If there is one talent that all Yalies possess by the time they graduate, it is not how to debate their way to the White House. It is not how to speed-read Kant, throw a Frisbee or fashion an edible dinner from dining hall offerings. It is not even street smarts in dark alleys or a propensity to notice the nearest blue phone. It is the art of puddle-jumping.
On a wet, gray afternoon last week, Dayo Olopade ’07 stomped around a particularly large sinkhole on Old Campus. Her dalmation-spotted galoshes slick with rain, her usually-smiling face bent into a frown, she expressed irritation at the long-running downpour.
“I’m getting ready to start gathering two of every creature,” she said.
Olopade is not the only student annoyed by constantly having to encase her feet in rubber. Andrew Lee ’05 is from outside Los Angeles, Calif. Calling the rain “obnoxious,” he said it even discouraged many of his friends from coming to Yale.
“They went to Stanford. Every single one of them,” Lee said.
To be scared off, all Lee’s friends would have had to do was perform a quick Web search of the word “rain.” The word is used 786 times in articles on the Yale Daily News Web site alone. On the Harvard Crimson’s Web site, by contrast, the word appears just 25 times.
But some Yalies believe the weather becomes an undeserving target because students simply do not have enough to complain about.
“You need something to whine about, right? The weather, the dining halls, what are they there for?” Naomita Yadav ’05 said.
All it takes to dismiss that hopeful thought, though, is looking up the official rain levels of various cities around the world. As it turns out, New Haven is rainy. Unusually rainy. Yale is the wettest Ivy League campus, dealing with 48 average inches of rain per year — and nearly five inches in April alone. Columbia University, at 44 inches, is the closest runner-up. Even Seattle, often thought to be the rainiest city in America, receives 12 fewer inches of rain per year than the Elm City. And London– constantly dismissed as being wet and damp — receives less than half the rain that New Haven does.
John Williams ’05, a Geology and Geophysics major, attributed the rainy weather to two main sources of moisture: the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. When the jet stream dips south into the Gulf, he said, it brings moisture back up to the Connecticut area, resulting in a number of rainfalls. The nearby ocean is to blame for yet more energy and moisture for local storms.
Still, a number of students said they do not believe New Haven receives an inordinate amount of rain. But many of these students hail from areas even wetter than the Elm City. Yadav, who is from New Delhi, India, put it succinctly.
“I’m used to monsoons,” she said. “I’ve seen flash storms. I can even walk out [in the rain here] without an umbrella, for the most part, because it doesn’t really ‘rain’ rain.”
Ludovic Rajibe ’07 said while he was used to a lot of rain, the type of storms New Haven experiences came as a surprise. Rajibe is from Mauritius, a small island east of Madagascar. While downpours there are torrential, he said, they also end rapidly, usually within a matter of minutes.
The first time he experienced New Haven rain, he was on his way to class. When the sky began pouring, he ducked into the nearest building, expecting to wait out the storm. Because the climate here is not tropical, he said, he figured that the rain would have to stop soon. He emerged an hour later. Since then, he has obtained both an umbrella and an aversion to the weather.
“I didn’t think I would have to use an umbrella in New Haven,” he said. “Nobody told me about the rain.”
Other students, even those from the West Coast, see the beauty of rainy days.
“I don’t mind New Haven weather because I love being able to buy new wardrobes,” said Jeanne Davis ’04 from California. “I like to be able to wear long coats and wool and nice pants all year round.”
And as Evan Gibson ’04 pointed out, other aspects of New Haven’s weather are worse.
“I don’t mind the snow. I’m used to the rain. It’s the bone-chilling cold of the wind whipping down Prospect as you walk to class,” Gibson said. “That’s the worse thing I’ve ever encountered.”