Weathermen often get a bad rap for their inaccurate meteorological prophecy, so in the spirit of avoiding indulging another cliché, I will try and keep my soothsaying to a minimum. However, one thing I can say with certainty is that we are amid the inevitable annual plunge from the hot, humid, summer days to the cool and cloudy ones typical of a Sewanee autumn.
Autumn is largely regarded as the favorite season in Sewanee. A main reason being the vibrant fall foliage that occurs around our mostly deciduous campus. Greenhouse President Cory Gurman (C ‘25) says, “Coming from a place where seasons never existed [he comes from Florida], I love to watch the trees while recognizing the beauty in the changing of the seasons.” This year, it is predicted that the fall foliage will peak around October 30.
Another major component of this season is the rain. Though fall is typically a dry season, sporadic rain is not uncommon. After we pass the end of this month, precipitation will steadily increase throughout the winter and into the spring. Professor of Geology Dr. Martin A. Knoll describes it in the natural history guide Under the Sun at Sewanee: “This abundant rain falls unevenly across the year, with the winter and spring receiving the most precipitation and the late summer and autumn remaining rather dry.” If you have somehow survived this long without a rain jacket, it’s probably time to get one.
This late cooling of the weather begs the question: what will the winter season bring? After an unbearably and unseasonably hot summer around the country, and a delay in the cooling down here on the Mountain, people wonder how cold winter will be. While it is still early to tell, the groundwork is being laid. The Old Farmers Almanac, as well as El Nino analysis, predicts cold and snowy winters, especially in the southern United States. The wind and rain patterns of El Nino predict a lot of moisture in the air in the south, which will lead to a rainy and foggy Sewanee. More moisture equals colder temperatures and higher chance of snow.
The hot summer and likely freezing winter shows a bad trend for the future. We are seeing high extremes, burning hot summers, temperatures being above 100 degrees for weeks in a row, and icy-cold winters, with temperatures dropping below freezing even in the most southern parts of the United States. This shows that the effects of climate change are becoming more prevalent and possibly irreversible.
Before the fog descends, the best way to enjoy this season on the domain is to experience it firsthand. You can do this through the Sewanee Outing Program (SOP) or with a couple of friends, which leads trips out and around the campus year-round including hiking, biking, climbing, and many other activities! As SOP Director John Benson says, “This is your campus – go out and explore it!”