Sunday, January 12, 2014

Winter Weather comes to Loreto - maybe!

News of the "Arctic Vortex" - the punishing winter weather that most of North America has been struggling under since before Christmas has even reached as far south as Loreto - albeit courtesy of satellite TV and, if I do say so myself, it has brought some comfort and perspective to those of us who spend the winter here in this extreme southern Temperate climate.

Comfort and perspective, because for Loretanos, living as we do just north of the Tropic of Cancer, this is our winter season as well - admittedly a kinder and gentler form of winter than is the case for many of you living in the Great White North, but relatively speaking - winter none the less.  From about the middle of December until about the middle of February is the general time frame for our version of winter this far south, and along with shorter daylight hours come cooler nights - much cooler nights! 

Most of the homes in Loreto Bay are built around a central open air courtyard, and for most of the year the doors and windows can be left open day and night.  But at this time of year I leave interior doors open to the courtyard when I am away during the day, but after I return home, once the sun has set about 5:30 pm, I close up the house to keep the daytime warmth in and the cooling evening air out.  Likewise, I keep the bedroom closed up during the evening and overnight to keep the chilly air out.

While this has been a predictable pattern for this time of year ever since I have been here, I don't think it is my imagination to say that the cool evenings have been cooler than usual this year - which is perhaps not surprising, when one considers the impact that the record breaking "Vortex" effect has been having over much of North America in the past several weeks.  After all, however far south we may be from where the extreme weather that has been breaking records further north - we are still connected to the rest of the continent and our ambient temperatures have to be affected as Arctic air plunges further south than normal.

Add to that, this is also the time of year when we can get prevailing North-easterly winds blowing down the length of the Sea of Cortez which of course moves more of the cooler air further south. Fortunately, although there has been several windy days in the last few weeks, the winds don't seem to be as strong or frequent as I have experienced at this time of year in the past. 

However, when the sun rises it doesn't take very long to start warming air again in the morning, and I notice a big difference in that air temperature between 8:00 and 9:00 am when I leave my bedroom to walk through the courtyard to the living area for breakfast, and an hour later when I am leaving the house for my bicycle commute to the Office.  Typically, by about 10 am on a calm day, with the sun shining out of a usually clear blue sky, we have almost reached our daytime high in the mid-twenties Celsius or mid-seventies Fahrenheit and all is forgotten about the chill in the air from the night before.

This cooler weather also has a noticeable effect on people's wardrobe at this time of year.  First of all, for the native Mexicans this is winter for them, perhaps the only winter they have known, depending on where they may have lived, and so it is not unusual to see them on these chilly mornings bundled up in their warmest clothes - down vests, fleece jackets, and scarves wrapped around their necks.  Because, of course, as acclimated as they are to the extremes of heat here in the summer, the chilly mornings at this time of year must seem as cold to them as below zero temperatures do to the inhabitants living with winter in most of North America.

This also results in some unusual sartorial contrasts between the local Mexicans and the ex-pat population here in Loreto Bay - when a quilt jacketed Mexican meets up with a Gringo wearing shorts and a T-shirt it is obvious that there are two parallel realities happening here!  But the differences in clothing can be more subtle than that.  For instance, because I have been spending more than 8 months of the year here for the past 6 or 7 years, I too have become somewhat used to this climate and feel the "cold" here more than someone here for a short visit from up North.

Therefore, it is fairly easy to identify those of us who spend more time here from those "just visiting", as they are wearing the shorts and T-shirts that they packed for their Mexican winter getaway - while we "long timers" are often in long pants, long sleeves and even light jackets.  Also, because most of the restaurants in town are at least partially outdoors, let alone the more casual street food vendors set up at the side of most main streets in town during the evening, when I say that at this time of year we "dress" to go out to dinner, I mean we wear the warmest clothes we have here, and some of the better places have patio heaters to make dining "al fresco" more comfortable.

So, in our own way, we too are dealing with winter - just on a more comfortable scale.  In most homes that have built-in air conditioning the a/c units can also operate as heat pumps enough to take the chill out of the air in a room.  But, as I have learned, using the system in heat mode is just as expensive in power consumption as it is cooling in the hot weather, so Mexican blankets are a popular living room accessory.  Also the adobe-style construction of most of the Loreto Bay homes provides great insulation against the cold air, as well as holds daytime heat that warms the interior at night. 

The purpose of this week's Blog is not to make those of you who find yourselves enduring record breaking winter conditions jealous of our milder version of the season (well, maybe just a little), but instead to point out that we too have different seasons here as well.  And while our "winter" is much kinder and gentler, it is still a change - and one that ultimately makes us appreciate even more, the warmer days and milder evenings that we will be enjoying here in just a few short week's time.  Taking a moment to recognize the passing of the seasons, and be grateful for the near ideal climate that comes with the natural beauty of this place, helps me realize why I love "Living Loreto".

 P.S. In answer to the difficult challenge of how to illustrate "weather" (especially as benign as it is here) I decided instead to use pictures I took this week of some of the beautiful landscaping that surrounds our homes here in Loreto Bay - our version of a winter garden!