The Washington Post
As change looms, summer puts on a late show
On Friday it seemed appropriately warm for the eve of the long Labor Day weekend. It seemed pleasant enough to prompt fond memories of departing summer, but not so hot as to make us wish it would never return.
In Washington, the official afternoon high temperature reached 88 degrees. That could be regarded as a trifle high. After all, we have entered September, a month of change, a time to shed the thoughts and thermometer readings of summer.
Our 88-degree high would have been exactly average two weeks ago, but on Friday, the second day of a new month, it was 3 degrees above average.
It made for a warm afternoon and although we recognize signs of change around us, we might be excused on an 88-degree day for continuing to keep our thoughts on summer.
Summer has great attractions, but many of us spend the weeks from June to September in constant fear of being overcome by the meteorological menace of oven-like days and sweltering nights.
Though certainly warm, Friday’s 88 did not demand that we deploy kitchen imagery, to claim that we were cooking, roasting, baking, boiling or broiling. Instead, we found ourselves enjoying a late summer day, with temperatures poised to possibly make us regret that they would soon be no more.
Not gone immediately; but obviously gone soon.
Much of the comfort we found in Friday may have stemmed from humidity, at least in its failure to show up at its dreaded worst.
We have not had much rain in a while, but neither could we claim that Friday left us feeling parched or desiccated. Humidity existed.
Yet without suspending our critical faculties, we could say that Friday’s humidity, the often enveloping and uncomfortable presence of water vapor all around us, seemed to offer little cause for complaint.
The National Weather Service reports hourly on the heat index. The index, which takes both temperature and humidity into account, suggests what conditions actually feel like.
Suffice it to say that on Friday, the “feels-like” temperature, what we experience, seemed close to the temperature reported by the thermometer alone.
As an example, just before 3 p.m., with the mercury at 88 degrees, the official heat index was given as 88 degrees. It was almost as if by atmospheric benevolence humidity could be disregarded. That alone helped us think better of Friday and of summer.
In summer, we generally pay more attention to high temperatures than to lows. But Friday’s low of 69 notably exceeded the average by only 1 degree.
Could more be asked of the second day of September, the day before the start of the three-day weekend that many regard as the unofficial end of summer?
Friday, represents a day that culturally and psychologically can be regarded as close to the outer boundary of summertime.
Even if we insist, as do many, that summer’s celebrated lease does not expire until the day of the autumn equinox, Friday brought us to less than three weeks from that day. This year, the autumn equinox is Sept. 22.
For those reluctant to prematurely fold summer’s tents, Friday’s sky offered encouragement.
It seemed bright, warm and blue. At the same time, it provided ample space for the maneuvers of fleets and squadrons of clouds
On Friday, they seemed at first glance to be obviously summertime clouds.
True, some of the clouds, if studied long and closely enough, appeared at times to show interior expanses of gray. But the silvery brightness around their periphery still spoke of sunshine, rather than any storminess.
At greater altitudes, or in other parts of the sky, we could see clouds as wispy, feathery streaks. They sometimes screened the sunshine and sometimes blended at their extremes into the grayblue of the surrounding sky, so that it was hard to see where one ended and the other began.
Possibly this too might have symbolized the second day of a month of changes, of one day blending into the next, with small shifts that over time could become significant differences.
Every day carries its unique characteristics; it seems ungenerous to regard any day as standard or routine.
Yet Friday, near the start of a month and the end of a season, might merit more scrutiny than many another summer’s day.
Only the day before, Washington’s temperature had reached into the 90s, that symbol of summer’s capacity to simmer.
Suggesting that summer might stay, Thursday’s 91 may have caused consternation among seekers of the new and different.
But Friday, though warm, seemed at least for now, to squelch suggestions that summer would just roll on.
Hints of both continuity and change seemed part of the message delivered by Friday, at 88 degrees, 2 under 90.