Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Monsoon Season in Kathmandu

Because I have always lived in places with the standard four seasons, Nepal, with its more temperate climate and less variable temperatures, sometimes throws me for a loop. When summer settled into the U.S. with all of those record-breaking temperatures a couple months ago, I read the news reports and had the occasional thought, "Wait -- it's summer now?"

Don't get me wrong. At the time it was pretty warm in Kathmandu too. But ever since the winter chill left the valley in February, we had been enjoying warm and even rather hot days in the months since. By May and June, just as things started to heat up in the northern half of the U.S., cooler temperatures were already a far distant memory here.

Whereas the seasons in the northern U.S. are clearly demarcated by very different temperatures, here there is far less variation. In the colder months -- December, January, and February, temperatures dip down to the high 30s F at night and often reach a glorious 70 F during the day. During the hotter months -- May, June, July, and August -- temperatures are in the mid 60s F at night and hover in the mid 80s F during the day. And the other months fall somewhere in between.

Precipitation, then, becomes a more accurate way to categorize seasons in Nepal. There is the dry season, which is roughly from October through April, and then there is the wet season, from May through September.

A lot of people wonder what it is like to be in Nepal during the monsoon season, and we think that it is pretty pleasant. We can count on one hand the few times when it rained for the majority of the day. Usually, the rain comes in a sudden and short burst, often in the middle or late afternoon. The dark rain clouds roll out as quickly as they come in, leaving blue skies, cumulous white clouds, and sunshine after the rain.

You can often see rain in one part of the city and clear sky in another, as in this picture below. I snapped it from our rooftop today just after a brief rain, and you can see the contrast of the clearing sky on the right with the rain cloud on the left. Ten minutes later, as I write this piece, that rain cloud is now completely gone.

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Although we are looking forward to slightly cooler temperatures, we think that we will miss the rain once we transition to the dry season. One thing is definitely sure, though: we will surely miss autumn in the U.S. But maybe it will help that we won't have the normal cues to remind us of what we are missing (or are we the only ones who love those ads for school supply shopping?).

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