Meteorology was my lab science (I’m not kidding)

by Amanda Cott. 0 Comments

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this… but Frederick is colder than DC.  Sure, I’d heard Chuck Bell announce grim forecasts of frost or snow for “outlying areas” like Frederick, but I never paid attention because I didn’t live there and so, I didn’t take it into account when considering a move here.  I mention this because Chuck wasn’t kidding – Frederick does have very different weather patterns to which I am only now becoming accustomed, and which, in light of last week’s “snowquester,” seemed appropriate to write about. 

After our move, I first began to notice this little difference in temperature about the time that I started having to drive to work, which often necessitated scraping frost off my window.  It has been, quite literally, 6 years since I’ve had to scrape a car window.  As it turns out, that skill is just like riding a bike, only not fun.  At all.  Then of course there was last week – the snow storm that wasn’t.  There was a particularly poignant moment during the television coverage in which the reporters in Dupont Circle – not just anywhere in DC, by my Dupont Circle – lamented the lack of snow, while I sat huddled under a blanket admiring the big puffy flakes falling down.  Of course, by late afternoon we were in the same boat, with zero accumulation, but still... 

At first, I assumed the cooler climate was due to Frederick’s increased elevation.  DC’s nickname of “the swamp,” comes, not only from the nefarious behavior of the political animals who call it home, but also because it was, quite literally, a swamp at its founding.  Whole portions that are now home to some of our nation’s most beautiful and historically significant landmarks began as underwater tidal pools, which somehow, with great feats of modern engineering, we managed to contain to a tiny little basin that was then lined with beautiful cherry trees.  I could Google how all this worked, but science is not my strong suit.  By contrast, Frederick is home to the Cactoctin Mountains and every day on my long commute home, I pass a sign for the turn-off to Sugar Loaf Mountain, where I hear they have skiing.  Even as one crests the hill at the scenic overlook of Frederick, it just seems to be higher up.  However, Wikipedia informs me that I might be wrong about my assumption that the weather has to do with elevation.  It lists Frederick’s elevation as 309 feet and DC at 0-409 feet.  That wide of a range seems like an odd statistic, even for DC, but perhaps they’re averaging in the Washington Monument – at 555 feet, and the tallest structure – or the National Cathedral – at 301 feet tall, but 676 feet above sea level.  (Aren’t statistics fun?!)

So then, if not the elevation, what is it?  It could be that cities are inherently warmer – all the buildings and bodies trapping in the heat.  It could also be that Frederick is a bit farther north.  It’s 48 miles “up” 270, but you’re angling to the west as well, so let’s call that… what? 30 miles to the north?  (OK, neither science nor math were my strong suits, so don’t bother giving me a protractor or whatever tool would be required to figure this out – it ain’t happening).  Or, maybe we’re trapped in some sort of meteorological vortex of colder weather.  For example, several weeks ago, I had to wipe a layer of snow off the car only to discover that just down the road in Gaithersburg, the ground was clear and it was sunny.

This weekend I thought maybe an end was in sight – it was warm and sunny and my nose actually got sunburned from trying to soak up every bit of it.  But, alas, March is a fickle month and I hear it’s going to snow/rain later this week.  Which I guess means that in DC it’ll just mist, and here at home, we’ll get a few inches of accumulation of wintry mix. 

I will say this though – it’s prettier here.  A drive to work in the snow is never exactly fun, but some mornings, when we’ve had a light dusting, I look out at the fields and farmhouses sparkling in the sun and am truly struck by their idyllic brilliance.  

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