Tahoe’s blue skies are disconcerting
Dracula didn’t need sunscreen.
But then again, he spent a lot of time in his coffin.
So I’ve decided I need one, too.
Here’s why: Every morning since I moved here two months ago, I awaken to see the marvelously blue sky outside my living room window. Most people are delighted by such a sight.
“Give me a $^%#*!! break!” I swear under my breath when I see it. “Would it hurt anyone to have a little RAIN!? A few clouds, perhaps? Maybe some fog? How about a solar eclipse?”
I’ve lived in five southern states, where typical summer days routinely hit the mid-90s and the relentless, choking humidity clings to your underpants as if you’d dropped a hot tamale down there.
Lake Tahoe, at 75 to 80 degrees, pales in comparison (kind of like Dracula, who was himself quite pale except around his blood-stained lips).
Or one would think.
But as I’ve discovered, the sun is much more intense here. According to a variety of Web sites, in fact, the sun’s intensity increases at a rate of about 6 percent per 1,000 feet above sea level because the atmosphere thins as it gets higher. In other words, ultraviolet intensities increase with altitude because objects are physically closer to the sun.
At Tahoe’s 6,300-foot elevation, therefore, the sun is 37.8 percent more intense than at sea level.
How is that possible? I’m going to fry like a rat in a microwave because I’m only 92,999,998.84 miles from the sun instead of 93 million!?
Imagine what it’s like for people on Mercury.
That dinky planet – which is about two-fifths the size of Earth in diameter – is only 36 million miles from the sun and at its closest point of orbit 53 million miles from Earth.
So, I concluded (with City Editor Elaine Goodman’s help) that at its 280 billion-foot elevation (above Earth), the sun on Mercury is 1.68-trillion percent more intense than at Earth’s sea level.
Phew. That’s rough.
But back to summer’s blue skies …
Gray is good.
At least if you’ve had skin cancer, as I have.
I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice to say my early years as a Southern California surfer/sun worshipper caught up with me about 10 years ago when suspicious spots on my skin began to appear.
They weren’t beauty marks.
Fortunately, I had a good doctor who cut out the cancers as we listened to Mozart on a nearby radio. “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” never sounded so sweet. A few years later a different doctor recommended I apply a cream on a spot rather than he apply his scalpel.
I remember saying something like: “Oh, darn, you’re not going to cut into me? But I enjoyed it so much the last time. Have any Mozart?”
As summer ends and cooler weather prevails, I’ll once again cherish the blue skies.
But for now, my coffin’s just fine.
– Paul Dunn is editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune. He can be reached at (530) 542-8047 or firstname.lastname@example.org.