Welcome to summer. Officially, anyway. After what was a very cool and damp May, almost cracking the top 10 coldest on record in Albany, we made a hard 180-degree turn into summer last month. It was, according to some people I heard, a “typical spring” in the Capital Region. We went from what felt like early spring to mid-summer in about a week. Water temperatures mirrored the sudden influx of heat, jumping into the 70s in some spots by early June.
By the second week in June, we already matched the number of 90-degree days we had all of last year—a whopping two. So, why the change, and what’s to come now that we’re in the heart of the summer? Well, that depends…
The change that we experienced had to do with what we call ridging. All of the crummy weather that we had in May was due to the polar jet stream dipping south, something we call troughing. The polar jet opened the door for the cooler air to come south into the Northeast, but the real culprits were a series of low-pressure areas that rolled over us, at about 18,000 feet, for a few weeks. As the lows went by, we were eventually on the western side of them, which reinforced that cool Canadian air. Almost like flipping a switch, however, the polar jet retreated north. That allowed some more moderate air masses to show up from the south and we warmed up nicely. But, what really made the difference was something you may hear about in the summer months called the Bermuda High. It is a big area of high pressure that is omnipresent in the Atlantic and starts to migrate west after the vernal equinox. It influences a lot of weather in the eastern US—it can steer hurricanes, bake places in the Northeast from Bangor to Baltimore, and help make the air so humid you could spoon it out and put it in a bowl. This big ridge moved over the eastern quarter of the US and brought summer on.
July is the warmest month of the year for us. Average highs don’t move much, but they do represent a change back to, believe it or not, the cooler weather. Our average high on July 1 is 81 degrees, climbing to 83 from the 16th to the 26th, which is climatologically our warmest stretch of weather before we ease back down to a high of 82 on the 31st. It’s important to note that these are only averages, compiled over 130 years of data. We’ve had some days in July that never made it out of the low 60s, and we’ve had eight instances of highs over 100 degrees, to include the all-time record of 104 set on July 4th, 1911. The coolest July 4th high temperature was 64 in 1932 and the record low was 44 back in 1971. Also, if you remember, there was 1.15” of rain back in 1999, but according to our records in the WNYT Weather Center, that came early and didn’t spoil the fireworks that night.
Speaking of fireworks, July is an active month for severe weather as well. The most recent was back in 2003 when six tornadoes affected four counties, including an F2 (up to 150 mile per hour winds) in Catskill.
Don’t forget, one of the most storied and wonderful venues in the whole United States is in our backyard—the Saratoga Race Course, which opens up on the 27th. Stayed tuned next month when I’ll talk more about the track.
I hope you have a fantastic and safe July on the roads, lakes, and on the 4th. If you see me at the track, which won’t be hard to do, please say hello. Hot tips on a triple optional.
Jason Gough is a meteorologist with NewsChannel 13. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time-