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Kentucky Weather

Kentucky Weather

with a foreword by T. G. SHUCK
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Kentucky Weather
    Book Description:

    It is said of just about every state: "If you don't like the weather, stick around. It'll change." In Kentucky, however, this time-worn cliché carries more than a grain of truth. Weather and its vagaries are an obsession in the state, not only because the commonwealth relies heavily on weather-sensitive industries such as agriculture, transportation, and tourism, but also because weather changes are indeed frequent and often abrupt.

    InKentucky Weather, meteorologist Jerry Hill explains how the atmosphere creates Kentucky's weather, and he provides insights into what conditions affect temperature, precipitation, storms, drought, and other aspects of the state's climate. He links the state's volatile weather history to the creation of its rich coalfields and explains how past ice ages helped form Kentucky's fertile farmland.

    Additionally, the book examines tools and techniques for measuring and predicting weather and recounts the lore and superstitions associated with weather phenomena. Hill also discusses key weather events in Kentucky's history. He describes the rainstorm that saved pioneers from an Indian attack on Fort Boonesboro in 1778; the Great Flood of 1937; the devastating tornado outbreak of April 1974, when twenty-seven tornadoes raced across the state in a single day; and the severe ice storm that crippled much of central Kentucky in 2003.

    Illustrated with photographs of noteworthy weather events with tables, charts and graphs detailing everything from record high and low temperatures to statistics on tornadoes, snowfall, and thunderstorms,Kentucky Weatheris filled with significant and unusual facts in the history of the Bluegrass State's changeable climate.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5972-0
    Subjects: History, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-ix)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. x-xii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xv-xvii)
    T. G. SHUCK

    As I think back, the images are still vivid. Snapshots frozen in time, forever burned in my memory: the darkest, most threatening sky I’ve ever seen; the door of our church blown wide open by howling winds; driving home through a pitch-dark neighborhood; the crackle of the radio as the announcer spoke of tornadoes throughout the area and many deaths in the commonwealth; my entire family sleeping downstairs on a pull-out bed not knowing whether a tornado would strike in the middle of the night.

    It was April 3, 1974, the day Mother Nature unleashed her wrath with deadly force....

  6. Preface
    (pp. xix-xix)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
    (pp. 1-12)

    Over the millions of square miles of land surface on the face of the earth can be found a seemingly infinite variety of climates. In the extreme southern portion of the United States, there is a relatively stable climate, one broken in its monotony only by the occasional tropical storm. In the Pacific Northwest, there are frequent lowpressure systems moving onshore to bring wind, rain, and persistent cloud cover. Some of the higher elevations, especially in the western United States, receive abundant precipitation and often remain snow covered year-round, not because of migrating weather systems, but because of the elevation....

    (pp. 13-20)

    We study climate because we assume that average weather conditions provide a good starting point from which to make longrange weather forecasts. Lacking a specific weather forecast for, say, next Christmas or next summer, we can still make a pretty good estimate of future weather just by studying the records from the past. Of course, there are fluctuations in those records, but variations around the average condition help us identify the extreme conditions that we might need to plan for.

    This approach is generally sound if we are making plans for the lifetime of a house, a reservoir, or anything...

    (pp. 21-28)

    The notion of paradise has been present in men’s minds for millennia. Sometimes, as in the Garden of Eden of the Christian tradition, it is a paradise on earth, a primordial paradise lost. Other times, as in both the Isles of the Blessed and Olympus, the mountain of the gods, of Greek mythology, it is a present but distant reality. But what all these imagined regions have in common is that they are gardens—characterized by luxuriant vegetation, flowing rivers, and a temperate climate—and that they are inaccessible, protected from mundane incursions.

    To the early American settlers in the...

    (pp. 29-39)

    An account of long-term weather trends in Kentucky depends on the store of knowledge that has been built up from meticulous and reliable daily observations made by hundreds of people over a period beginning more than 150 years ago. While rocks and fossils give clues to approximate climates, the observations written on paper provide some very specific information. The earliest recorded observations were likely made strictly out of curiosity about day-to-day weather variations or to reinforce a memory that is often too uncertain to win those frequent arguments about how cold, how hot, or how wet the weather was during...

    (pp. 40-52)

    Kentucky’s climate is characteristically referred to ascontinental,which implies that the region is located near the center of a large land area, away from the moderating influence of the sea. In the middle latitudes, where the state is located, this setting means that temperatures can cover a wide range over the course of a year. Not only do residents perspire under the extreme heat of the summer, but they can also sometimes shudder with the extreme cold of the winter.

    Of all continental locations on earth, Siberia is the one in which we find the greatest variation in temperatures,...

