Archive: June, 2011
The solar energy beaming toward the Northern Hemisphere reached its peak intensity at 1:16 p.m. today, the moment that we call the summer solstice.
Although this is an astronomical high point, the solstice isn't one of the meteorological benchmarks of the calendar year. It takes awhile for the planet to absorb the sun's power.
Of more significance around here would be July 13 and Aug. 6. On July 13, the region reaches what on average is the warmest period of the year.
Fatally low levels of oxygen killed the fish found two weekends ago at Ridley Park Lake, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the weather almost certainly was a factor.
The carcasses were reported on Saturday night, June 11, and that was right after that short but intense heat wave that saw the temperature hit 99.
In addition, that was at the end of a long dry spell. No rain was measured in Philadelphia from May 23 through June 8.
The historic 2011 tornado season has quieted in June, and so far only three deaths have been added to the annual total.
However, the 537 death toll makes this the deadliest year since 1936, and as we mentioned in today's Inquirer story, in that era the government had banned the word "tornado" from forecasts, lest it incite panic.
By any measure, in a period of wild weather, this has been a tragic and monumental season, the likes of which we may not see again in our lifetimes.
The global temperature last month was 59.5 Fahrenheit, or 0.9 above the 20th Century average, according to the National Climate Data Center.
That would make it the 10th warmest May on record, but still about 0.4 degrees cooler than May 2010, and the coolest since 2008.
All of the 10 warmest years in the database, which goes back to 1880, have occurred since 1998.
As mentioned, so far this year severe weather has caused an estimated $32 billion in damages, including insured and uninsured losses and disaster assistance.
That's the highest total since the government began keeping track in 1980, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
That's also better than five times greater than the total for a typical year for the period from Jan. 1 to mid-June - about $6 billion.
Along with the human toll from this spring's incredible weather events, the damage costs may be heading toward record levels.
So far, tornados, floods and assorted mayhem have caused an estimated $32 billion in damages, according to Thomas R. Karl, director of the National Climate Data Center.
That's an amazing figure, considering that hurricane season hasn't got going yet, and hurricanes typically are the biggest disaster-cost drivers.
We're just back from a visit to the Storm Prediction Center in the beautiful flatlands of Oklahoma where they've been dealing with an unimaginable tornado season.
As we've noted, the numbers of April tornado sightings tripled the old record for the month, and this has been the deadliest season in 64 years.
As researcher Harold Brooks at the National Severe Storms Laboratory observed, this marks the first time since 1908 that tornados claimed 60 lives on two separate days.
As mentioned in our online story, record daytime heat is likely this week. But perhaps more impressive, oppressive, will be the lack of nighttime cooling.
In the city it might not get below 70 before the sun comes up tomorrow, and the forecast low of 76 for Thursday, 76, could threaten the standing record of 78.
Warm nights are a sure sign of uncomfortable humidity; water vapor inhibits the radiation of the sun's energy into space.