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Saturday, July 12, 2014

June: Sunny, dry, a bit warm

Doug Webster

June has the longest days of the year, and June 2014 took advantage of that by supplying us with a very sunny month.

Bright sunshine was recorded 67 percent of the time at the Blue Hill Observatory in Milton, Mass., 12 percent above normal and the sunniest June in 35 years. ...

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June has the longest days of the year, and June 2014 took advantage of that by supplying us with a very sunny month.

Bright sunshine was recorded 67 percent of the time at the Blue Hill Observatory in Milton, Mass., 12 percent above normal and the sunniest June in 35 years.

Blue Hill Observatory is the nearest location to Nashua that records sunshine data after the National Weather Service ended these observations in Boston and Concord during the mid-1990s during its modernization.

June was quite a nice month for almost everyone, whether you were watching a baseball game, hosting a family cookout, made a day of it at the beach or tended to your garden.

The only down side of June was for farmers, who found it too dry as the month went along. After below-normal rainfall during May and especially June, topsoil moisture became scarce by mid and late June, resulting in browning lawns locally.

This was the case only across southeastern Hillsborough and southern Rockingham counties, where thundershower activity seemed to be reluctant to develop. Farther north and west, rainfall was more prolific, and lawns stayed green in places such as Concord and Dublin.

Shower and thunderstorm activity to begin July has mitigated dry topsoil conditions locally, and there are no signs of drought at this point. Palmer Drought indices as of July 5 are positive, indicating we are in very good shape for at least several weeks with respect to groundwater supplies.

The reasons behind our nice June weather are based on the idea that we are in a summer version of the winter blocking pattern that brought so much cold to the heartland last winter. Some blocking continues
across Canada and other parts of the Northern Hemisphere, and is allowing the polar vortex to send down a refreshing cool, dry air mass every so often.

It seems odd to think a similar weather pattern from winter to summer can produce severe conditions in one season and superb weather in another, but that is the case. The blocking pattern is bringing the nation’s heartland the best growing and crop conditions it has seen in 20 years. For the second year in a row, tornado counts are at near all-time lows, and extreme heat is nearly nonexistent.

Hot, humid weather only teased our area on a handful of days in June, and we failed to see temperatures reach 90 degrees. This is the first time since 1998 that temperatures failed to reach 90 by July 1.

There has never been a year without a 90 degree reading in Nashua since records began in 1885. 1972, 1985 and 1986 saw only two days when temperatures reached 90 degrees or higher, the fewest on record.

Temperatures don’t reach 90 degrees as much as they used to, and the observed data bears that out locally and nationally. The last 30-year averages tell us that we see 11 days with 90 degrees or more during a typical summer in Nashua, but the 1885-2013 average is 12 days.

The 1910s saw an average of 18 days a year, with the 1940s one behind at 17 days per summer season.

Nationally, nearly 60,000 90 degree readings were observed at all U.S. Historical Climate Network stations during 1936, the most recorded. Since then, a fairly steady downward trend has been noted, so that during the last 20 years, the number is down to around 40,000 occurrences per year.

The average during the 1930s and 1940s was around 51,000 per year, a number that hasn’t been reached in 26 years.

Nearly all of Nashua’s 100 degree readings of record occurred before 1950, so we can see that extreme heat waves are not as common as they once were. Does that mean the climate is cooling? Not necessarily, but global temperatures have remained steady for 17 years.

It does mean that other factors, possibly more clouds, more woodlands and more rainfall, are taking the edge off extreme heat during the summer. The observed data shows that New Hampshire winters have grown a smidgen colder since 2000 after a period of steady warming from the mid-1970s through 1998, but this isn’t true for all areas of the nation.

June temperatures for Nashua averaged out to 67.3 degrees as recorded at Pennichuck Water Works. June 2014 was 1.5 degrees above normal, and tied as the 23rd warmest June during the last 130 years. A nice mix of warm summer conditions and cooler, drier summer polar air made June so nice.

Rainfall tallied at the rain gauge at Pennichuck Water Works totaled 2.34 inches. This total is 2.06 inches below normal, making June the 45th driest since 1885.

More than half of the rain total came with one midmonth storm. Mostly light and spotty showers were observed at other times, with a noted absence of much thunder locally.

July normally brings a few episodes of hot weather and high humidity. Even though the days are growing shorter, the warmest temperatures are delayed by about a month from the longest days of the year.

Midsummer rains generally come from scattered showers and thundershowers, and sometimes these can be gully washers. Summer showers are not fair with rainfall distribution. One town can see a heavy downpour and flooding, while a just a few miles away, no rain falls at all.

The region’s greatest and most intense heat wave on record occurred 103 years ago. July 1911 saw temperatures surpass 100 degrees six out of nine days and 90 degrees 12 out of the first 13 days of the month.

The all-time state record of 106 degrees occurred on July 4, 1911, right here in Nashua. Sixteen deaths were noted through Nashua and Hudson during this hot spell, since air conditioning had yet to arrive.

Weather & Climate appears the first or second Saturday of the month, depending on weather data availability. Doug Webster, of Hudson, is a senior meteorologist at DTN/The Progressive Farmer, a division of Schneider Electric in Andover, Mass.