From lively nights with a dip of nearly 40 degrees in early June to the violent thunderstorms driven by the moisture in July and “dog days” in August, the 2021 meteorological summer in the Williamsport metropolitan area was one of the record books.
The meteorological summer extends from June 1st to August 31st and is called summer by forecasters, in contrast to the astronomical summer, which started on June 21st and lasts until September 22nd.
The three months that have just seen the city and region have broken some records, said Michael Colbert, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service at State College.
No dry heat
As the American West and Southwest burned in record heatwaves, Williamsport and areas in and around Lycoming County had its tenth warmest summer on record and the seventh warmest August since the National Weather Service collected weather data, Colbert said.
“The seventh warmest August in history” said Colbert during the telephone interview. When researching the obtained climatic data, he noticed the other frequent visitor – rain.
By late August, the city had seen nearly 14 inches of rain since June 1, he said.
On August 26th, 13.5 inches of rain was measured at Williamsport Regional Airport.
“That’s 1 1/2 inches above normal” said Colbert.
Compared to the previous year, rainfall in the city had doubled.
“We had a drought last year with only 7.6 inches of rain through the end of August.” he said.
Of course, it was officially meteorological fall on September 1st when the remains of Ida swept through Williamsport, dropping another 2.7 to 3 inches of rain across Lycoming County. But officially, precipitation cannot be considered part of the meteorological summer.
Another weather anomaly occurred hours before June 1st.
The outside temperature was downright cool and pleasant.
Just hours before summer officially began on Memorial Day, the afternoon temperature was a whopping 53 degrees, setting a record for the coolest afternoon of 1953, Colbert said.
“It was a cool end of May” he said.
When June 1st arrived it was certainly mild and cool outside.
As Dick Snyder of Snyder’s Sweet Corn on Route 87 in Montoursville noted, early and mid-June was very cool.
It was colder early in the morning in Williamsport, he said.
From June 1 to June 10, the morning low temperature was 36 to 38 degrees and that may not have been what could have been up north in the mountainous areas, he said.
Mostly it was a rather “noticeable” Month, said Colbert.
Nothing too much to arouse the interest of a weather man or weather observer.
But the cool days were the factor.
For example, June 17 and June 23 each had lows that lasted until the mid-1940s in the city and were possibly colder in the mountains.
Other days that it was quite comfortable to sleep without air conditioning were June 11th with a high of 72 and a low of 59 and June 16 with a high of 76 and a low of 57.
Most of the month when the strawberries ripened and the fields were harvested, it was drizzly and cloudy with days with the sun peeking out from behind the clouds.
A damp, warning month
Then came July, and as expected, the heat resulted in violent thunderstorms in the afternoon and, worse, a handful of tornadoes.
Colbert said the National Weather Service issued multiple storm warnings, flash flood monitors and warnings, and noted tornadic activity on radar.
A tornado warning was issued on July 11 at 7:39 p.m. for the Jersey Shore, Williamsport, Cogan Station and DuBoistown areas, Colbert said.
Again two days later, on July 13, a tornado warning was issued for southern Lycoming County.
“We did not find any major damage from tornadoes” Colbert said, although there was evidence that trees had fallen and some minor structural damage was reported.
The month continued with July 4th celebrations and fireworks displays, along with the normally humid days of the Lycoming County Fair, which had afternoons filled with spotty showers and some thunderstorms.
The rain and humidity were evident this July due to the tropical airflow from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, Colbert said.
Summer of 2020, which was at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, was one when airflow was mainly driven from the north and Canada, keeping conditions much drier, he said.
“That explains the humidity” he said from the same air that the southern states and islands in the Caribbean experience experience.
But despite the heat and humidity, Williamsport did not get over 100 degrees, he said.
That has happened a couple of times, with the record high of 106 experienced by people from the Depression on July 9, 1936.
That year, it was the hottest on June 29 when it hit 96 and July 6, 94, but with a heat index of 99, he said.
The heat index explained
This is a factor used by forecasters and involves the process of sweating in the human body, he said.
When it’s extremely hot, sweat pours out of the skin’s pores, but it evaporates more slowly, and people tend to feel depressed outside in the sun.
In winter, the opposite is true for wind chill factors, when the exposed skin can suffer frostbite within seconds to minutes, depending on the ambient temperature.
Turning to early fall, Colbert said national data suggested La Nina formation. Then the water in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of South America would be cooler, he said.
It can have some strong weather effects, but it was really too early to tell, he said.
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