After a relatively mild Saturday, summer-like weather dominated our area for the second week of June. Things got hot and very humid, we had some passing thunderstorms, and there was an unusual event on Tuesday the 9th worth documenting.
When Sunday the 7th began, the radar images seemed alarming. They showed a big arcing line of storms moving from the northern half of Illinois to the northern half of Indiana. It looked like a Derecho! Our skies stayed partly sunny but very hazy and humid through late morning, and it was windy. By noon the winds became strong and gusty and dark clouds moved in, but when I checked the radar, that menacing looking storm line had fallen apart, and scattered showers were skirting Indianapolis to the north. By afternoon, hazy and partly sunny skies returned again. I went outside to mow the front and side yards and the patio area in the back, but ran out of time to mow the back yard before I had to pick Adrian up from work and do some errands. The morning low had been 62°F and the afternoon high reached 88°F; the warmest day of 2015 in Indianapolis so far. Dew Points were in the upper 60's°F. Lines of storms developed again in northern Illinois and moved into north central Indiana by sunset, slowly sagging to the south. Even though skies grew overcast at sunset and lots of flickering lightning could be seen to the north during the hours before midnight, no rain fell in our area on Sunday. I was mesmerized every time I went outside watching the distant lightning and the flashes from fireflies all over the back yard.
We stayed up late Sunday evening the 7th through Monday morning the 8th because severe thunderstorms were approaching from the north and west, and there were tornado warnings issued for counties near the Indiana / Illinois border. It seemed like we were in for a rough night. However, as they approached, the storms started to weaken and warnings were dropped. By 1:15 AM I could hear rumbles of thunder along with the flickering lightning, and the gust front hit our corner of Marion County right before 1:30 AM. But it was a much weaker storm than it had been two hours before. There were only a few rumbles of thunder and none of it was close. Heavy rain fell for just five or ten minutes, and the winds weren't damaging. By 2:00 AM the storms had passed and only light rain continued.
Monday June 8th turned out to be an overcast and sometimes stormy day. It was gloomy through the morning with scattered rain showers. Just after noon, scattered thunderstorms started to develop just west of the city and started scudding to the southeast. There were pockets of brief, heavy rain in the neighborhood and lots of thunderclaps. These storms cleared Marion County by 3:00 PM, and skies showed some thinning clouds and filtered sunlight. However, I ran back into them during my drive to work, and they were just clearing Greensburg when I was walking in to the plant at 4:00 PM. Things were fairly quiet outside for both places until about 10:00 PM, when strong storms moved through Indianapolis with lots of close lightning bolts and heavy rain. An hour later, that same line of storms moved through Greensburg. I was working in Final Quality Inspect at the time, and I could see bright lightning flashes and a downpour of rain whenever the bay doors opened and shut to let the cars drive in and out of the factory. In fact, the car traffic was halted for about ten minutes due to lightning! This cleared Greensburg by midnight.
The low temperature on Monday had only dropped to 60°F and though temperatures varied a lot with the clouds and storms during the day, the afternoon high reached just 79°F. The official rain total for Indianapolis from the NWS office by the Airport was a whopping 1.90" but my little back yard glass tube rain gauge only recorded 0.80". I'm guessing these scattered storms dumped a lot more rain at the airport than they dropped on the Southeast Side.
Skies looked clear but murky by the time I was driving home from work after 1:00 AM on Tuesday morning, June 9th. I could see some bright stars and Saturn. I assumed that there was a high fog in the air along with some patchy low fog banks that I was driving through now and then. There were a lot of leaves, twigs, and small branches lying on the streets from the storms that had passed through a few hours before, though I'd seen much worse damage. What was strange, however, was the color of the Moon. By 3:00 AM I could see it risen above the roof of our house and the neighbors' house to our south. It was just nine or ten hours from Last Quarter so it should have still been pretty bright, but instead it was dim and very coppery in color even though it was up fairly high in the sky. By 4:30 AM, when I was about ready to get to bed, the Moon was up even higher in the sky but still looked eerie and ruddy. At that time, only stars that were 1st magnitude or brighter could be seen in the sky. I still thought that it was due to humid and foggy conditions in the wake of the storms.
