Mild summer temperatures not passing by unnoticed

Friday, August 6, 2004

Hot enough for you?

The familiar rhetorical question asked on muggy Southeast Missouri days hasn't been heard much lately, perhaps because records show that the past July is the coolest on record since 1967.

According to the University of Missouri Extension in Columbia, Mo., July 2004 ranks as the 11th coolest June-July period on records that go back to 1895. July alone is the ninth coolest on record.

Farmers have taken notice, said Gerald Bryan, an agronomist with the Cape Girardeau County office of the University of Missouri Extension Service in Jackson.

"We're seeing a few more smiles on farmers faces than we used to," Bryan said.

The cooler temperatures and more frequent rain means more kernels per ear of corn growing in the area, Bryan said.

"Last year we had similar type of weather and it was a record corn yield throughout the area," Bryan said.

The soybean yield has nearly doubled, he said, and milk production is up because the pastures are greener for grazing cattle.

"Hot dry weather doesn't favor much of anything, except grasshoppers, I guess," Bryan said.

Farmers may be pleased, but for most people July is still hot. The crews from the Missouri Department of Transportation who work outside in it see a small difference because of a cooler July, but they still sweat on those roads.

"When we use asphalt it comes out at 300 to 350 degrees," said Stan Johnson, a MoDOT area engineer based in Jackson.

One difference the road crews have noticed is that the highways haven't expanded and buckled from the heat as much as they do when the temperatures soar around 100 degrees. Repairing them would mean more work with that 300-degree asphalt.

If July has been cooler than normal, it hasn't reflected much of a difference in electricity consumption, said Sue Gallagher of AmerenUE. The utility keeps weekly records of energy consumption for an area of 40,000 square miles. AmerenUE records overall use, and does not break it down by type of demand.

During one week of July consumption was 17 percent below the previous year, Gallagher said, but during the other three weeks demand was up: one week by 8 percent, another by 2.5 percent and the remaining week 2.4 percent.

"We normally see a 1 to 2 percent increase in just regular demand regardless of the weather," Gallagher said.

A July with temperatures 2 to 5 degrees below normal, as reported by the University Extension, isn't going to make that much difference to the electric company, Gallagher said.

Tina Rodgers, a caseworker for the Salvation Army, said this year there were fewer requests for fans but there's still a waiting list for those households who need one.

Dan Muser, Cape Girardeau city director of Parks and Recreation, said that cooler weather might bring a few more people out to the walking trails or other parks, but he hasn't noticed much difference.

"It's not untypical," he said. "We always have some variations in temperature."

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