The summer of '14: Short, cool and dry
Summer unofficially ends this weekend, but some are still wondering when it will begin.
"There really hasn't been a summer this year, but more like late spring conditions," said Gary Lessor, a meteorologist with the Western Connecticut State University Weather Center. "After the cold and harsh winter we had, we were all excited for the summer to come, but it really never did ... and before you know it, it's Labor Day weekend."
It was a summer without a single heat wave, which is defined by the National Weather Service as three consecutive days with temperatures above 90 degrees. In fact, there was not a single day this summer where it reached 90. The average summer temperature this season has been 67.8 degrees, one degree cooler than the normal average.
As of Friday, the thermometer had hit 80 degrees only on 19 days in southeastern Connecticut. The warmest days of the season were June 18 and Aug. 9, when it reached 86 degrees on both days.
"Last winter was too long and this summer was too short," said Lessor.
This summer has been so cool that stores never ran short of air conditioners and the utility companies didn't have to ask consumers to conserve energy.
Tara Vece, a manager of Morgan & White Appliance in Groton, said air conditioner sales this season were much less than last summer.
"Usually, there is a significant rush on air conditioners when there is a heat wave," she said. "There haven't been multiple days in a row where it has been unbearable, so people just hold out. Air conditioners are usually used at night, but the nights have been nice and there really hasn't been a need for them."
Marcia Blomberg, spokesperson for ISO New England, which operates high-voltage power transmission systems for six New England states, said air conditioner use drives the demand for electricity in the summer.
Blomberg said peak demand, which refers to the highest amount of power used in a single hour, for June in New England was recorded on June 30 at 21,228 megawatts. One megawatt of electricity can serve about 1,000 average homes in New England, she said. The peak day for the following month was on July 2, when 24,409 megawatts were used.
New England used about 8 percent less power in total this June and July compared to last year - about 22,600 gigawatt-hours this year compared to about 24,600 gigawatt-hours last year. One gigawatt is equal to 1,000 megawatts, and one gigawatt-hour can serve about 1 million homes for one hour.
Rainfall below average
Lessor said not only was this summer cooler than usual, the region received very little rain. The average rainfall total so far has been 6.92 inches, where it would normally be around 11.3 inches. The region is down 4 inches of rain, or about a month's total.
And some garden centers have been feeling its effects.
Rick Verkade, owner of Green Survival Gardens in Waterford, said the lack of water has been difficult on plants, but because he has an irrigation system, he has been able to water his plants properly.
But some produce, such as tomatoes, have been slower to ripen this year because of the cooler temps.
He said homeowners can avoid brown lawns or dead plants if they water deeper.
That is exactly what Wayne Henson, advertising manager at Holdridge Home & Garden in Ledyard, is telling his customers. He noted that this month's showers, which produced several inches of rain, just ran off the ground because the soil was too dry.
"We've been stressing to people that they will need to water extra this year," he said.
Henson said because spring was so late to arrive, they lost a lot of plant sales in April.
"We had a long cold winter," Henson said. "Some days in March could reach the 60s, but not this year. It wasn't until May when it started to get warm, and we had to play catch-up the entire time."
Teri Smith, who owns Smith Acres in East Lyme with her husband Joe, said the lack of rain nearly caused them to lose their crop of corn. But she said the recent rainfall has helped to perk up the crop. The cool weather also delayed the ripening of peppers and eggplants.
Lessor said as the fall approaches, temperatures will get above normal, but nothing record-breaking.
But the extended forecast doesn't bode well for those wishing for a reprieve from last winter.
Lessor said the extra moisture in the air brought forth by El Niño, an irregular warming of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific, could make this winter snowier than usual.
The winter also could be about 1 degree cooler because of colder air lingering over central and southeastern Canada.
"The sad part of the forecast is that the Farmer's Almanac also says the same thing," Lessor said. "That's something we don't like to see. We like to be a little different."
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