The Return of “Perma-Cloud”


My Favorite Domer tells me the “Perma-Cloud” is back, and it looks like it’s settled in for the season.

Now I’m not sure whether “Perma-Cloud” is a proper meteorological term or not, but it sounds pretty descriptive to me — and after all, isn’t communication our real goal?

For the unenlightened, “Perma-Cloud” happens to be that permanent, persistent cloud cover that hangs over the University of Notre Dame and the entire South Bend area. Climate data indicates the period from mid-August through mid-May traditionally receives lower than U.S. averages when it comes to sunshine (in fact, only the months of June and July run over or equivalent to U.S. sunshine averages).

That tells me clouds — whether partly, mostly, or completely — are a permanent fixture over South Bend and ND (at least, for much of the academic year, and especially during November and December).

Cloudiness isn’t a problem for some people. Maybe they’re fair-skinned and balk at applying sunscreen every day; maybe their eyes are sensitive to lots of bright sunlight. But others of us would find that much cloud-cover depressing.

In fact, studies have shown people generally do feel better and are more optimistic on bright, sunny days than on dreary, cloudy ones. And the shortened daylight hours of late fall and winter, coupled with an unrelenting cloud cover, affect millions in this country. Sufferers from SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, undergo hours of bright light therapy every day, and most get good results.

One good thing about clouds is they keep daytime temps from climbing too high and nighttime temps from dropping too low, meaning there’s no great back-and-forth swing in temperatures. And photographers can get excellent results taking portraits or landscapes with the diffused lighting of a cloudy day.

Still, for my money, I’d prefer a bright, sunny day any day!