Spring Instability

Petrichor. Waves of steam rising from sun-warmed pavement. The sound and feel of cool raindrops hitting my jacket and exposed skin. Dark clouds over the mountains, with the hint of a rainbow in front of the Sisters. My back warmed by the western sun. My walk back home late this afternoon was a sensory feast. In truth, I suppose they all could be if only I paid more attention, but today it was easy.

Petrichor (“the scent of rain on dry earth”) is said to be caused by oils produced in some plants and types of fungi, but around Sitka I notice that distinctive smell mostly around pavement or gravel, so I’m not entirely sure it’s produced by the same processes. Even so, it is a distinctive and not unpleasant smell – one that I experience infrequently enough that the novelty alone makes it an enjoyable experience.

The day started with a layer of overcast obscuring the blue sky as well as the mountain peaks. I noticed it breaking up to the northwest first, and by late morning it was mostly clear. This afternoon clouds were crowding around and billowing up over the peaks, while the sun held sway over the sound. I guess this time of year there is a fair amount of instability, as the land and lower layers of atmosphere warm more quickly than air higher up, given a little push as the air moves up over the mountains, this warmer air keeps climbing, with moisture condensing out in to billowing cumulus clouds. The forces driving this cloud creation must diminish late in the day, as around many of the mountains the piles of cloud had settled into stratus looking patches, while others had only remnant wisps of cloud hanging around the peaks. By later this evening a chill wind was blowing out of the northwest – perhaps it too will settle as the night progresses.

First of season bird reports included Tree Swallows (I saw at Swan Lake) and a Semipalmated Plover reported down near Indian River mouth.

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