All summer, a question has been on the sunscreened lips of Minnesotans from Baudette to Blue Earth: Is this the best summer ever?
Our wonderment is pure. This summer has epitomized what the Beach Boys sang about, shown why we shun winter tomatoes and vindicated calls going to voice mail on Friday afternoons. A summer such as this is why Dilly Bars became iconic and why we wish on falling stars.
How good has it been?
Consider: June was the Nicest June Ever, or at least since Minnesotans began keeping formal weather records in 1903. It was, in fact, glorious.
We know this via the Summer Glory Index, a tool devised by Kenny Blumenfeld, a climatologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
“It came about because we were asking each other what people were asking us: Is this the nicest summer? One of the nicest summers?” Blumenfeld said. “We’re always looking for ways to make climate information accessible, digestible and sometimes fun.”
He stressed that the index is no more than collected data for the Twin Cities region, run through a filter of what sort of weather makes most residents happy most of the time.
“Basically, we picked the temperature range we know people never complain about, and same thing for the dew point,” he said. Per the DNR website:
“In the index, a perfectly glorious day has a high temperature of 73-79, a low of 57-64, a 6 p.m. dew point of less than 60, and no measurable rain. Such a day earns 10 points for each category, or 40 points total.”
As temps and dew points rise (or fall) further from the glory range, points are deducted. At worst, a summer day becomes a “fail” if the high temperature exceeds 90 degrees or remains below 60 degrees.
(To view the Summer Glory Index, visit tinyurl.com/oa4vxsg.)
“The idea was, basically, what are the weather conditions that let us get outside and stay outside during the day without having our activities postponed or canceled, and what lets us sleep without using extra energy?” Blumenfeld said, as with air conditioning.
Sure, it’s subjective. “The target was comfortable conditions, and I got to define what’s comfortable,” he said, laughing. He knows that some people like higher temps or more humidity, yet still have not relocated to Houston.
“That said, we know of no one who complains when it’s sunny and 78 and the skies are clear.”
Losing points in August
Blumenfeld’s Summer Glory Index is a response to the Winter Misery Index developed last year by colleague Pete Boulay. Both are ways of ranking and qualifying those seasons, which helps them understand “what we normally could expect,” Blumenfeld said.
The Glory Index follows a meteorological definition of summer, or June, July and August. The Misery Index covers December, January and February.
But don’t look for a similar index for fall.
“That would be hard because autumn really moves,” Blumenfeld said. “In September, it can still feel like summer, but November can feel like winter.”
And, while the terms “glory” and “misery” sort of load the dice, Blumenfeld noted that these indexes also can have a compensating effect, depending on the final point totals. In other words, they can provide hard evidence “of how miserable your summer has been or how easy your winter was, if the scores are low.”
As it is, no one foresaw this degree of gloriousness. At one point in mid-July, the summer of 2015 was among the top three summers since 1903. Then came mid-August and its stint in the steam room, followed by a cool stretch that has folks grabbing their sweaters.
“We’re losing a lot of points in August,” Blumenfeld said. “We’re now out of the top 10. But even with a rough finish, we’ll probably be in the top 20 — and once you’re in that territory, those are very special summers you’re talking about.”