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Location, Location, Location!

A reflection of Summer 2009 to date in terms of rainfall and temperatures

It never ceases to amaze me just how fast summer goes. It seems like just yesterday that I was sitting on the anchor desk telling Bo Sykes how I couldn't believe it was already the first of May. After a long four-day weekend, a glance at the calendar this morning to remind myself of the date resulted in the thought of “are we seriously less than two weeks from Labor Day?” Sure enough, the season of heat (or in this year's case, lack thereof) is winding down, and I throw out some observations and statistics from the last several months as we inch closer to fall foliage.

It is with temperatures that I begin my reflection of the past quarter-year. Keep in mind that unless otherwise specified, these statistics were taken from the Charlottesville airport (KCHO). July proved to be a very cool month, with only four days seeing high temperatures at or above the normal (16th, 25th, 27th, and 28th.) The month as a whole had an average temperature of 72.5 degrees, which was 4.4 degrees below normal. Even the month of June ran slightly below normal with temperatures, as we finished a meager 1.4 degrees below normal. This month to date has an average temperature of 76.4 degrees, 0.4 degrees above normal.

It was very dry in July, with only 2.43 inches of precipitation measured. Normal precipitation is 4.94 inches, meaning we finished 2.51 inches below normal. By comparison, June was only 0.31 inches below normal with a monthly rainfall total of 4.15 inches. As of the time of this writing (August 24) we are 7.58 inches below normal in rainfall since the first of this year. From mere observation, I've noticed most rain events have been spotty during the last few months with a majority coming from convective (pop-up) showers and storms. It's been a while since we've had a steady, soaking rainstorm covering the Commonwealth. As a result, rainfall amounts are spotty and greatly varied as these pop-up events tend to be very localized. Need proof? Look at August's monthly rainfall totals. The Charlottesville airport has measured 2.77 inches of rain to date. Just up the road in Madison, our weather watcher Larry has received 4.77 inches.

This brings up another interesting point for conversation. It's tough to obtain uniform information that tells the whole story of an area. A random thunderstorm driving up rainfall totals at the location of a measurement – say, your house, the airport, outside the Newsplex - may be an inaccurate reflection if the surrounding area stays dry. It may be inaccurate to say that we are wetter than normal simply because a rain gauge just happens to be consistently in the line of fire. Likewise, temperature observations may vary greatly simply because of the location of the thermometer. Cooler valleys, sunny spots, or a location shaded by trees on its western side may impact the daytime high temperature recorded. I present to you as an example the airport in Thomasville, Pennsylvania – my hometown (KTHV). The airport and weather equipment are located beside a limestone quarry and directly above a huge limestone deposit. Limestone doesn't hold heat well; therefore, overnight temperatures fall faster and further in the wintertime than the surrounding area. How much colder? Try ten to fifteen degrees.

So what does this all mean? Sometimes an area's climate depends on a distance change of a few feet or a few miles. The changes can be large, but it's almost impossible to measure everywhere at once. That's why we meteorologists value spotter reports so much. Our weather watchers - Stephanie, Diane, Bob, Larry, and John, just to name a few – are our eyes and ears so we can understand the big picture of the weather happening around the region. We're very appreciative of them!

Looking at the last few months, the overall picture is that we're getting some rain and we're still managing 80-degree days. It hasn't been a typical Virginia summer in terms of heat and precipitation, but I'm not that concerned. Keep in mind that the averages we use as a benchmark are simply that – averages. Averages are made of extremes both high and low. Just because we don't hit the average every single year doesn't mean something is wrong. It just means that Mother Nature really is a moody person and likes to keep it interesting.

One final thought... if any of you have a quality thermometer, rain gauge, or other weather-monitoring equipment and wish to help us out (be a weather watcher), drop us an e-mail at weather at newsplex dot com. We may be interested in your measurements!

Thanks for reading! Until next time...

Travis Koshko

 

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