Crozet Weather Almanac: May 2011

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by Heidi Sonen & Roscoe Shaw

May 2011 Temperatures and Rain Amounts
May 2011 Temperatures and Rain Amounts

May usually gets voted “best weather month” around here and this year was no exception.  The month started a bit cooler than normal and finished sizzling hot for the Memorial Day weekend.  Overall, though, temperatures were almost exactly normal.

Rain was above normal again.  We picked up 5.40” of rain for the month, which is about an inch and a half above normal.  Coming on the heels of a wet March and April, we had an amazing growing season in May.  May produces the fastest grass growth every year, but this year was simply out of control.  Ideal temperatures and abundant moisture made a hay crop for the ages but a lawn-mowing nightmare.

Drought Watch

Last month, some of the climate folks at UVA announced that ground water is still below normal and that a summer/fall water shortage is still possible.  Heidi and I got a good laugh from that and couldn’t disagree more.

Sure, the groundwater takes a long time to recharge, but it’s only slightly below normal.  To get some perspective, we like to look at the last big drought year, 2002.  That year started with an extremely low water table AND had a long hot summer.  Reservoir levels were dangerously low by August and September of 2002 but we still had enough to make it through.

Last year was one of the hottest and driest summers on record but we had no drought issues because of the wet (and snowy) winter and spring.  This year is similar.  No matter how hot or dry the summer gets, we won’t run out of water because of the remarkably wet spring.

We are concerned that “weather people” tend to be “Chicken Littles”…always warning that the sky is falling.  After a while, people just tune us out.  Because of this, we try to tone it down and remind people that weather is always a bit crazy but we usually get by just fine.

Short-Term Drought

This doesn’t mean that we won’t have a short-term drought that won’t fry your lawn or garden for a couple of weeks.  Rivers, lakes, and reservoirs rise and fall due to longer- term rainfall.  We track them with medium- and long-term drought indexes.

Short-term drought, on the other hand, can happen quickly in summer.  All you need is a hot, dry week or two and everything goes brown.  This isn’t a threat to our water supply but it is a threat to the vegetable garden.  We get these short droughts every summer and last year, we had two months of it.

June is Here!

We are off to a hot start but June is usually pleasant.  The average high starts at 80 but finishes the month a toasty 86.

Summer starts on June 21.  That’s when the sun is highest in the sky and strongest and the days are the longest.  The sun will set at 8:42pm.

Even though June gets the strongest sun, the hottest days on average happen a month later, around the 21st of July.

The same thing happens every day when the sun is strongest at noon but the high temperature usually is several hour later.

This lag time happens because you still get more heat than you lose even after the sun’s intensity peaks.