07 May 2014

Hard Rain In Harlem

Over the past few years, there seem to have been fewer rainy or snowy days than in previous years.  However, it seems that whenever we get precipitation, it falls longer and harder--which means, of course, that we get more of it.

At least, that is how I have perceived local weather patterns.   I've talked to a few people--both better- and less- informed than I am--who say they've observed something similar.

Today I came across some maps and charts that confirm my observations.  Turns out, the weather pattern I've described is most pronounced in the part of the US in which I live, but prevails everywhere else in the US with one exception:  Hawaii.

Now, that might sound good for cyclists:  If you have one deluge and weeks of dry weather, you can wait out that rainy day--unless, of course, you don't mind the rain.  I don't, as long as it's not cold and I can see where I'm going.

But, as the study that produced the data I've included indicates, such a weather pattern is bad for cyclists--and everyone else.  All right, cycling isn't mentioned, but I can tell you one problem this weather pattern presents for us:  more flooding.  You see, when precipitation is less frequent, the ground dries up and is less able to absorb whatever rain or snow comes along. That is why the deserts of southwestern US experience "gully washers":  When it rains, it pours, and when it pours, the water simply runs off into the nearest ditch, canyon or any other low-lying piece of real estate.  

I don't care how much coverage your fenders provide or how sealed your bearings are:  You probably don't want to, and shouldn't, ride in such conditions.  Not even if you're riding fat knobby tires. 

The phenomena I've described also explain why, at the same time, much of the US has been experiencing record-breaking droughts.  In fact, nearly all of the US from the Rockies westward is in a declared state of drought:  In fact, even some policy-makers are saying that parts of Texas, Colorado, Nevada and California may be in a permanent--or, at least a mega---drought.

And that, dear readers, can pose bigger problems than how we will fill our water bottles, hydra-packs or whatever hydration systems we use.

The reason why heavy precipitation and storms are coincidental with drought is that most places are not only getting warmer; they are experiencing record one-day temperatures and heat waves.  Here in New York, we have had at least one day in which the temperature exceeded 102F (39C) in each of the past three summers; before 2010, we had gone more than three decades without experiencing such heat.  

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