Opinion

June travels

While I was out of town for a few weeks recently, I got to thinking about other “out-of-town” places, specifically places on the globe which are roughly on the same latitude as Northern Maine.

Stop for a moment and think about where you would end up if you went straight east, across the Atlantic, from where you live. You may well have guessed a location farther north than where you’d actually end up. For Presque Isle, if you headed due east, you would hit the western coast of France. But, given that folks think of northern Maine as “way up there” when they look at a map of the United States, many are inclined to think we might be on the same latitude as the British Isles, or even Norway.

But let’s now return to our beloved Aroostook County. June is one of two months in which Caribou has reached 96 degrees (Caribou’s hottest temperature on record). This occurred on the 29th, back in 1944. The other 96-degree reading was on May 22,1977. I know I have written of this before, but if you missed it, it’s rather interesting to note that Caribou’s two hottest days on record, and records there go back to 1939, did not occur in either July or August.

On another note, not to be a downer or anything, daylight will soon be decreasing. By the end of the month, June 30, the sun will begin to set earlier. It sets at 8:30 pm EDT on June 29, but sets one minute earlier, at 8:29 pm, on June 30. But don’t despair. The sun doesn’t set earlier than 8 p.m. until Aug. 4.

Irrespective of day length, remember, we are in the midst of the Solar Sixty, the 60 days with the strongest rays (the period when The County sun is most intense). This period straddles the Summer Solstice, so it began on May 21 and runs through July 21.

So don’t forget your sunblock and also, in terms of your family’s safety, don’t forget to keep an eye on the sky when out recreating this summer. Remember, the “visual” clue to look for, for possible thunderstorm development, is that trend I’ve previously described, when cumulus clouds, those puffy cotton balls in the sky, become more vertically developed into tall towers. These are known as towering cumulus clouds, and a fully developed thunderhead is called a cumulonimbus cloud. It has the classic flat top, with the main storm tower having sharp, sculpted edges. A part of the flat top extends downwind, and it is what is called the thunderstorm’s anvil. Mammatus clouds, those wild-looking pouch clouds that sometimes form on the underside of the anvil, is the place where many people look to see if a tornado might descend. However, that is not where to look. A tornado, were one to develop, would descend from what is called the wall cloud, an isolated lowering of the rain-free base of the thunderstorm.

But mammatus clouds are significant, because they often mean that the thunderstorm is severe, producing damaging winds, damaging hail, or both.

Ted Shapiro holds the Broadcast Seal of Approval from both the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association. An Alexandria, Va. native, he has been chief meteorologist at WAGM-TV since 2006. Email him at tshapiro@wagmtv.com.  

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