Tuesday the 9th itself was a very sunny and dry day with just scattered cumulus clouds around in the afternoon. The humidity was much lower in the wake of the passage of the cold front and the air was comfortable. But Tuesday was also a strange-looking day. From sunrise to sunset, the sky seemed very milky white or even grayish, and the sunlight was very filtered. It was hard to pick out the clouds from the sky throughout the afternoon. It should have been much clearer with strong sunlight, since the moisture level was so low. The answer to this came to me from local noon news; the meteorologist mentioned that the upper level jet stream was sending thick smoke from forest fires in Canada straight into the Great Lakes region and on southward. This was the reason for the strangeness of the sky and also explained to me why the Moon had seemed so coppery the night before. When I was at work on Tuesday evening, I saw the sun as a deep red orb set against a very dark gray sky, even though it was clear. Tuesday started out with a low temperature of 58°F and the high only reached 82°F. There was no rainfall near Indianapolis. In spite of the unusual haze, this turned out to be the nicest day of the week!
Satellite image from Tuesday showing the smoke in the upper atmosphere streaming into Indiana from Canada and the Great Lakes. This image is stunning to me!
Photo taken by me using my cell phone of the back yard early on Tuesday afternoon, June 9. This shows the ever-present haze and the weakened sunlight that dominated the daylight hours from the smoke in the upper atmosphere.
This photo was taken by a friend of a friend in my hometown of LaPorte, Indiana, on the morning of June 9. It shows even smokier skies in far Northwest Indiana due to the smoke from Canadian forest fires. Steve Benner posted it to me on Facebook.
I expected skies to be hazy again when I was on my way home from work well after midnight on Wednesday morning the 10th, but it wasn't as bad as I thought. Things looked clear but murky by the time I was pulling up to the house. When I went outside at 4:30 AM, I was very surprised, because the sky was almost pristine! The Moon (now just half a day or more past Last Quarter) was shining over the roof of our house again, low in the east-southeast, but even with this moonlight interference I was sure that I could see stars to 4.0 magnitude or dimmer. There was even a hint of the Summer Milky Way that could be seen in Cygnus! It would have actually been a good morning to get the 10" scope outside and do some observing. But I was unprepared for the clear sky and it was just half an hour before the first light of dawn would have made variable star observing impossible. It was a brief, wasted opportunity. Looking back on it, it was also probably my only opportunity to get out and observe.
Wednesday the 10th was a very sunny and hot day! Winds had shifted and were now coming out of the west and southwest. It was a mostly sunny day with a lot of cumulus clouds that built up in the afternoon and then waned away somewhat by sunset. The sky had very little haze and the humidity was relatively low with Dew Points that were usually in the low 60's°F range. The morning low was 65°F and the high for the day reached 90°F (our first day of 90 degrees or above in 2015). There was no precipitation on Wednesday even though some severe storms developed in northernmost Indiana (near the Michigan border) during the late evening hours and slowly drifted south. These storms fell apart after sunset and only brought clouds to Indianapolis by midnight.
During the predawn hours of Thursday, June 11th skies were overcast during my drive home; the result of that northern line of storms that had petered out as they moved south toward Indianapolis. Thursday itself was a lot like Wednesday had been, There were scattered storms here and there around Indiana during the afternoon, but all of the rain stayed away from Indianapolis and Greensburg. It was cloudier than Wednesday had been with mid-level clouds around noon and then a mix of high and low clouds during the afternoon. It was also hazier than Wednesday had been, though not nearly as bad as we'd seen on Tuesday. The humidity was up. Dew Points were in the mid to upper 60's°F range for most of the day. The morning low was 69°F while the high once again reached 90°F.
