Last month was one of the coolest Mays in Alabama history and the substantial rain the state received this spring and early summer is one of the reasons why.
John Christy Ph.D, state climatologist and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, said another reason is a low pressure system that recently moved through the Northeast, allowing cool air from Canada into the lower United States. Precipitation also plays a key role.
“There is a good correlation between rain and heat,” said Christy. “Mostly due to the cloud cover (precipitation) provides.”
According to Christy, last month was the 15th coolest May in the statewide record that dates back to 1895.
“The statewide average temperature in May was only 68.3 degrees Fahrenheit, a full 2.5 degrees cooler than the 119-year May average of 70.8,” Christy stated. “Combine that with a cooler than normal March and April, and we get a spring 2013 that was the sixth coolest Alabama spring on record. It probably felt even cooler because it came on the heels of 2012, which had the warmest spring on record.”
The coolest spring in Alabama was in 1960 at an average of 59.07 degrees Fahrenheit and the warmest was last year at 67.43 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to data provided by the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge, this month Barbour County has had a significant amount of rain at 7.32 inches as compared to last June at 4.81 inches and June 2011 at 0.73. Last month, the refuge recorded only 0.97 inches and 3.8 inches in May 2012.
The Texasville site location of the Choctawhatchee, Pea and Yellow River Watershed Management Area records 5.9 inches rain for this month. However, last June the Texasville site recorded 6.6 inches and 1.6 in June 2011. Texasville listed 0.9 inches for last month’s total, but 6 inches in May 2012.
Though June has offered some relief in rainfall for a dry May – the refuge reported 1.23 inches for June 5 – some residents believe they could use more precipitation. Eufaulian Jackie Devlin said her garden isn’t getting an overabundance of rain and points to June’s heavy, but scattered, showers as the reason.
“We always seem to be missed,” she quipped.
Though the plants are getting enough precipitation – Devlin can tell by her lush green grass – the summer heat makes vegetation crave more water.
“In the South it’s the heat that affects the plants as well as what kind of soil you have,” said Devlin. “If you have sandy soil, the moisture will drain away quickly. Clay-based soils, however, tend to hold rain and plants can rot.”
Like a person, if a plant stays hydrated and healthy, they aren’t as susceptible to sickness and disease. However, continuous rain can cause plants to contract fungal diseases. So, said Devlin, gardeners must strive for the perfect balance between too much water and not enough. In the Alabama heat, the latter is usually the problem.
“I water before I do anything else,” said Devlin of her garden chores. “If we got a heavy rain weekly, we’d do fine. We could just sit back and enjoy the plants and not necessarily have to water constantly. But that just isn’t the case here.”
Read more on this story in the weekend Tribune.