Weather in 2013 has been a couple steps behind all year. May, absurdly, brought snow. June was as wet as some Aprils. July was reasonable, felt like early summer. And now, in mid-September, we've been punished with 100 degree-plus heat as though it were August.
On Sunday Lawrence hit 103, about 20 degrees above the average since records started being kept by the National Weather Service in 1996. Kris Sanders, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Topeka office, said the culprit is a dome of hot, high-pressure air in the upper atmosphere sitting over the central part of the country, knocking aside any weather that could bring cooling rains.
"It's a pattern we usually see in August, delayed into September," Sanders said. "It's kind of been the story of the year."
The heat wave is expected to break later in the week. Until then, the heat's making life tougher for plants, animals and people.
Bill Wood, director of the Douglas County Extension office, said the combination of hot weather and lack of rain has put pressure on area crops. "It's not good for us," he said. "It's been pretty hard on crops and people and just about anybody."
For corn, the heat could bring harvest earlier than expected and keep the kernels from growing as large as they would normally. With soybeans, the heat could delay the pollination process. "If we could just get some cooler weather and some rain to fill them out, we'd be in better shape," Wood said.
Livestock farmers are also in a pinch. Although the summer saw healthy grasses, especially compared with last year, the heat could stunt their growth. Watering ponds have also started drying up, which could force producers to either move livestock or bring in water, both of which are expensive propositions.
Around the city, parks and recreation crews have had to water flowers, trees and other plants that normally get a break by this point in the year. Megan Gilliland, the communication manager for the city of Lawrence, said that during the summer the city had added temporary staff to help, but those workers are gone now with the beginning of school.
"So it's a little bit of a strain on our full-time staff to do the watering that we usually don't have to do at this time of the year," she said.
But of course it's not just plants that suffer in the heat. Greg Moore, director of the Lawrence Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen, or LINK, said more folks have been coming to the kitchen earlier and staying later so they can be in the air conditioning. Many of them are homeless, can't afford to run their air conditioning all day or don't have air conditioning in their homes.
Some of the people who have come to LINK for meals arrive "looking like they just walked through the Sahara," Moore said.