Is summer half over yet?

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Who knows how many generations of parents have heard the question coming from behind them, “Are we there yet?” Did children bouncing across the Great Plains in the family’s covered wagon ask? Did little Pilgrims sailing across the Atlantic have the nerve to ask? Certainly for the last few automobile-propelled generations, family journeys have been punctuated by kids wanting to know, again and again, “Are we there yet?”

About this time each summer, I revert to my childhood questioning. I want to know, “Are we there yet?” In my case, “there” is not a spatial location with GPS coordinates. The “there” that I want to know about is actually a time, a “when.”

Have we reached the middle of summer yet? Are we on the downhill slope toward autumn?

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Those of you who have read some of my previous columns have probably picked up on the fact that summer is my least favorite of south Mississippi’s seasons. Too bad for me, because summer is our longest season. In many ways, it’s the season that defines our climate and impacts our way of living more than any other.

Winter overshadows all other seasons in places like Buffalo, New York and Fairbanks, Alaska. It gets cold and stays cold. Similarly, summer is the definitive season for places like New Orleans, Mobile, Jackson, Houston, and, yes, Picayune. It gets hot and stays hot.

By late July the heat and humidity have sweated away what little appreciation I have for summer, and I’m looking forward to a change.

Of course, the first real change won’t come until September. But, when do we usually have our hottest days? After that at least we will be headed in the right direction.

Climate averages, or “normals,” tell us when summer usually peaks, even though we know it will vary from summer to summer. According to statistics compiled by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, the hottest day in Pearl River County falls, on average, between July 26th and August 5th.

In other words, right about now.

Interestingly, the hottest day tends to occur earlier in July to our east in Alabama, Georgia, and the Florida Panhandle, but later in August to our west and north in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, western Tennessee and most of Texas.

But, because it gets hot here in June and stays hot until September, the average date of the hottest day doesn’t mean as much to us as it might to folks in, say, Wisconsin.

The average high temperature for Picayune for June 26th is 91 degrees, the average low 71. Those averages do not change until late August. Even then the daily averages don’t drop much until mid-September when they begin to decrease about one degree every three calendar dates.

This July all but four days have been warmer than the averages. The next few days are forecast to continue that trend with highs in the upper 90s.

Beginning Thursday the center of the upper level high that has kept us abnormally hot and dry will retreat west from Oklahoma to Utah. As we come more under the influence of upper level low pressure troughing, our high temperatures will drop into the lower 90s, and the number of scattered afternoon thunderstorms will increase to more typical levels.

By Skip Rigney