We are now in the third month of a six-month Atlantic hurricane season, which started on June 1 and ends Nov. 30. So far there have been four named storms, two of which became hurricanes. The latest storm to affect the U.S. was hurricane Dolly, which made landfall at South Padre Island, Texas, July 23 as a Category 2 storm.
The National Hurricane Center reported maximum sustained winds of 100 mph at landfall. There were no deaths in Texas, but it became the most damaging hurricane for the state since Hurricane Rita in 2005. Surprisingly, the remnants of Dolly actually had some positive effects on parts of the Lone Star State. Many areas of south Texas had been in what is categorized as extreme to exceptional drought before Dolly. Corpus Christi had only seen 7.83 inches of rain during the first six months of the year. The remnants of Dolly brought more than 5 inches in just two days effectively ending the drought. Other areas of south Texas received anywhere from 1 to 5 inches of rain, greatly improving drought conditions in those areas.
Back in May, the Climate Prediction Center had issued a 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook which predicted 12 to 16 named storms with six to nine hurricanes. An updated outlook will likely be issued within a week, as the months of August through October are considered the peak months for Atlantic hurricanes. As of July 30, all was quiet in the tropical Atlantic.
While Texas received some drought relief from the remnants of a hurricane, we have seen little relief from a hot and dry July. Coeur d’Alene saw near average rainfall last month, receiving .73 inches from three rain events. July 2007 and 2006 were drier.
Spokane, on the other hand, ended the month with only a trace of precipitation (less than .01 inches). The last time Spokane was that dry was July 2003. Despite recent dry conditions, however, regional drought is not an issue – likely thanks to such cool and wet winter and spring seasons. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows areas of Western Montana and Central Washington as “abnormally dry,” but we are in good shape in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
The cool end to July had me thinking that the entire month seemed cooler than normal. Temperatures stayed out of the triple digits and reached the 90s only on a handful of days. A check on the statistics, however, yielded the surprising information that July temperatures as a whole came out about 2 degrees above normal.
Hopefully the media will not try to pin any near-future weather “extremes” to La Niña, which effectively ended across the equatorial Pacific this past June. We are now currently in what is called an ENSO neutral phase – sometimes called La Nada (Nada meaning “nothing” in Spanish). These “neutral” conditions are expected to continue through fall after which La Niña could redevelop, or we could transition into an El Niño event. It is too early to tell. With that in mind, this month should probably end up as a typical August. That means gear up for several more weeks of very warm and dry weather.