Columbia residents who stepped outside Thursday morning might have felt as if they’d been transported to another time or place.
Sixty-two degrees with a crisp breeze out of the north? In the first week of August? You’ve got to be kidding.
Mild weather has been the trend for much of the summer, however, with temperatures consistently below normal in June and July. Columbia has topped 90 degrees only six times thus far this summer, compared to 36 times last year.
“It’s not unusually hot,” said Dale Becktold, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in St. Louis. He said that the average temperature was 2.3 degrees below normal in June and that 18 days that month had below-normal temperatures. For July, temperatures were an average of 3.3 degrees lower than usual, and 21 days recorded below-normal heat.
Rainfall was also 1.31 inches above normal for July.
The unseasonably cool weather is the result of a shift in the upper atmosphere’s jet stream, which normally ushers in hot, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico. This year, however, the jet stream has frequently brought cool Canadian air from the northwest.
Columbia businesses that depend on the weather have been affected. Life’s been easy at MU’s A.L. Gustin Golf Course.
“Most times in July we’re out here 50 to 60 hours a week with three or four people on weekends,” said assistant superintendent Nick Gilbert. “Last weekend we had one guy in to check on the greens.”
“The course is in better shape than normal,” Gilbert added. “Most of the rough isn’t irrigated, so the rain keeps it from drying out.”
Assistant golf pro Tim Cundy said the number of rounds being played at A.L. Gustin is about average. He said the negative impact of the rain and the favorable impact of cooler temperatures pretty much balance out.
The mild summer has been a boon to local lawn-care businesses. “Business has been better than expected because it’s been raining on a regular basis and, because of that, people have still been getting behind on their mowing,” said Greg Andrulot of A Cut Above Lawn Service. “Last year at this time, I was sitting at home watching TV and praying for rain.”
The irregular season is causing confusion for home gardeners, said Sheila Forster of Crazy Dick’s Lawn and Garden. “It’s just been a crazy season,” she said. “Some people are thinking that their flowers are getting out late.Some people are still out getting their flowers,”
Folks at the Columbia Water and Light Department have been able to relax somewhat.
“With cooler weather we see a reduction in electrical consumption because people aren’t using their air conditioning as much,” spokeswoman Connie Kacprowicz said. “It helps us because we don’t have to buy more energy out on the market,”
Kacprowicz said the biggest thing for Columbia residents is that their electricity bills won’t be as high as they would be during a hotter summer. That’s especially important this year, given that the city has imposed a temporary increase in electric rates.
The rainfall has also helped the city’s water utility. “When we get a lot of rain, people do a lot less irrigation, so we see water consumption drop and the capacity of the water-treatment plant isn’t pushed as much,” Kacprowicz said.
Farmers are enjoying an excellent growing season. Orion Beckmeyer, who grows soybeans, corn and grapes near Hartsburg, said he hasn’t had to irrigate much.
“The wet summer is making grapes bigger and fatter, which is good,” Beckmeyer said. “It gives us an opportunity to work on grain bins and other equipment because it’s not so hot.”
Gene Danekas, director of agricultural statistics for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said corn and soybeans are maturing about a week ahead of time. “So for those two major crops, the weather has allowed both crops to really advance in their maturity.”
Swimming pools around town have seen smaller crowds. At Country Club of Missouri, assistant manager Trent Hubbard said attendance has been lower than average. “The water’s been staying colder so the kids want to stay out,” he said.