Lewis & Clark: Weather and Climate Data from the Expedition by Vernon Preston (auth.), Vernon Preston (eds.)

By Vernon Preston (auth.), Vernon Preston (eds.)

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Author Robert Lange noted, “In all the journals of the expedition, nowhere do we find any one word to be as repetitious as the word rain” (Lange 1979). The term “disagreeable weather” soon became their motto. The continual cloudy conditions kept them from taking observations. Lewis exclaimed, “I am mortifyed at not having it in my power to make more celestial observations since we have been at Fort Clatsop, but such has been the state of the weather that I have found it utterly impracticable—” (Lewis, February 25, 1806).

Meteorological Synopsis of the Expedition 13 narrow, with greater current and eddies from spring snowmelt flow. Dead and rotting buffalo, which they surmised had drowned when the ice gave way as they crossed frozen stretches of the upper Missouri, lined the banks. Clark was the first to see the beginnings of “those Shineing Mountains” (The Little Rocky Mountains) on May 19, while walking on top of a ridge near the river. ” The Corps then entered a scenic stretch of the river with spires and canyon walls that reminded the party of the marble buildings in the nation’s capital.

Many members discussed the rising floodwaters, some 12 feet higher than the previous fall, as the spring thaw commenced in the Cascade Mountains. As the expedition moved past Dalles, Oregon, Lewis commented, “The plain is covered with a rich virdure of grass and herbs from four to nine inches high and exhibits a beautifull seen particularly pleasing after having been so long imprisoned in mountains and those almost impenetrably thick forrests of the seacoast” (Lewis, April 17, 1806). The cold, damp, rainy, coastal weather gave way to leeside spring warmth and a break for the weary travelers, and they traveled by land from near Wishram, Washington, to the confluence of the Walla Walla and Columbia rivers, noting, “there are now no dews in these plains, 18 Meteorology and the Corps of Discovery and from the appearance of the earth there appears to have been no rain for several weeks” (Lewis and Clark, April 24, 1806).

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