Unusually hot, dry July continued the trend

July 31, 1991|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Evening Sun Staff

Sure it was hot. But even your grade-schooler can remember a hotter July -- in 1988.

It was dry, too. But your basic middle-school kid is old enough to remember a drier July -- in 1983.

The real news is that July 1991 was really hot, and really dry at the same time. And, it has continued a run of weather that could add up to the warmest ever Baltimore year.

That would douse a record set last year.

"This combination of hot and dry is not that usual," says Fred Davis, chief National Weather Service meteorologist at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

With one day left to go, July 1991 was averaging 79.9 degrees, 3.5 degrees above normal. But the hottest July on record in downtown Baltimore was July 1988, when temperatures averaged 84.1 degrees. The airport was averaging 79.8 degrees as July drew to a close, 3 degrees above normal, but still cooler than July 1955, which averaged 81.2 degrees.

While July 1991 wasn't the hottest ever, it was hot enough to set electricity-consumption records at Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

The July heat pushed the utility's peak load up 8 percent, from the 5,477-megawatt peak set in August 1988, to 5,910 megawatts on July 23.

Davis notes that July was just one more unusually warm month in a year of unusually warm months. "This year, every month has been above normal," he says. "And May, of course, was the back-breaker." May was the hottest May on record in Baltimore, 7.2 degrees above normal. April was 1991's "cool" month so far, only 1.9 degrees above normal.

In 1990, "the warmest year ever here," Davis says, "we were averaging 3.3 degrees above normal [through July]. Through July of this year, we will be 3.8 degrees above.

"Of course, we've got five more months to go, so that could taper off. But we are ahead of the pace."

The lack of rain in July also made news, deepening a 4-month-old drought and culminating in an estimated $57 million in crop damage.

Eight Maryland counties, including Anne Arundel, Carroll and Howard in the Baltimore metropolitan area, have been designated agricultural disaster areas by Gov. William Donald Schaefer. Schaefer has asked the federal government to make farmers eligible for a variety of federal assistance programs.

Despite several recent days of showers and thunderstorms, precipitation at BWI came to just 1.76 inches through early today.

While that has restored hope for some crops in parts of the state, it's too late for much of the corn and grains in hard-hit Central Maryland. And BWI is still short more than 8 inches of rain for the year. Scant as it was, the rainfall in July at BWI was far short of the record. The driest July at BWI was in 1955, when barely 0.30 inches fell. This month wasn't even as dry as eight years ago, in July 1983, when only 1.31 inches of rain fell at BWI.

But when Davis looks for years in which July has been both hot and dry, only July 1955 stacks up as hotter and drier than 1991.

In that year, temperatures at BWI averaged 81.2 degrees, still the warmest July on record there, and the driest, with 0.30 inches of rain. That compares with 79.8 degrees and 1.76 inches of rain this July.

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