6/20/2012 - Get ready for summer heat in Asheville
by Sabian Warren - Asheville Citizen Times
ASHEVILLE -- An unexpectedly mild spring should give way to highs reaching into the upper 80s by Wednesday, the first official day of summer.
So far this month, Asheville has recorded 12 days with below-normal high temperatures -- and only five days with highs of 80 or more, according to the National Weather Service. Average highs and lows for this time of year are 82 and 60.
The city has marked no 90-degree days. By this time last year, Asheville already had recorded seven days with highs at or above 90 degrees.
The mild weather, along with along with timely rain, has been a blessing for gardeners and farmers like Mike Fortune, whose vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs have gotten a huge boost heading into the warmest months.
"It's been pretty ideal so far," said Fortune, who runs Green Hill Urban Farm in West Asheville and another larger farm in Madison County.
"We've been getting consistent rain. And it's been just warm enough for the summer stuff and just cool enough for the spring stuff. I'm having the best year I've ever had," Fortune said. "I've had no hail, no freeze, no flooding. It's been just perfect."
Fortune hasn't had to use his irrigation system so far, though that may change soon with the onset of warmer weather, he said.
After two straight summers of record heat -- and following a mild winter and warm spring -- many in the area, including Fortune, wouldn't have been surprised to see another blistering summer.
But it just hasn't happened -- so far, at least -- evidence of just how fickle the weather can be, meteorologist Pamela McCown said. Temperatures have been cooler than normal for weeks during a period that already was sweltering in the summers of 2010 and 2011.
"If common sense ruled in weather forecasting, we'd have had this nailed years ago," said McCown, coordinator of the Institute for Climate Education at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.
The region has seen a northwest air flow over the past few weeks, McCown said, which has kept temperatures cool.
The Weather Service's long-range forecast for June through August calls for the summer to be slightly warmer than normal, with average rainfall.
"I don't think we'll have too many folks complaining about a summer that is only at or slightly above normal," McCown said.
Rainfall has been fairly good this year. Asheville has recorded 19.09 inches since Jan. 1, which is 1.76 inches below normal, according to the Weather Service.
Above-average temperatures this week are the result of a high-pressure system setting up over the area, bottling up warm air.
For Fortune, even if this week marks the beginning of a summerlong heat wave, his gardens will produce a bounty of produce because of favorable spring weather. A Community Supported Agriculture farmer supplying food to 40 families, he also donates 10-20 percent of his crops to area food pantries.
"We always have extra , and this year will be especially good for that," Fortune said. "We're hoping to give them 2,000 pounds (of produce) this year."