Montréal-Style Summer Sizzle

Portable Air ConditionerHow typically Canadian that two blog posts in a row should be weather-related, but here goes!

After living 20+ years in Halifax, I can safely say that I have never experienced before — or, at least, not since my childhood in Moncton — a real canicule. (I like that we have a specific word in French for “heat wave.”) However, now, after this past week, there’s no mistaking that I’ve popped my canicule cherry.

The definition of a canicule varies according to location. That makes sense, for what passes as normal in Florida or the Caribbeans may not be normal elsewhere. For most of Canada, a canicule is defined as “three or more consecutive days in which the maximum temperature is greater than or equal to 32°C (90F).” I believe the weather service in France also considers the overnight low, which mustn’t go below 20C or 21C (68F-70F). But given that the overnight lows in Montréal during the recent canicule, which officially started July 5 and ended in the early afternoon of July 9, didn’t go below 24C (75F) — it was often still 28C-30C (82F-86F) well into the early morning hours — we surpassed most definitions by a long shot.

Starting the evening of July 5, the temperature in my apartment remained in the 30C-32C (86F-90F) range. Whatever wind there was came from the south southwest and I’m facing the north northeast, so even someone’s fart would have been more breeze than I was getting. Realizing that I had a typically intense work week ahead of me and needed to both sleep at night and work at day, I found myself shopping for an air conditioner before starting work on Tuesday morning. I determined the night before that I wanted a portable device somewhat like the one pictured here, not only because I wanted to move it around easily but also because my office only has a door leading to the balcony rather than a window.

I never thought I’d ever break down and buy one of these things. I always found them too noisy, plus I never lived in a place where the heat and humidity can get so intense for so long. At the height of the heat, my new a/c only managed to bring the temperature down to 27C-28C (81F-83F), but the humidity it would take out is what made such temps feel comparatively cool. Unfortunately, it is too noisy to keep on when I’m on the phone for work unless I use the handset rather than my usual headset, and if the people I’m training happen to be on hands-free at their end, I still have to get them to repeat a few times. I’ve had to explain why — that it wasn’t them but me — and they were all very understanding.

Even now that the canicule has officially broken, we’re in for a really hot stretch.

Hot in Montréal

It’s only 26C (78F) as I’m writing this, which apparently is the average high in Montréal at this time of year, but the humidex makes it feel like 34C (92F) and there’s no wind. And the dew point hasn’t gone below 20C (68F), which apparently is as important to consider as the humidex.

At the risk of sounding like I’m complaining, I hasten to add that I’ll take summer heat over winter cold any time! I’m just amazed, though, at how constant heat saps out one’s energy.