The three-month period from June 1 until Aug. 31 — known as meteorological summer — was very different this year than the same period in 2012.
Brian Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, explained the climatological reasons behind the different patterns.
“Last year we had a large area of high pressure that set up over the central United States earlier than it should have and this led to the warm spring and early summer that we experienced,” Smith said. “This year the high pressure stayed west of us for the most part, which led to this spring being much cooler than average due to the resulting northwest and northerly wind flow over the state. This pattern was also in place several times this summer.”
Smith said a normal summer weather pattern for Arkansas sees surface winds from the south that pull in moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, leading to high humidity levels.
“We didn’t have that as much this year,” Smith said.
Anthony Whittington, an agricultural extension agent with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, said the summer weather conditions have resulted in some lower crop yields.
“The corn yields are not as high this year as they were last year due to the late planting because of the wet conditions this spring,” Whittington said. “Rice is also down a little bit over last year. Some who had wanted to plant corn this year had to switch to a later variety of soybeans because they couldn’t get out in their fields at the start of planting time.”
Whittington said rice and corn are currently being harvested in Jefferson County, with the soybean harvest coming in the next two weeks to a month.
“Irrigation was a big help this year because the later planting meant getting the crops finished in hotter weather,” Whittington said. “That has cut down yields somewhat. The cool week that we had back in August did put some disease on crops and some of our farmers had to spray fungicide. But we’re back to hot and dry weather now and that has gotten those problems back under control.”
Whittington said rice was affected by insects this year.
“The stinkbug numbers have been up on the rice and a lot of fields in the county had to be sprayed,” Whittington said.
Whittington said a total of 249,438 acres were planted in row crops in Jefferson County this year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Al Baker, general foreman with West Tree Service, said his crews have appreciated the milder summer this year.
“This year it’s been pretty pleasant for us,” Baker said. “We’ve been able to get more done because the heat hasn’t been as bad as it was last year. Last year it was nasty all the way through the summer. The crew had to take more breaks. We tell them to take a 10-minute break and get some water and get in the shade if they start to feel sick from the heat. But we haven’t had nearly as many of those this year.”
Baker said the dry weather has allowed his work crews to get into areas that are not very accessible when conditions are wet.
“Right now we can drive our bucket trucks into areas that are usually too wet for us,” Baker said. “We can help out our climbers who usually have to go in on foot by letting them go up in the bucket to take care of the trimming.”
Stephen Lazenby and his partner Lance Butler with Centerpoint Energy have been installing new gas mains in Pine Bluff all summer.
“We’ve been excited about how this summer has been,” Lazenby said. “It’s so cool. After what we went through with the heat last year we make sure to hydrate. I talked to some older people who told me they hadn’t seen a summer like last year in their lifetimes. I’m glad it wasn’t that way this year.”
Butler is looking forward to the cooler months.
“I like the cold weather but I can’t stand the heat,” Butler said. “Last year was dangerous. I take electrolyte pills to help with the heat.”
Weather data provided by the National Weather Service confirms that the summer 2012 high temperature averages were higher than their corresponding summer 2013 readings.
The NWS said that the summer of 2013 was the first since 2009 that could be considered below average in terms of temperature, with the average seasonal temperatures the coolest since that date.
NWS readings for Pine Bluff as recorded at Grider Field show that in June 2012 the average high was 90.9 and the average low was 66.6; while in July 2012 the average high was 94.1 and the average low was 74.1. The August 2012 average high was 92.1 and the average low was 69.8.
For June 2013 the average high as recorded at Grider Field was 88.4 and the average low was 69.2. The July 2013 average high was 90.6 and the average low was 69.1. The Aug. 2013 average high was 92.1 and the average low was 70.2.