Weather in the Foothills

“And the sun took a step back, the leaves lulled themselves to sleep and autumn was awakened.”

~ Raquel Franco, American poet

Autumn is the transition season that leads us from the hot, bright sunny months of summer into the colder days and dark nights of winter. This year may the forces of nature bless us with an adequate measure of rainfall. Contrary to popular belief of folks who grew up “where the seasons really change,” Southern California really does have a fall season. It may be shorter, more condensed and less intense but it’s the real deal.

Yesterday, Sept. 22, Druids and Pagans gathered at Stonehenge, England early to watch the sun rise above the stone monoliths. On this day, once a year, the sun shines directly over the equator marking the first day of autumn. For many of us, the most obvious attestation of autumn is the fewer sunlit hours during the day. Ask a dog what this means and their usually excited bark may switch to something resembling a feral grumble (not quite a growl). Such behavior is based on a sad fact: there is less time for the evening dog walk due to the impending darkness.

Bill Patzert, climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, backs up JPL’s summation, adding, “We’ve had long, lazy dog days of summer here since June. Slowly those days start shrinking, shortening. And now we’re in this steep decline.”

Another sign of autumn, Patzert said, “Our founding fathers here in Southern California imported a lot of inappropriate landscaping, a lot of non-native trees, so in some neighborhoods we actually do have fall.”

No doubt he is referring to the iconic colors of fall foliage as leaves transform from their typical green.

Nostalgic for “a look of home,” some folks when they move to SoCal bring along a variety of plants, from rose cuttings to tree seedlings. One of the most recognizable is the Liquidambar.

Originating in eastern and southeastern U.S., Liquidambars have assimilated nicely and established themselves as one of the most popular street, yard and park trees in the west. Turning bright red, deep maroon and orange-red beginning in the fall and lasting well into winter, splotches of color dapple the foothills. Japanese maple, Ginkgos, aspens, oaks and even grape leaves are to be included. The list goes on with plants attesting to the fact that California has a “fall season” or at least a “fall foliage season.”

After a few hot days, temperatures are predicted to return to normal by the weekend. Next week’s forecast is rather up-in-the-air … for now. In the mix is an outside chance for real precipitation. It can be said, “Fall weather is in the air.”

Sue Kilpatrick is a Crescenta Valley resident and Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service Reach her at