Vista Point: Nature brings Mediterranean to Del Norte

By Matthew C. Durkee, The Triplicate June 12, 2013 05:38 pm

Climates are funny things. 

Living in Crescent City, I don’t really give much thought to summer. It’s just a calendar marker between when the kids get out of school (good heavens) and when they go back (thank heavens). While here in town we may have four seasons — autumn, rain, spring and fog — none of them is summer. 

But summer is not hard to find. In many parts of Del Norte County, all it takes is a few minutes’ walk uphill or down, inland or seaward, to encounter a different microclimate. Consider the Point St. George headland, where Jack McNamara Field hosts Crescent City’s official weather station. That thing seems to consistently record weather 5–10 degrees cooler, winds 10–15 mph faster, and fog 15–20 percent murkier than anywhere else in Crescent City, to say nothing of the county.

(Perhaps the Chamber of Commerce should look into a way of recording more tourist-friendly measurements closer to where people live.)

During Crescent City’s so-called summer, it’s possible for it to be sunny all day at one end of a street while it’s foggy and overcast all day just a few blocks away.

Often, there seems to be a cold cloud hovering just over Crescent City while all around it the weather is bright and warm, as if to confirm my suspicion that Mother Nature has a grudge against the Tsunami City.

But Del Norte is far more than its quirky coastal basins. If the county had an official summer pastime, it would be repairing to its hot river canyons for sunning and swimming. There, summer in all its bright, hot glory is a reliable presence, proving an otherwise astounding fact about Del Norte climatology.

From Vancouver to Ventura, including Del Norte, the prevailing climate along the West Coast is all the same, according to the experts.

If you find this hard to believe, try this: climatologists refer to this climate as “Mediterranean.”

That’s right. Mediterranean. Think palm trees. The French Riviera. Grapevines and olive groves.

You can’t even grow tomatoes next to Del Norte’s coast, but somehow it counts as Mediterranean.

It’s baffling that climatologists would equate the misty gloom of Seattle with the playboy playground of Monte Carlo.

The devil is in the details. A Mediterranean climate is defined as one with dry summers and cool, wet winters. The immediate coasts can be foggy and tepid at best in summer while the inland regions are hot. That should sound pretty familiar.

Apart from a few small temperate highlands in tropical latitudes, Mediterranean climates are found on the western sides of continents between the 30th and 45th parallels (with one exception: Vancouver is at the 49° north). In addition to the aforementioned North American west coast and the French Riviera, the climate is also found in Central Chile, and small areas of coastal South Africa and Australia — all robust wine-growing regions.

The largest Mediterranean area in the world is not in the Mediterranean. It’s here on our coastal stretch of North America, but compared to the rest of the world it’s one of the rarest climates to be found. 

So when the “summer” fog arrives and stubbornly refuses to leave, while blistering heat sears the mountains, just remember that our weather is a rare and, depending on your preference, a precious thing celebrated and romanticized around the world but experienced by just a lucky few.

Reach Matthew C. Durkee at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it