The New York Times, June 23, 2003
While New Yorkers fell deeper into the robotic, umbrella-toting resignation of Londoners and Seattleites, meteorologists watched excitedly as the weather in the city set a new record over the weekend: never has it rained this much in the city during June since record-keeping began in 1869.
The last time it rained nearly as much in June was in 1903, when 9.73 inches of rain fell. The new June record stood at 10.15 inches of rain recorded in Central Park as of last evening, with more than a week remaining in the month.
For pedestrians, soccer dads, joggers and others angry at the sky, records do not distract or console or invite a brighter disposition. But to several meteorologists watching skyward, the record was riveting.
"We haven't had a major record since the big snowstorm in February," said Stephen Fybish, 66, a Manhattan weather and climate researcher who can talk weather records for minutes on end. "I get a lot of pleasure out of contemplating the records coming up."
Only a handful of grumpy Starbucks customers taking refuge on Eighth Avenue near Times Square agreed even to broach the topic, and showed nary an emotion that a record had been broken.
"Not a good start to summer after having a terrible winter," was all Jennifer Anderson, 30, could offer as she sat reading "Men and Other Mammals."
While many New Yorkers are past inquiring why such bad weather has befallen them, meteorologists are still eager to offer an explanation.
It goes something like this, according to meteorologists at Pennsylvania State University:
A river of air high in the sky known as the jet stream steers weather systems across the country. Part of that river is stuck. It currently dips around the New York City area, bringing low pressure, clouds, cool temperatures and rain.
"Last summer it was the other way around," said Paul Knight, a meteorologist at Penn State University. "We were in the part of the jet stream that was bulging, that favors high pressure and warm weather."
In the land of weather record accounting, months become plural. There are the cool Junes and the dry Augusts, and those surprisingly wet Octobers.
Experience indicates that wet Junes lead to dry Augusts.
"It's the feast or famine sort of thing," Mr. Knight said.
Having tracked the Junes with utmost diligence, Mr. Fybish recited some other facts probably lost on the public.
New York's last four Junes, for example, have been abnormally wet, with more than four inches of rain. (The wettest month in New York was September 1882, when 16.85 inches fell.)
This June could also become among the coldest, Mr. Fybish said.
"If we get a certain amount of heat the rest of the month, we will wind up with one of the coolest Junes in 75 years," he said.
In the New Jersey suburbs, news about the record rainfall came as little surprise to many, who cautiously stepped out of their homes under gray threatening clouds.
"Maybe we should start building boats because God is telling us something with all this rain," said Margie Ladd of South Orange, as she sat at a muddy park with her 5-year-old twins. "Last year we had the drought, and this year there is flooding. We are at war in the Holy Land with people dying. Maybe this crazy weather is just a message from above that we all need to start behaving better."
Pushing the prophecies aside, Ms. Ladd said it felt good to be outside, even under cloudy skies.
She said, "There is only so much you can do indoors, and being here with the trees and nice breeze, it's a welcome change."
Jamie Engelhard, 34, was able to mow his front lawn in Maplewood, N.J., for the first time in two weeks yesterday. "At this point you just expect it to rain all the time and to not wear summer clothes," Mr. Engelhard said. "The joke is over. It's time to start summer."
But the record rainfall mattered least to 8-year-old Paul, of Maplewood, whose parents declined to give his last name. Riding his bike in a soggy park, he said he was happy just to be outside.
"This has been unfair weather," he said with a huff. "No playtime. We've had to stay inside. I missed baseball games. It's just been unfair."