the Central Valley, I expect September and October to bring cooler weather. I associate football games with hot chocolate at halftime and the breath of overheated players steaming on the night air, not the sweating bodies of August training camps.

I miss the seasons. By September I expect to see temperatures drop and start doing indoor things. When it begins to get dark earlier, I want to crawl into my cave at sundown and roll the protective rock in front. Well, I’m exaggerating a little. But you get the picture.

 

John Branch is editor of The Riverbank News and a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at jbranch@oakdaleleader.com or 847-3021.

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