Weathermen Need To Go Back to School

Hoosier Perspectives

Even Indian Summer wasn't normal this year.

Published on: October 29, 2012

Beginning Oct. 20, weathermen began to talk about how the next week would feature Indian summer, a phenomenon that typically occurs in October, and signals the last good stretch of weather before fall and reality take over.

There's just one problem. The typical definition of Indian Summer, according to Jim Newman, retired ag climatologist at Purdue University, is a series of days that feature blue skies, a few wispy clouds perhaps, and unseasonable warm temperatures. We got the warm temperatures, but it rained – Monday, Tuesday, in some paces even at more times. You can't have a true Indian Summer if you're only getting half the equation.

Thursday, Oct. 25 was a typical Indiana summer day, bright, warm, few clouds. But it was one day, not a stretch of days like it.

But then what should we expect from a year where nothing else has gone according to the book anyway. If 2012 is remembered for one thing besides the worst growing season in Indiana in 76 years, it should be for the swings and up and down in weather. It made managing crops and livestock nearly impossible. The whole year became one of living through one crisis after another.

For example, March was so warm it was off the charts. A five-degree variation from normal for a monthly temperature in either direction is a big deal. March was 15 degrees warmer than normal – unheard of, but only a sign of things to come. Through Aug. 4, until rains returned Aug. 5, central and southern Indiana were rivaling 1936, only one step behind, for days above 90 to 100 degrees F.

The livestock picture looked hopeless. Grass looked dead. And indeed there were dead patches which didn't recover. But overall if someone had told me then I would have fall pasture for my sheep well into December and cut could back on hay, I would have said they had been in the sun too long. I was in the sun too long, and in the heat too long, but even I knew it looked hopeless.

Instead, the pastures have made a miraculous recovery. People got third cuttings of hay, and some who started feeding hay in June or early July could stop feeding hay. The situation is still touch-and-go, but nothing like it would have been for livestock producers if the rains hadn't returned.

Corn was a lost cause. But full season soybeans planted late recovered relatively well. Early season soybeans didn't fare so well in most cases.

So given all this background, why would this year have a normal Indian Summer? Enjoy what you got. We hope you used it to move harvest along.

What will happen next? Who knows? But until weather patterns settle back into some kind of rhythm it's likely it won't be normal.