I.) Summer Heat in Perspective
The first heat wave of the season has nestled into the Ohio, Big Sandy and Kanawha Valleys and one thing for sure! A repeat of last summer’s scorching 100 degree heat is not in the cards. Not now, not the rest of the summer!
How can I say that you ask? Well look no farther than the rain fall over the past few months. Many areas have measured more than 10 inches of rain during the past 10 weeks.That means there is a ton of water stored in the ground. So every day this summer when the sun comes out, some of its energy will be diverted into evaporating water from the soil. The more energy that is diverted to the water cycle, the less energy that can be used to raise the temperature.
Another way to look at this focuses on afternoon cloud cover. During last summer’s drought, there was little water to evaporate from the ground, so many days featured nearly 100% sunshine.
This summer with all the water in the ground, daily evaporation is channeling moisture invisibly into the air through water vapor. That vapor then rises into the heavens where it condenses into clouds. Naturally, the more clouds the lower the high temperature.
And now my friends, as Paul Harvey would say, you know the rest of the story.
II.) Dog Days of Summer
The source of their name dates back to ancient GREECE when Plato and Socrates and yes even Aristotle (the father of meteorology) toiled on the Aegean and cruised the Mediterranean. Now some 2400 years later, their legend is both renowned and feared. I am talking about the famous Dog Days of Summer and one step outside and you will know they are here.
The following account is part truth, part legend, part conjecture. Like so many elements of modern meteorology, the Dog Days offer the broadest of interpretations. Here’s my canine best!
As we travel the time tunnel back to ancient Greece, we find the first mention of the constellation Canis Major (Greek for the Great Dog). In that constellation is the second brightest star that is visible from Earth. (The Sun being the brightest). That star is Sirius, the so-called Dog Star.
Sirius is Greek for “Scorched One”. This is a blazing tribute to the scalding heat that enveloped life in the Mediterranean in summer where July and August afternoons routinely hit 100 in Athens and Sparta!
Now the Romans too believed this “Dog Star” was responsible for the sizzling heat. They speculated that when the heat from our Sun played in tandem with the Dog Star, famine and drought would plague society.
Oddly, the ancient Egyptians simultaneously blamed terrible flooding along the great Nile River on the Dog Star. This tells me that even in ancient times, weather in Southern Europe and North Africa ran the gamut from flood to drought and heat.
Now step aside for a moment. Heat, Drought, Flood! Sound familiar? This summer, intense heat out west (wildfires galore from Colorado to California) has shared weather headlines with the great floods of the Midwest. Drought is common in as many as 20 western USA states while farmers remain behind in America’s breadbasket thanks to prodigious spring rains.
Back to ancient Greece! Aristotle and Plato tried to explain the phenomenon of the Dog Star to a superstitious population (recall, how Greeks thought the world was flat and one could fall off the edge of the world!). When summer heat waves put their stifling clutch on Greece, they were accompanied by long dry periods. Drought would set in and crops would fail. Famine resulted and starvation killed many. The Dog Star became synonymous with heat and death!
In modern times, we have added the connotation that since dogs pant furiously during the summer heat, when Sirius commands the astronomical heavens, dogs on Earth will “go mad” during the oppressive heat.
I saw that first hand on the Fourth of July when dogs in Ripley marched with red, white and blue scarves and panted for water on a near 90 degree Independence Day parade.
In reality, the alignment of the stars and planets has little to do with the weather on earth…both in Greece and in the Greek sections of Charleston and Huntington (Greek festival in September). But the legend lives on as the Dog Star remains in a strong position in the night time sky right thru August.
Happy Dog Days!
P.S. Enjoy this picture of C.C. the wonder Corgi as he enjoys the tepid waters of Dewey Lake in Floyd County Kentucky.