It has been a lackluster year for sunshine

What a glorious couple of fall days it has been; crisp mornings, mild afternoons, and finally some SUNSHINE. It has been quite cloudy and wet the last few weeks… and really the same could be said for the last few months.  September though was one of the cloudiest we’ve seen in the last few years. But what’s even more amazing is just how long it’s been since we’ve seen a long stretch of sunny days.

First though, I have to explain a mostly sunny day. I know, this seems a bit ridiculous and totally arbitrary, but in order to keep accurate climate stats, these days need to be defined as much as possible. So, the national weather service records daily sky cover on a 10 point scale, from zero to 10. Zero is full sunshine from sunrise to sunset… not a cloud in the sky all day.

No high thin clouds in the distance. No fog in the morning. No little itty-bitty cloud that develops and dissipates in a span of 2 minutes. Nothing. You’d be truly surprised at how rare of a feat this is. But that stat can be saved for another day. Then you have the mostly sunny days recorded 1-3. Partly cloudy is 4-7. And last is mostly cloudy at 8-10. Ten though obviously being cloudy all day. So each number basically represents an additional 10% of sky cover with a combination of both the amount of sky that was covered AND how long it was covered for. For example, in a typical summer day, we start the morning clear. See a few midday and afternoon white puffy clouds that will last a few hours, and then those dissipate around sunset.

Depending on overall coverage of those clouds, that day would be like a 3, 4 or 5. Many of us would consider that to be a fairly sunny day, but officially, a lot of the time, those days are partly cloudy.

So now that you have a general idea how this is calculated, it’s even more astounding to know that it’s now been nearly 3 YEARS since we’ve seen a 5 day stretch or longer with mostly sunny conditions. We’ve seen a bunch of 3 day stretches… those have actually been pretty common. We’ve had a couple of 4 day stretches nearly every year. Then you have to go back to mid fall of 2016 to find a 5 day stretch. That’s pretty astounding especially since much of the East Coast and Southeast U.S. just finished a 10 – 20 day mostly sunny stretch depending on exact location.

Overall mostly sunny days have certainly been lackluster this year as we have recorded just 56 days in that 0-3 category I mentioned above so far since January 1. That is WAY behind last years total of 92. That said, that 92 is from the whole calendar year. By this time last year, we had 73 total days, which is nearly 20 ahead of our current pace.

Enjoy the sunshine while it lasts though as there will likely be very little starting Thursday and likely going into next week.