Summer’s Stranglehold on SoCal

By Loren Skoug | September 21, 2021
Image by TatianaMironenko
by Loren Skoug
September 21, 2021

It all starts at night, when the persistent heat of late summer just sticks around. The A.C. unit never seems to turn off and the skin on my face and knuckles feels tight. Fall is on its way and, here in Southern California, it’s not partial to any stereotypes.

The arrival of fall typically involves leaves changing, temperatures steadily dropping, and pumpkin everything, but not in SoCal. Here we wait for dropping humidity, relentless heat, and the smell of smoke and ash.  

Living a short distance from the Pacific Ocean and multiple mountain ranges is entertaining, but here we experience a huge impact on the climate. Around late summer, warm, dry air from the Great Basin moves from high pressure areas toward the Pacific Ocean. As it travels southeast, the air is forced through mountain passes and becomes dry and hot, replacing the cool marine layer that lingers here for most of the year. Like clockwork, the Santa Ana winds arrive, and so does fall.

Heat, Wind, and Ash Bring Rejuvenation 

Early autumn is hot. While most of the northern hemisphere is cooling down, I’m experiencing the warmest weather of the whole year and I plan my garden around this annual occurrence.  

Only mature, heat loving plants are present in the garden in fall. Peppers, tomatoes, corn and late squash rustle in the constant breeze, demanding more water than usual. Fall is my chance to take a step back from my garden to plan. It’s too hot to do much and the plants in the ground are chugging along without much help. I feast on the fruits of my labor and nature resets itself, literally.

Single digit humidity and incessant heat inevitably bring flames to Southern California. While detrimental to human civilization, fire rejuvenates the native ecosystems I call home. They clear brush from local forest and chaparral areas giving the land a cyclical restart. In fact, many native plants require brush fires to thrive and reproduce.  

My home is protected from the dangers of seasonal fires, so the dry skin and poor air quality pose a mere inconvenience for me. They remind me that nature is cyclical and life is moving forward. I know that, eventually, cooler weather will arrive, that humid marine layer will return, and I’ll start clearing out my greenhouse.

So no matter how gross it is outside in early fall, I can smile and focus on the seasonal changes it will eventually bring.

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