Open Door

Open Door
Indianapolis, Indiana

Monday, June 25, 2012

In the Good Ole Summertime

Saturday evening, Amanda, Eric, Ron & I had a chance to attend a concert in Circle Park in Irvington. It was great fun visiting with Linda & George and meeting new friends. Irvington appears to be a great neighborhood to be moving into!

This spring & early summer has been very warm and dry. Yesterday was no exception with a high of 89 and no rain in sight. As we sat out on my porch, my mind began to wander. I began thinking about what the weather was like the summer Horner House was built. Since we know the Mechanic's Liens were filed late in 1875, the house was likely built between the spring and early winter of that year.

So yesterday, I did a little internet surfing to see what I could find about the weather in the Spring & Summer of 1875. Of course, Irvington was quite small in 1875 so the best I could find was information for Indianapolis. Although Irvington is only about 5 miles from downtown Indianapolis, the weather can vary by quite a bit. So this information is part speculation but the weather trend should have been similar.

Indianapolis is rather unusual in that they began recording in the early 1860's. I found a study, History of Weather Observations, 1861 - 1948. Here's a quote from the Introduction on page 1.

"The motivation for the earliest weather observations in Indianapolis is unknown. It seems certain to have been a scientific interest in meteorology. It may have been a natural curiosity about the environment or a desire to be part of the Smithsonian Institution’s climate network that served the public. Or, perhaps, it was to understand a recent severe weather event such as the one that the Indianapolis Sentinel reported that caused roosting chickens to freeze hanging upside down. They reported that on New Year’s Eve 1863, the temperature was about 50°F and raining when the chickens flew up to roost in some orchard trees. On the following morning, New Year’s Day of 1864, the chickens were found, "upside down, hanging by their claws to the twigs, frozen hard and stiff." During the previous twelve hours, the temperature had fallen seventy degrees to a morning low of twenty degrees below zero. It was reported that fifteen Confederate soldiers being held prisoner at Camp Morton froze to death that same night and twelve others were found frozen on a train that was delivering them to the Camp." 

Yikes! We've seen some pretty good weather swings lately but this one is pretty extreme. But what about 1875? The National Weather Service has a number of ways that the 1871 through present data can be searched.

So the first data I found was for yearly averages (see below). This document gives an average for the entire year. For example, the 4th column in the first row is for the Most Precipitation averaged over the entire year. While 1876 comes in 1st with 57.5 inches, 1875 comes in 6th with 54.51 inches. That's a lot of wet and would have had the potential to delay the construction. Years ago, when we first moved into our current house, our neighbors were delayed for several months when building their house. The hole for their basement filled up with rain several times. After the floor & walls were poured, it filled up several more times before they could get anything built on top of it. Amanda was in high school at the time and reported that, "We got us a new cement pond." And 1992 didn't even show up as being unusually wet.

And 1875 was cold. It was the year with the coldest average max temperature per day as shown in the first column, second row. If you look at the third column, second row, you'll see it was also the 7th coldest for overall average temperature.

Next, I decided to look at some specific data for June. The wettest June recorded was - 1875 - by almost 2 inches! This year seems to be about the opposite of 1875, which was much colder & wetter than we're experiencing.

Given what I had found so far, I just had to take a look at the Maximum Precipitation Record for the month by day. Sure enough, both on the 1st & 15th, the winner was 1875. Then I ran out of time and had to stop surfing. 

What did I learn in this trip through time? Well, 1875 was a colder than normal year and one of the wettest. This type of weather is not construction friendly. This leads me to wonder whether the weather was partially responsible for the early issues with the house. Did the weather cause delays that resulted in the Mechanic's Liens? Or would there been just as many issues in a good weather year? And given that the warmest average year is 1921 with 2011 only coming in 8th, does global warming truly exist? Guess I'll need to return to the website next year to see whether 2012 truly is unusual or just uncomfortable.

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