In many parts of the world, sky patterns and weather configurations are reliable annual events. India, Nepal and Sri Lanka depend on their yearly monsoons. California and the American Southwest have a rainy season too, with very little precipitation at other times. But people here in the Hudson Valley generally think of our own climate as being divided into just two “seasons” — a gorgeous, lush, pleasant period lasting five to seven months (depending on whether April and October is included) and the overly long cold period from November through March. But some locals assign our region the traditional four seasons. There’s sound logic for including our short but dramatic springtime (April and early May) with its explosion of flowers, bushes like yellow forsythia and white shadbush, freshly opening yellow-green leaves, the return of migrating birds like robins suddenly hopping around lawns, and the abrupt presence of buzzing bees, monarch butterflies emerging from the undersides of milkweed and the less welcome mayflies and such.
And they also include the fourth season, the one that draws untold visitors from New York and its suburbs to experience leaf-peeping. Our friends in Arizona and Colorado think that they too have a foliage season, but their aspens and oaks bring only yellows, browns and pale oranges, nothing like the dayglo reds of our sumacs and maples. So, yes, let’s include autumn as a genuine season too.
Those are the widely recognized patterns known by all. But nature, and the sky in particular, bring other dramatic configurations as well, recognized by only a small minority. So here are an additional half dozen natural sky patterns, offered because we are now in the most rapidly changing part of the year in terms of sunlight-loss and temperature-decrease, which produce major effects even if they’re mostly unrecognized.
1. Rainbow season now ends. Some places like Hawaii get them nearly every day. But the Hudson Valley only sees rainbows when the Sun is not high up and there is also a “sunshower” happening. The Sun must be shining while it’s raining. These conditions primarily occur here from May through August after 5 p.m. Sunshowers are seldom seen during early morning hours, and very rarely during our colder months since the sky must not be overcast, and the nimbus cloud bringing the rain will usually be convective in origin, caused by a blob of hot rising air.
2. We have only one more month of mostly-blue skies. Once November begins, we enter a gloomy half-year stretch when, according to long-term Albany records, our region flips from 65% clear skies to mostly-cloudy conditions.
3. Although our skies double their cloud-cover, our rainfall remains oddly unchanged. Our region averages just under four inches a month and this remains consistent. However, the chance of having a day or two of a soaking two-to-four inch excessive rainfall event declines as autumn begins.
4. Winds increase.
5. Thunderstorms greatly decrease. But no month is entirely immune from lightning and thunder.
6. The chance of getting a “Nor’easter” increases. While we’re at it, why do you think it has that name? This is multiple choice: A) This type of storm brings us winds that mostly blow from the northeast, b) This type of storm originates in the Carolinas and then moves up the coast in a northeastward direction, c) This type of storm reaches its greatest intensity when it reaches the Northeast states such a Massachusetts, d) The first American ship sunk by this kind of storm was named, “The Nor’easter.”
Naturally, this kind of storm is more famous for bringing us copious snow rather than rain during our winter months. Anyway, the answer is the first choice, a.
Finally, here’s a bonus oddity, as little-known as the others. The autumn sky has the year’s fewest bright stars, although this fall the planet Venus low at nightfall and Jupiter in the south throughout the night are both truly dazzling.