Sunday, January 11, 2015

As Winter as it gets!

As we begin a New Year here in Loreto Bay I am pausing to reflect on my life here, and some of the differences from my former life.  One of the obvious differences is the weather, but perhaps you might be surprised that in fact, relatively speaking, the differences are not as big as you might think. 
Before you assume that I have been sampling the Tequila (more than usual) let me explain.

While my former home in western Canada is currently locked in a deep freeze – along with large parts of North America – we here in Loreto are experiencing OUR version of mid-winter weather too.  Albeit a much kinder gentler winter weather than up north, but for us it’s winter just the same. 

So, what is winter in the Baja like?  Well, historically, from about mid-December through to mid-February is our “winter”, although in recent years it seems it can start later and end sooner than that (remember now they call it “Climate Change” – not “Global Warming”) and while the daytime highs are currently a comfortable mid 20 degrees Celsius or mid 70 Fahrenheit, it does cool down at night to sometimes as low as single digits C or 50 F.

This cooler weather can also come with overcast skies (although not usually all day) and sometimes strong winds from the NE (as I've written here before, bad weather in Loreto is called a windy day) which can blow cooler weather from up north, down the Sea of Cortez and bring us a taste of what passes for winter in the southwest US.

One sign of the season for me is when I switch to my winter wardrobe - long pants from my otherwise standard dress of shorts - and I even have several lightweight sweaters I occasionally wear at this time of year, sometimes with a light windbreaker for the odd windy morning commute to my Office (by Golf Cart).  This change garb from shorts and polo shirts to trousers and long sleeves makes me realize that perhaps I am gradually becoming acclimatized to the Baja, after spending more time here than away for the past seven years. Particularly when I see recent arrivals from “The Great White North” striding around determinedly in their summer shorts and T-shirts, while I am relatively bundled up by comparison.

Briefly put, I am beginning to look more like the local Mexicans on some of these cooler mornings – although some of them are wearing light parkas and scarves, and so while there are similarities, I will never be truly “local”!  But it does go to show that when it comes to weather, everything is relative, for the mid-westerner just off the plane in January this feels like a beautiful day in early spring or late fall, but for some of us who are here 8 or 9 months a year this is as cold as it is going to get, so this is OUR winter.

But before you get the wrong picture about winter in Loreto, it’s all a matter of degree and what one is used to.  When I started writing this post a couple early in the week we had been having a couple of cooler cloudy days which inspired this topic, then I had a couple of busy days at work and when I got back to writing again we were back to calm, sunny days again.  Which speaks to how quickly things can change here, and more importantly, how nice “normal” is! 

And speaking about “normal”, by my own admittedly unscientific observations, it seems to me that so far Climate Change has been working rather decidedly to the advantage of this area around Loreto, and probably a good part of the southern Baja.  Given the fact that we have had several times the average annual rainfall in each of the past three years, after an extended drought for the several years prior to that, and the brush and vegetation that covers the foothills and mountains to the west of us are now green year-round and growing noticeably bigger from the increased rainfall.

At the same time, my perception is that there have been fewer cloudy or windy days at this time of year than was the case even a few years ago and as far as the increased amount of rainfall is concerned, my “theory” is that the planet is a closed system and globally the same amount of rain has to fall, but due to changes in other factors affecting the weather patterns we are experiencing changes in WHERE the rain is, and is not, falling.  Considering that large parts of the US southwest has been experiencing record drought conditions, perhaps it should not be surprising that here in the southern Baja we have been receiving record rainfall over much the same period of time.

I should also mention that not all the weather in this part of the world has been good news.  Last fall Hurricane Odile was a record breaking storm that hit the Los Cabos area at the southern tip of the peninsula causing tens of millions of dollars of damage.  This follows a pattern of more frequent significant storms in the past several years affecting the eastern Pacific.  The good news so far is that the area around Loreto has been spared the brunt of most of these recent storms and due in part to our more protected location on the Sea of Cortez and in the lee of the Sierra de la Giganta mountains.

And so a New Year begins, and for we who are fortunate enough to call Loreto home, our winter is just a gentle reminder that seasons change, with the effect that perhaps we appreciate how close to perfect a climate enjoy here – which is certainly an important part of “Living Loreto”!