June rains reveal Mother Nature's impishness

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The month of June has once again proven that it cannot be trusted to provide an unending string of sunny and warm days. Just as one year ago, substantial rains fell in the Walla Walla Valley last week, accompanied by high temperatures that were nearly 30 degrees below normal for the date. The weather gods have seen fit to do a reprise this week, as yet another area of low pressure is forecast to spin areas of disturbed weather into southeastern Washington through Wednesday — though precipitation totals will likely not come close to matching last week’s 0.92” recorded at the Walla Walla Airport.

Wednesday’s all-day rain event seemed much more appropriate for November than for mid-June. With a raw wind and readings in the low 50s, a cheery fire in the hearth did not seem at all inappropriate, unless one happened to glance at the calendar.

Such rude weather, of course, brought things pretty much to a temporary halt in both garden and vineyard, whose denizens no doubt wondered what had happened to the usual sunny and warm regime for which June has made its solid reputation. Not that the extra moisture was unwelcome, but the lack of sun and the extraordinarily cool temperatures did not particularly favor the further development of local fruits or vegetables.

In the vineyard, the wet weather played havoc with powdery mildew sprays. Vineyard managers were obliged to work around the intermittent rains and apply their fungicides as best they could given the inclement conditions. Some — including your weatherperson — were forced to extend their spray intervals to the maximum in hopes that improving weather in a couple of days might allow for a resumption of their fungicide programs before the efficacy of their last spray expired.

A little crystal ball-gazing and some silent prayer to whatever entity is in charge of the weather were the orders of the week. This served as yet another gentle reminder that all types of agriculture — from a few backyard tomatoes to a 300-acre wheat planting — are subject to the whims of Mother Nature, and that all of us engaged in such endeavors need pay her close attention no matter what the season.

The low pressure system responsible for our latest bout of inclement weather should meander off to the north and east by mid-week, leaving something considerably more congruent with most peoples’ June weather expectations. A large area of high pressure will build into the Pacific Northwest from the south and west, restoring some semblance of the natural order. A fairer and warmer regime will send afternoon highs towards a more appropriate seasonal level by the end of the week: upper 80s to low 90s under a brilliant summer sun.

Just to keep us guessing, however, the powers upstairs (whomever they might be) have introduced a bit of a black cloud in a few of the latest model runs, regarding the possibility of a disturbance passing through our region on Friday or Saturday. This would, of course, alter the aforementioned sanguine outlook, but the faithful Ouija board refuses to make a firm commitment one way or the other, and so, neither will your peerless prognosticator.

For those who are enamored of long, hot summers, the latest long-range outlook from the good folks at the Climate Prediction Center promises exactly that, with better-than-even chances for an abnormally warm and dry summer season that may extend well into the coming fall. Just the ticket for a banner year in the vineyard!

A lifelong fan of both the weather and the Baltimore Orioles, Jeff Popick is an instructor at the Center for Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College and manages the school’s teaching vineyard. Send your questions and comments to him at jeffrey.popick@wwcc.edu.

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