Right in Our Backyard Having a Heat Wave

Old-fashioned thermometer thumbRight in Our Backyard: Having a Heat Wave

When it comes to the weather, we all tend to have short memories. And we also tend to forget the distinction between individual bad weather days and overall trends.


By Bill Lawyer  


Old-fashioned thermometerWhen it comes to the weather, we all tend to have short memories. And we also tend to forget the distinction between individual bad weather days and overall trends.


Despite the fact that Google and other search engines can provide the answer to nearly every weather-related question, we still often rely on anecdotal experience. For example, one Rye Town Park beachgoer recently assured me that the heat this summer is much worse than “ever before.” 


Summer is far from over, but thanks to the record keepers at The New York Times, the New York City Weather Archives, and the National Weather Service we can keep an accurate track using the Central Park temperature readings. Nothing regarding Westchester weather is nearly as easy to access in such detail.


A heat wave is defined as at least three consecutive days with high temperatures of at least 90 degrees. Statistically speaking most Rye heat waves are in July and August, as the longest periods of sun are focused on our part of the world during that period. 


Back at the end of the 20th century, the Times published a chart showing month-by-month, year-by-year cold and warm temperatures from 1900 to 1999. (Remember all the debate about when the 21st century really began?)


The hottest day of that entire period was 106 degrees, on July 9, 1936.


The longest heat wave was 12 days, from August 24 through September 4, 1953. 


The most consecutive days 100 degrees or higher were three: August 26-28, 1948. 


And finally, the most days over 90 degrees — 39 — were recorded in 1991 and 1993. 


Now let’s take a look at more recent hot weather statistics. According to the New York City Weather Archives, in 2015 the temperature reached 90 degrees or more 20 times: once in June, five in July, eight in August, and six in September. 


But it’s not just the really hot days from year to year that we need to think/complain about. Looking at the weather within the year shows what’s been happening on a more subtle level. 


In 2015 we may have had the third coldest February, but we had the second warmest May, the third warmest August, the warmest September, tied for the warmest November, and the warmest December. 


The average temperature for the year was 56.8 degrees, which is 1.8 degrees above normal. The New York Times reported that 2015 was the hottest year on record in New York City. Switching to the global level, scientists have noted that average global temperatures have been going up every year for some time. 


While this kind of information is useful in settling arguments, on a personal and practical level, keeping track of hot weather shapes our everyday summer lives.


So far, Rye Rec Camp has not made any significant changes in their scheduled activities due the heat — maybe just some extra time at the sprinkler.  


Betti Weimersheimer, executive director of SPRYE (Staying Put In Rye and Environs), recounts that some members have cancelled rides for shopping or appointments due to the heat, and one woman had to stay with a neighbor until she could get a new air conditioner installed.


As I write, we had a significant rainfall overnight and the temperature is down to 70 on my outdoor thermometer. Just getting a break from the heat and humidity can be a great morale booster. And the less we use air conditioning, the cooler the outdoor temperatures are (when running the heat is pushed out outdoors — in my backyard, for example).


So let’s do our best to adapt to summer’s hot days, and remember that in a few months we’ll be complaining about the cold. 


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