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July, August, September? When does Highlands County’s hottest day fall

— Anybody who has experienced Florida summers has only one word to describe it --hot.

It’s hot in the morning, hot in the evenings and very hot in the afternoons -- and goes on for what it seems like ever -- until the cool spell trickles in -- after the whole state has prayed for some relief.

While every day and every month in the summer seems to sizzle as much as the next, historical climate data shows there are certain time periods when the mercury may shoot at its highest, and a recent map shows when the warmest day of the year may occur in the country.

The National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration recently unveiled its “warmest day” map based on 1981-2010 climate normals.

Turns out, according to NOAA, Highlands County’s warmest day, on average, falls between Aug. 1-5.

That is about a month later than data the National Weather Service has crunched but climatologists typically caution that weather readings are averages that have a lot of variables.

The National Weather Service’s temperature data places July 1 as the day with the highest average high of 92.4 degrees in Highlands County, from 1981 to 2010 data. Their average mean temperature for the month was 80.9 degrees.

So, could July be considered the hottest month in Highlands County? Meteorologist John McMichael said it’s possible.

That’s the time of the year humidity in the atmosphere builds up and the atmospheric high pressure system suppresses clouds, helping temperatures soar.

It’s also shortly after the longest day of the year, the summer solstice -- when we are closest to the sun.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice falls June 21 but Julys are hotter for one reason even though the days may be slightly shorter.

“Although the amount of solar radiation reaching the earth peaked at the summer solstice on June 21 in the Northern Hemisphere, temperatures for most of the United States tend to keep increasing into July,” explains NOAA.

Temperatures increase after the solstice, NOAA adds, because the rate of heat we receive from the sun is greater than the cooling at night for several weeks, until temperatures start to descend in late July and early August.

The NOAA map shows warmest days varying from the East Coast to the West Coast and even within a state.

While Highlands County and Central Florida, on average, burns its hottest sometime during the first five days in August, a portion of southeast Florida’s hottest day, on average, follows behind ours, while North Florida may typically see its hottest day before Sebring or Miami, the map shows

People’s perception on when it gets the hottest in Highlands County vary but when we posed that question on Highlands Today’s Facebook page, most of the answers were August and September.

That may be some what at odds with climate data, but heat fatigue may simply be the reason why some people choose September, and August because it is more humid.

“August seems unbearable,” wrote Tina Brumwell.

“August and September,” wrote Mike Qualls. “But it seems the worst just before a storm. The humidity is awful.”

The six weeks from mid-July through August, Peggy Gray thinks. Amber N Cale McKinney wrote: the beginning of August.

Steve Aumonte, owner of The Lord’s Farm and Nursery, thinks the reason why people think it’s hotter later is because the weather is not as stormy and there may be fewer light breezes, compared to say, July.

Working outside all summer may be intolerable to most Floridians but the body adjusts to it, said Aumonte, who once stayed in air-conditioning all the time but can now deal without it if he has to.

“People forget that we did not always have air-conditioning,” he said.

How do landscaping people stay cool in the summer?

Ironically, by layering up, he said. That allows the body to sweat, which cools it, and for the sweat to evaporate, he said.

As summer chugs along and homeowners start cranking down their thermostats, Duke Energy folks typically know when to expect elevated energy usage.

“We have two peak periods in our system, a summer peak and winter peak,” said Sterling Ivey, spokesman for Duke Energy Florida

During the summer, August is generally when customers use more energy, and January is generally when the company sees more energy use for the winter, he said.

On a side note, thanks to the amount of air-conditioning we use, Florida’s home retail electricity sales were second in the nation after Texas in 2013, the federal government says.

Electricity accounts for 90 percent of “site energy” consumed by Florida households, and the annual electricity cost of $1,900 is 40 percent higher than the U.S. average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey.