Exactly 20 years ago, I was living in the Seattle area interning at a weekly newspaper and waiting tables at the Brown Bag Cafe. I loved the Pacific Northwest, but the grayness was hard to take. One day in January 1993 while I was driving home from work, the clouds cleared and I was utterly riveted by the sun. The light in the sky was so beautiful and foreign that it startled me. Not long after that, I decided it was time to return to New England.
For years, I thought I had left all of that grayness behind by moving back East. I was wrong. It turns out that I am living in one of the cloudiest places in the country:Burlington, Vermont.
I’ve always heard people compare Burlington’s gray skies to Seattle. No way, I thought. Not even close. Lately though, it seems like we’ve had endless stretches of cloudy days, and it’s bothered me enough to ask a local meteorologist if that Burlington-Seattle comparison carried any weight.
Funny enough, it does.
If you look at clear days (no more than 30 percent cloud cover), Burlington is actually tied with Seattle for the lowest number of clear days per year – a mere 58 days.
The specific reasons for this are far too complicated for me to explain. Burlington is surrounded by water, relatively speaking. The Atlantic Ocean is to our east, the Great Lakes are to our west, the James Bay/Hudson Bay in Canada is to the north and northwest, and Lake Champlain is right in our backyard. Very simply put, the proximity to all of these bodies of water increases the cloud cover in Burlington.
As I write this, the sun is shining and it’s bright and beautiful outside. I’m not startled by the sun or yearning to be somewhere else. Instead, I’m grateful to enjoy a somewhat cloudless day and to be living exactly where I belong.