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BUCKLEY'S BLOG: A summer without heat?

Ben Franklin said the only things certain in life are death and taxes. Usually, you can add summer heat in SE NC to that list, but this year seems different. Truth be told, it's August already - and nary a heat wave for us Tar Heels. What gives?

By the Numbers

As of August 6th, Wilmington has recorded only 10 90° days in 2013. Considering our average high temperature during the summer months is 90°, this is pretty extraordinary -- and there are a handful of stats that back this up:

  • Since 1870, only 10 years have ever seen fewer 90° days by August 5th.
  • The last time we had this few 90° on August 5th was 1947.
  • The average high temperature this summer has been 86.1°, 2.2° below average. 

While the historical data is striking, what's equally impressive is how stark a contrast this is to recent years. [Graphic below]

90° days through Aug 5th compared to recent years

Oddly enough though, this summer doesn't stack up with the coolest we've ever seen. Our average temperature of 78.7° is only 0.8° below normal. Even though our high temperatures have been much cooler, our overnight temperatures have been warmer than average by 1.2° - balancing out the difference.

Why the odd temperature pattern?

It's no secret; we've seen a lot of rain this summer. With rain, comes clouds - and clouds do a lot of things to a daily temperature graph. 

All things created equal, a cloudy afternoon will be cooler since the sun can't warm up the earth as much. At the same time, a cloudy night will be warmer since the clouds act like a blanket that keeps some of sun's heat in the atmosphere.

That explains our cool high temps and muggy overnight temps, but still - why this odd weather pattern?

It has to do with the position of our summertime Jet Stream - the fast flowing river of air high in the atmosphere that separates the high heat and the cooler Canadian air. Let's compare two different X-Rays shall we?

The first, shows a model patient. The typical position of the summer Jet Stream. [Graphic below]

Typical Summer Jet Stream

Now look at what's been happening recently in the summer of 2013. [Graphic below]

Recent Jet Stream in 2013

See the difference?

In a typical year, the summer Jet Stream resides north of the border in Canada. This keeps the cooler than normal air cooped up, and allows high heat and humidity to sear and sizzle the Southeast. In other words -- we're hot, just like we're supposed to be. 

Looking at this year, you can see the Jet Stream has taken many trips down the East Coast. This not only brings cooler air closer, but also creates more rain & thunderstorms - which also help to keep temperatures down in the afternoon as we said.

What about August?

As you can tell, August has already gotten off to a cooler than normal start with nights in the 60's and low humidity. This won't last, but there are signs that things will continue to stay the course paving the way for another month without heat waves. 

2-Week Temperature Outlook for the US

The Climate Prediction Center predicts the East Coast again has a high chance of staying below normal temperature-wise, and I'd agree. The Jet Stream will continue to dip south, with more storms than normal for at least a few more weeks. 

The longer things stay this way, the harder it gets for us to have any 100° days - which might just be music to your ears!

I do have some folks tell me they are missing the heat and humidity, but don't count me among them. If we could keep that humidity low, with some nice and easy 80's I'm a happy camper.

Thanks for reading, and don't forget to connect with me on Social Media. I'm all over the place, posting proably more weather content than you can handle. 

Connect with me! Facebook, Twitter, Google+

- TB

By: Tim Buckley

Very informative :)

Very informative :)

Thanks for this very informative article!

I've been wondering about this ever since June when I started to realize we'd had no heatwave by the end of the month. The summer is the coolest I can remember. Wishful thinking but I hope that Jet Stream can nudge any potential hurricanes away or is it too high for that?

Thanks for reading!

You bring up a good point. Actually, the way the jet stream has been would work well to curve hurricanes out to sea. Of course, it needs to stay there - which remains to be seen.


Last week an article about glaciers melting and global warming. Then this week an article about lower than normal temps. Fail...

Strange weather

That was really interesting. I look forward to reading more. Lynetta turned me on to you. You're smart. Few and far between these days.

Thanks for reading!

Appreciate the feedback Karen!