Research Report: Temperatures 90° or Above

A note from Director of Conservation Science Dr. Elizabeth Long: For many years scientists and naturalists have been studying and observing the flora and fauna of the Shawangunk Ridge. Foremost among them was Daniel Smiley, for whom Mohonk Preserve’s Daniel Smiley Research Center is named. Dan wrote numerous reports summarizing his observations on various topics. This regularly occurring series will feature some of these reports; some hold tremendous scientific value today and just await an interested researcher to follow up, others showcase a quirky sense of humor or highlight an oddity of nature.

Citizen Science Volunteer Climate Trackers recording weather data at the Lake Mohonk Weather Station © Christy Belardo

Read the report: “Temperatures 90° or Above”. May 1979. Daniel Smiley.

A Note From Director of Research Emeritus Paul Huth:

We are fortunate that we have had the opportunity to record the weather at the Mohonk Lake Cooperative Weather Station as part of the National Weather Service System since 1896. When Albert K. Smiley agreed to establish the station at Mohonk and became the first official Weather Observer, little did he know that 122 years later daily weather would still be recorded.

Dan Smiley Jr. taking daily weather readings at the Mohonk Lake Weather Station ©Mohonk Preserve’s Daniel Smiley Research Center

Daniel Smiley Jr., for whom the Research Center is named, became official Observer in 1937. As a naturalist, Dan was always interested in weather statistics and events as they related to and impacted species, the land, and people. In my time working with Dan, I was always aware that he was constantly attentive to potential climate trends, changes, and relationships, as well as individual weather records. Questions from the public about weather were frequent. In the late 1970s, computer enabled modeling began to develop global climate models. A 1979 World Climate Conference mentioned a likely relationship between increased CO2 and a “gradual warming” climate.

As a result of public and scientific interest in changing climate and the availability of our quality local records, Dan set to investigating various weather related subjects. One was potential changes in the number of daily recorded temperatures 90°F or above, the subject of this release, and 0°F and below. The latter will be the subject of a future release. In doing these types of analyses, it must be appreciated that they were all done by hand, without the assist of digitization. Some, I well remember, took considerable time to look up and prepare!

View of Mohonk Lake, Skytop, and Mohonk Mountain House © John Aylward

In his summary, Dan presented the data from 1896 to 1975 by decades. In that 80 year period he noted 137 days 90° or above between May and September. The highest temperature Dan documented was on August 27th 1948, at 98°. The official record for that day actually shows 97°. The summer with the most 90° days or above was 1953, at 10. Thirty-four years of the 80 showed no 90° temperatures recorded.

Chart documenting 90° or above days. See the report to view a larger chart.

I think Dan would be impressed and surprised by the 90° or above data for the 42 year period from 1976 to 2017, inclusive. Compared to the 137 days Dan presented in his paper for the first 80 years, since then, 257 days with 90° or above daily temperatures have been recorded! Also, the highest temperature ever recorded, 101°, occurred on 9 August 2001! And, we recorded two 100° days on 7 and 8 July 2010. Four years showed the greatest number of 90° or above days by far since Dan noted 10 in his 1979 report. They were 1988 with 18, 1999 with 24, 2001 with 21, and 2002 with 29! Only 6 of the 42 years showed no 90° temperatures recorded. Dan noted one 90° day or above on 18 April 1976, the first one recorded in April. Since then, it is not uncommon to see 90° or above readings occurring in both April and May.

So, the daily record of 90° temperatures or above has increased dramatically in the last four decades. All the more reason to continue the legacy that is the Mohonk Lake Cooperative Weather Station to characterize change over time.

“Temperatures 90° or Above”. May 1979. Daniel Smiley.

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