Summer weather around the corner

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Two kinds of people live in the South: those who dread what will be arriving in the next few weeks and those who don’t.
I’m talking about summer, the sweltering season of blazing heat and oppressive humidity. You can probably tell which camp I’m in.
I’ve lived in south Mississippi for half a century. If I tell people this when talking about summer, they sometimes say, “Oh, you must be used to the summers here.”
No. The summers have sweated me into humble submission.
The process is the same each year. When summer begins in late May or early June, I’m only mildly uncomfortable. You will still find me voluntarily outside doing yard work, going to baseball games and grilling hamburgers.
By August, after two months of unrelenting heat and humidity, my main goal in life has shifted to identifying the shortest distance between air-conditioned sanctuaries.
Only slightly less amazing to me than people who enjoy handling live rattlesnakes are those who claim to enjoy summers in the Gulf Coastal Plain stretching from Texas across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
A friend of mine starts looking forward to the next summer as soon as we have our first autumn cool snap in October. Tony is from New Jersey. Maybe some residual chill in his blood from northern winters keeps him cool in July.
Meteorologically, the broad scale weather pattern affecting us usually shifts into one of two major summer modes during May or early June and then spends the rest of the summer flip flopping between these two configurations until September.
One dominant summer pattern is when the Bermuda Ridge of high pressure, named for the island in the Atlantic near where it is often centered, noses into the Gulf of Mexico and the southeastern United States. Being on the western perimeter of this huge clockwise swirl of air means a nearly continuous flow of moisture and heat across the northern Gulf Coast. During this pattern, our warm days are often interrupted by afternoon thunderstorms.
A second, hotter, drier mode occurs when a large dome of high pressure sets up in the upper atmosphere over the south central plains of the United States. This is the pattern that can send our afternoon highs into the middle or upper 90s. Afternoon thunderstorms may be scarce or non-existent. If there are thunderstorms, they move down from the north instead of coming up out of the Gulf as they do when the Bermuda High is dominating our weather.
Last week’s spectacular, mild, dry weather was the result of one of the last strong cool fronts of the spring. Daily high temperatures this week are forecast to rebound into the middle to upper 80s. Dew point temperatures, an excellent measure of moisture in the air, which were in the 40s and 50s last week and over the weekend, are headed into the muggier high 60s this work week.
All of which will be a good warm up — pardon the pun — for summer. But, it’s not quite here yet. A weak cool front is forecast to bring back some lower humidities this weekend. Enjoy them while you can.

By Skip Rigney

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox