Volume 6, Number 8, May 2016
Weather wise, June is typically the calmest month of the year in Alabama. We average barely more than one tornado statewide during the month. (As any native can attest, there is a general shortage of cold fronts throughout the Alabama summer.) And, although it is technically the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, National Weather Service data says there has never been a June hurricane in Alabama.
The earliest hurricane on record to hit Alabama was the record-setting July 5, 1916, hurricane, but more on that next month.
May was generally uneventful, trending at the end of the month toward dry and hot. At the beginning of May less than 10 percent of the state was 'abnormally dry.' The new state drought monitor will show the top half of the state in moderate drought and the northeastern corner in a severe drought.
That kind of thing happens when rain falters and temperatures rise, which they did at the end of the month as temperatures topped 90° during the last week of May. Birmingham saw temps of 90°, 92° and 93° from Sunday through Tuesday, when the normal high would be 84°. Montgomery got 90°+ temps five of the last six days of May, while Huntsville averaged about 11 degrees warmer than normal on May 29-31. Mobile also hit 90° or warmer for the last three days of May, but Mobile's average temperature for the month was 0.6° cooler than May norms.
Stations statewide generally saw little rain in May: With 2.66" of rain, Mobile got just over half of its normal May rainfall. Huntsville got 1.54", Birmingham 1.43" and Montgomery 0.73". Stations at Scottsboro (1.03"), Muscle Shoals (1.16") and Talladega (1.24") saw their driest May on record, although Clanton saw its wettest May day on record May 1st, with 3.98" of rain in one day.
It is too early to say whether this will be a trend that continues through the summer, although there is a better than average chance that might happen as the east central Pacific Ocean transitions from an El Niño warming event to a La Niña cooling event.
While we are still a few days from the beginning of the astronomical summer (the Sun hits its northernmost reach on June 20 at 5:34 a.m. CDT), June 1 marks not only the start of the hurricane season but also the meteorological summer. In the Northern Hemisphere, of course.
While the Sun is going to do what the Sun does, the warmest 91 days of the calendar year for Alabama occur, on average, starting about June 9 and running through Sept. 7. June 9 is a bit closer to June 1 than it is to the solstice, so meteorologists generally refer to the entire month of June as the start of summer and the last day of August as its end.
It's an interesting choice for modern scientists to be making, choosing between a calendar introduced by a 16th century pope or solar movements tracked by ancient civilizations from Egypt to Stonehenge and beyond.
-- John Christy