Atmosphere

Reading the Weather

If you live in a place where you can’t see the sky, you don’t need to know the weather. But if the sky can get at you, you should have a personal relationship with it. Here is the view across Okanagan Lake from my house. This is Terrace Mountain, direction West South West. Those clouds are coming from the Pacific, a few hours away by eagle. Notice how Terrace Mountain is squeezing the clouds to drop snow. Notice as well that it is lightly falling at about 1000 metres, and only around the mountain. Down here, we can smell it on the air. It tells us what to plant and what to forage for on the hills, by the feel of the air on our skin. Should we be worried for our blossoming apricots? Not particularly. If the mountain wasn’t there, the snow would be a pressure effect within the cloud and would just sail on by. Look at it. It’s being absorbed back into the sky!

When you live in a land-locked fjord, you get used to the fjord being full of pressurized air like the clear stuff filling the trough here. That snow up there will have a dampening effect on valley heating and cooling, though, meaning still air and not a lot of energy transfer from one slope to another. There’s energy transfer up high, as you can see, but very little down here. Besides, this is Kelowna’s weather you’re looking at, 40 kilometres to the south, and weather destined to run up Kalamalka Lake, into the Monashees, and down to the Columbia on the other side. Here, the weather is not falling on us but rising and, like that snow, carrying us with it. If it’s going to freeze, and there’s a good chance it still will, it won’t come from here. It will come from the North. We will first know of it from the wind rushing north, to meet it. A wind blowing south is always a valley wind, like a current in deep water. It doesn’t go far. South is not a destination. Temperature and precipitation predictions mean little here. It’s better to feel the mountain on your skin and then to confirm what you feel with a visual check.

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