    (pp. 53-69)

    What preoccupation with the weather would cause Kentucky folklore to be filled with sayings such as “When a chicken oils its feathers, you can expect rain,” “Expect rain when a cat washes its face around its ear,” or “When fire spits, there will be snow”? Obviously, these and hundreds of similar sayings are characteristic of people who find their daily lives influenced by the presence or absence of precipitation. In Kentucky’s normal climatic state, precipitation is regular and disruptive, but those who come to depend on its regularity are often frustrated.

    The low-pressure systems and their attendant cold or warm...

  14. 7 FLOODS
    (pp. 70-81)

    The abundant precipitation received during a usual year in Kentucky is not so evenly distributed as the long-term averages indicate. While there is normally ample rainfall in every month, frequently there are dry periods that compensate for periods of excessive rainfall. The irregular topography of the state—especially its numerous valleys—makes it almost certain that local floods will develop whenever heavy rainfall occurs in a relatively short period.

    Floods are most frequent in Kentucky during the late winter and early spring months, when the soil is saturated with water and there is less vegetation to retard runoff. A study...

    (pp. 82-102)

    The extremely temperate weather conditions that Kentucky enjoys much of the time are, as we have seen, not without occasional excesses. Fortunately, the state is far enough from a coastline that it does not experience the devastating winds of hurricanes, but severe thunderstorms and tornadoes do occasionally threaten human life and cause extensive damage. These storms, which can occur in any month, can be accompanied by strong damaging winds, severe lightning, and hail.

    In 2002, Kentucky led the nation in insured losses, with nearly $1 billion in damage caused by catastrophic natural disasters, acatastrophic natural disasterbeing any event...

  16. 9 DROUGHT
    (pp. 103-110)

    A drought is considered by meteorologists to be a period of abnormally dry weather of sufficient length within a region to cause a serious imbalance between precipitation and water needs, thus resulting in crop damage or water supply shortages. Drought conditions can build from one month to another and will end only when rainfall has been adequate to restore soil moisture and stream flows to the levels usual for the time of year in question. In some cases, drought will persist for several years before conditions return to normal. Because different regions have different climates, however, drought conditions are determined...

    (pp. 111-117)

    The environment of Kentucky is not measured in terms of temperature and precipitation alone. The comfort and especially the discomfort sensed depend on several interacting weather elements. Conditions can be hot and humid, cold and windy, and mild and sunny—any combination of which can determine how to dress for the day or how to plan for outdoor work. The wind, humidity, cloud cover, etc. can be equally dramatic and extreme in their effects, and no review of Kentucky’s weather would be complete without considering them.

    An area of high pressure that prevails off the southeastern coast of the United...

    (pp. 118-128)

    The development of a region is determined by the resources available to the people who arrive there, and climate is a resource as surely as soils, trees, and minerals are. But climate is also more than just a resource in that it in fact determines what other resources a region has to offer. For example, fertile soils and large trees can develop only under certain weather conditions. Kentucky’s distinctive climate has contributed to its distinctive development.

    One of the best examples of the influence of climate on development is the state’s bourbon whiskey industry. Bourbon whiskey, which is sold worldwide,...

    (pp. 129-135)

    How much would you pay to be able to see into the future? The ability to predict what the economy will do or when and where natural disasters will occur would make you the envy of all (not to mention rich in the bargain). While no crystal ball is surefire, the weather can be an economic indicator of sorts. Of course, weather prediction remains a less than perfect science. Still, temperature trends can be predicted 5-7 days in advance and precipitation 2-3 days in advance, and most often watches for flash floods or tornadoes can be given 2-3 hours in...

    (pp. 136-141)

    One of the notable characteristics of Kentucky’s climate is, as we have seen, its changeability—not just the variety of the seasons, but dramatic changes from day to day. The state was widely settled and the residents accustomed to the unexpected changes in the weather long before daily weather forecasting came into being. During the early period of Kentucky’s history, it was common for Kentuckians to look to nature for signs that would help them predict the severity of the weather that was to come.

    There is nothing uniquely Kentuckian about these signs and their associated superstitions. They were simply...

    (pp. 142-156)

    Basic weather services in Kentucky are provided by the National Weather Service (NWS). The NWS is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), itself an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. It alone has the responsibility to issue regular weather forecasts, severe-weather warnings, and flood forecasts. However, there are a variety of other agencies and organizations that support the wide range of weather information and specialized services in the state.

    The first proposal to create a national weather service was discussed in Congress in 1869. In 1870, Congress passed a resolution requiring the secretary of war to...

  22. Appendix
    (pp. 157-182)
  23. Bibliographic Essay
    (pp. 183-186)
  24. Bibliography
    (pp. 187-188)
  25. Index
    (pp. 189-200)