Fall, astronomically speaking, begins at 10:49 this morning, but area residents are unlikely to note significant or immediate changes in the weather as a result. The turning of the season from summer to fall, as it usually does, will occur gradually rather than immediately.
Temperatures today and perhaps Sunday are likely to be slightly cooler than average and there is only a slight chance of rain, according to the National Weather Service. More normal — warmer — temperatures and precipitation patterns are expected to return next week. Indeed, consistently autumnal temperatures are unlikely to arrive for a couple of weeks and perhaps longer, forecasters say. The prospect for anything more than isolated rain or thundershowers in the next week are somewhat remote. The true arrival of fall, for the moment at least, seems to be on hold.
That's hardly surprising given recent global weather patterns. The summer of 2012, according to a NWS spokesman, was the third warmest on record. Only 1936 and 2011 were warmer. Chattanooga, for example, set an all-time temperature record — reaching 107 degrees on June 30 and July 1. Indeed, several weeks of the past summer were marked by extraordinary heat. Rainfall patterns have been abnormal as well. Chattanooga, for example, is at about average for rainfall so far this year, but parts of the year were abnormally dry and others extremely wet. This region was not alone in the unpredictability of the weather.
What occurred here and across the nation mirrors broader, global trends. Extremes in temperature and rainfall have been recorded around the world. Major weather events — hurricanes, heavy rain, extreme heat, disastrous drought, epic snows, etc. — are becoming more a norm than an exception. And it is unlikely, climate scientists say, that that scenario will change in the short term. The old patterns and averages are changing.
The current long-term, or 90-day, forecast for the region, for example, is mixed. It currently predicts above-normal temperatures and equal chances of normal or above-normal precipitation. Fall, it appears, is likely to be a repeat of the earlier part of the year with alternating period of normal and not-so-normal weather conditions.
Given recent world weather patterns — all-time high temperatures in some places, record rain in others and unprecedented drought elsewhere — it is no longer possible, scientists agree, to deny that the globe is heating up and that mankind's activities have directly contributed to the rising temperatures. Some cling to the notion that is not the case, but their position is increasingly indefensible.
There is little, as the old saying goes, that can be done about the weather other than adapt to it. That's true, but we should also encourage legislation that over time will produce positive climate change. Other than that, we'll have to adapt to the weather and patiently wait for h crisp days of fall.