Thursday, November 29, 2018

November rain


Sunday morning...

I came down with a head and chest cold on Monday and it's made me fairly miserable. Fever and chills, headache, sneezing and coughing. The combination is bad enough during the day but worse at night. It's just hard to sleep with a stuffed up head and lungs needing to expel the mucoid detritus of immune response.

I gave up at 3 a.m. and climbed out of bed. I'd much rather be sleeping but that's just off the table, so it's up and at 'em.

As I rolled out of bed I could have sworn that I was hearing the muted drumbeat of light rain in the roof. Hmmm. The weather guessers had predicted a 50 percent chance of overnight snow. A quick glance at the thermometer told me that the instrument believed the air temperature to be 35 degrees. I quickly did the math and concluded that it could in fact be raining. A glance outside seemed to support the notion.

Rain on November 29! Why, that must be very unusual! I wonder how unusual?

Fortunately for my curious mind, I've got interweb access to the local weather database, and the information there hasn't yet been altered by NASA and NOAA. What has the November weather been like over the last 125 years?

Since 1893 the average daily high temperature for November 29 is 45.6 degrees, and the average low temp 18.6. The warmest November 29 was 70 degrees in 1932, and the coldest was -5 degrees in 2001. According to those numbers it's been, on average, warm enough for rain and cold enough for snow.

But November is also a rather dry month around here. On average we see 0.55 inches of liquid equivalent precipitation for the month, and 5.3 inches of snow. For record keeping purposes, snowfall is recorded as inches of depth but is also always melted to measure liquid water content. This way we're not mixing our apples and oranges, as it were. According to the record, we've had November 29 precipitation in 19 of the last 125 years, averaging 0.02 inches of liquid equivalent and 0.2 inches of snow. Getting back to the question then, has that liquid measure all come from snow? Is rain on November 29 an extraordinary event?

A rough approximation of the liquid content of snow in these parts is 1:10; that is, an inch of snow yields roughly a tenth of an inch of liquid water. So 0.2 inches of snow would likely yield 0.02 inches of liquid, therefore it's fair to assume that most of the average liquid measure has come from snow. Perhaps even all of it. Using the same approximation, the 125-year November average of 5.3 inches of snow should yield 0.53 inches of liquid, yet the liquid average for November is 0.55 inches. Does that extra two-hundredths represent rain, or just slightly wetter snow?

If you've stuck with me so far, you've probably figured out the answer. Of course there's been rain on November 29 over the last 125 years. It doesn't happen all that often, but it does happen. According to the record, on six occasions since 1893 we've had rain but no snow on November 29. That's six out of 19 precipitation events, so roughly one-third of the time when we see moisture on this day it comes as rain and not as snow. Also, it's rather likely that at least some quantity of liquid rain fell during the remaining 13 precipitation events. 

As it turns out, rain on November 29 isn't an OMG happening. Kinda cool, eh?

The world is an interesting place, located as it is an a universe where we can only dimly perceive reality. For some reason -- and as far as I can tell no one knows why -- we have emotions. One of those emotions is wonder, and as we experience nature's reality it's not uncommon to find ourselves awash in a sea of wonder. Rain falling on November 29 gives me a strong sense of wonder, as does my discovery that it's a less uncommon thing than I first assumed.

Sooo, what's the point?

Hell, I don't know. What I do know is that despite being sick and miserable I'm also filled with a sense of delightful wonder at what the universe is throwing out there. Reality is a tonic for me, a touchstone that helps me keep my experience and existence in perspective.

I'm very, very thankful for such a gift.


  1. Emotions probably account for a lot of the art and music produced by our species. That sense of wonder makes life worth living.

    Great post Shaun, hope you fell better soonest!

  2. As I sit in front of my computer, it is raining in my part of the world.

    Not to argue with OldAFSarge or anything, but I hope that you don't fell ( better or otherwise ). Now I'll stop being a wisea** and echo his thought: I hope you feel better soon.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

    1. Speaking of felling, the number one factor in preventing post-middle age people from felling down (and the associated falling injuries) is leg strength. So while I'm feeling better, you might also say that with my increased and robust leg strength, I'm felling better, too. :)

  3. Here in Baraboo, it is 34, raining, with 30 mph winds, but that will change to snow, overnight, and we might get two inches by Sunday noon. But, it could be far worse, in December.
    I am pleased that you are starting to feel better, overall. I am dealing with bronchitis, and am coughing my way through life.

    I hope you are feeling well enough to give us at least a short post every week or so. You worry me when you vanish like that. I don't have enough friends that I can spare any!

    1. That's a great point Scott and I shall endeavor to do more better.