Things changed somewhat on Friday, June 12th. It was still hot and humid, but now the weather systems were close enough for thunderstorms to be generated, and this started fairly early in the day. When I was on my way home from work at 2:30 AM (after working a long evening with overtime added!) skies seemed fairly clear but murky. But by 3:30 AM the sky was full of bands of cirrus clouds that hid any stars dimmer than 2nd magnitude. Then the storms rolled in. I was woken up at 10:45 AM to the sounds of close thunderclaps followed by brief heavy rain. This cell passed us within the hour, but other cells drifted by the Southeast Side from late morning through early afternoon, giving us mostly cloudy skies and lots of rumbles of thunder. Some of these cells were bringing down pouring rain just a few miles to our north. After I left for work, one very potent storm cell passed through Greenwood around 6:00 PM but they missed our neighborhood. There were limbs down due to strong winds and there was some damage to homes. I was told by Adrian that there were only some thunder rumbles, a little rain, and it wasn't extremely windy when this storm passed by.
Things weren't over after sunset on Friday. Around 8:30 PM there was a strong storm band that passed through Greensburg (possibly the same one that had caused the damage in Greenwood an hour before) that brought heavy rain and frequent close lightning. I could hear thunderclaps in the Honda plant even over all of the machinery. Then another band of storms passed through Indianapolis around 9:00 PM and also swept through Greensburg around 10:00 PM. It was a very active evening during the hours after sunset! The stormy weather moved out of most of Central Indiana by midnight.
Friday's high temperature was 72°F and the high reached 89°F, just one degree short of the highs that we'd reached on Wednesday and Thursday. Dew Points were incredible; reaching the low 70's°F range. That's like a rain forest! The official precipitation total at the Airport in Indianapolis was just 0.21". At home my little glass tube gauge only recorded 0.09". The storms were very hit and miss; some parts of Indiana, even nearby, had a real deluge!
There was a real sky show going on when I was driving home from work between 1:00 AM - 2:00 AM from Greensburg to Indianapolis on Saturday, June 13th. Though I didn't drive through any rain, and there were some clear spots in the clouds, there were almost constant flashes of lightning to the north and northeast. It was like a strobe light! Some of the flashes were pretty bright. I realized later, when I was home checking radar images, that I was actually seeing lightning generated by severe storms that were drifting between Marion, Indiana, and Fort Wayne, Indiana. This was mind-blowing; these storms must have been 100 miles away! As I approached Indianapolis, there were also some lightning flashes to the southwest from smaller storm cells near Bloomington. These storms fell apart before reaching us.
Saturday itself turned out to be a fairly dry day. There were scattered storm cells around us, especially to the north, but only a small shower passed through the Southeast Side of Marion County around 6:00 PM that barely wet the pavement. The low was 71°F and the high reached 88°F. Dew Points hovered a couple of degrees above and below 70°F so it was uncomfortably humid. The conditions outside convinced me not to get out and do any grass mowing or brush cutting. Instead, I was able to do some things inside the house that I'd been planning to do. After dusk, skies were mostly cloudy,. However, a little after 10:00 PM I was able to spot Venus and Jupiter just ten degrees apart in the west-northwest sky (they will be incredibly close together on the evening of June 30th).
Forecasts called for warm, muggy, summer-like weather to continue for much of next week, with chances of rain and storms almost every day. Next week the predawn sky will be virtually moonless, since New Moon will take place at 10:05 AM on Tuesday, June 16th EDT (14:05 UT June 16). Since we're so close now to June Solstice, with Sunrises taking place at 6:16 AM all next week, the first light of dawn will set in at approximately 4:50 AM or even earlier. This is challenging to observing, but I would like to get in some more variable star observations. We'll see how it goes. If nothing else, I'm going to try to stay current in these entries with what's happening with the weather and also do some catching up of some of the amateur astronomy that I've been able to get in so far in 2015. There will be a lot of entries ahead!