Sunny, Much to My Dismay
Living in L.A. has given me a weather obsession.
It’s raining outside my window right now. In fact, it has been raining steadily for at least four hours.
It’s July 11 and it’s raining, you guys. This is kind of a big deal.
I’ll go ahead and apologize ahead of time to those of you where this does not constitute news. This is going to be a story about what everyone says doesn’t exist in L.A.: weather.
When I moved to L.A. it was August, and summer felt like what summer felt like in most of the places I’d lived (minus the brain-buckling humidity in Atlanta and St. Louis, of course). I was having so much fun I didn’t really notice how weather in my new city was so different. During the first weekend in November I was baking my famous pumpkin bars when I heard a mysterious tapping sound in the kitchen. I crouched on the floor to check the oven’s pilot light, peered into the dusty depths of the cabinets, trying to locate it. Then I happened to glance outside. It was raining. It hadn’t rained the entire three months I had been there. L.A. had made me completely forget about the concept of rain.
I don’t remember caring much about barometric pressure or dew point before I moved here, but at that moment, I found myself suddenly fascinated with this alien climate. What kind of place did I live in where it almost never rained from July to November? Perhaps in some way of coping with its absence, since then I have become interested—nay, obsessed!—with weather.
In fact, I would love to engage in a conversation with you at any time about torrential rain, freezing temperatures, record heat, the chance of snow. I would be happy to explain the science behind the annual phenomenon of June Gloom (or May Gray, or No Sky July, or Fogust). I could go on and on about L.A.’s microclimates: how Santa Monica will still be freezing when Silver Lake is muggy, how the 405 draws a fog line along the coast and the 210 can mean the difference between snow and rain. Forget politics, movies, breaking news: I want to talk about 40-to-50-mile-an-hour wind gusts on the Grapevine!
What do I look at first every day when I get up? No, not Twitter. Not Facebook. I go over to the National Weather Service/National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration official forecast page.
If you casually ask me about the weather later today, I’ll tell you it will be warm, high of 83, with a 30% chance of scattered showers due to a surge in rare monsoonal moisture. I will also tell you that humidity is 87% which is contributing to an unusual mugginess. But then you should be prepared to get an earful from me about the slight chance of thunderstorm activity predicted for later this week, and the possibility of some isolated flooding in the foothills. EXCITING!
You could give me a daily pop quiz on L.A.’s forecast.
Because of my encyclopedic knowledge of L.A. weather, I can tell you that statistically, yes, it is mostly sunny, blue sky, slight breeze, 72 degrees. We only get, on the average, 35 days of precipitation a year. But the longer I’ve lived here, the longer I’ve spent poring over historical data, the more I yearn to experience the slight—if not seasonal—nuances in L.A.’s climate.
If you tell me we don’t have seasons the first thing I will show you is my collection of photos featuring L.A. cloaked in snow. Then I will tell you that the last substantial snowfall we got was in 1949 when it snowed for three days. There was a dusting of snow in Malibu in 2007, and another interesting incident a few winters ago, the day it “graupeled” in the Valley. This was easily one of the worst days of my life. As people posted photos of their yards covered in white possibly-still-frozen pellets, I sat in beautiful Palm Springs and moaned about missing it. “We could have taken the Red Line to snow,” I murmured to no one, burying my face in Instagram photos, trying to imagine Burbank as a winter wonderland.
And don’t say we don’t have extremes. The day that it hit 113 one summer (fall, actually, it was September 27), shattering L.A.’s records (and breaking the thermometer at USC), I was panting at my computer, trying to get work done but I was so distracted by the historic highs I could hardly type a word. I kept running to update my husband (who had smartly retreated into its cool shade of the garage) on the situation. It’s 105! It’s 110! It’s breaking all the records! But that wasn’t all. A September of record-breaking heat had come on the heels of an exceptionally cold and gloomy summer. We had survived both the hottest and the coldest summer on record. I talked about this FOR WEEKS.
My point, if I have one, is not that L.A. is weather-agnostic. But living in L.A. has made me appreciate weather so much more. I dive for my camera when I start to smell a thunderstorm. When I wake up to fog I pray for an entirely cloudy day. High winds? I’m going for a run. My eyes glitter when I hear “frost advisory.” Just the chance of weather is enough to make another cloudless day in L.A. special.
It’s still raining, by the way.