by Bill Evans; Forge, 2012; 223 pages; $18.99
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated almost half of Alabama as a primary natural disaster area. Thirty-three of the state’s 67 counties are suffering either D2 severe drought or D3 extreme drought — eight or more consecutive “dry” weeks, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor in early July.
Affected counties include Calhoun, as well as Jefferson, Shelby and St. Clair. The Monitor estimates that 59 percent of Alabama is currently under drought conditions.
At the same time, the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., declared that 55 percent of the nation was in a moderate to extreme drought at the end of June.
What constitutes a drought? How does it affect the land?
“Droughts are extremely prolonged weather events that cause severe environmental, economic and sociological damage,” writes nationally known meteorologist and popular author Bill Evans in his new book about the weather, “It’s Raining Fish and Spiders.”
“A drought is simply a long period — a season or more — of dry weather.” Evans states the obvious, and then explains the observation with an informative chapter on drought related facts, figures and statistics.
Droughts are measured by the Palmer Drought Severity Index keyed to soil moisture levels, and, by this measure, droughts are going on all over the world almost all the time.
Of special interest are specific temperature charts like the 15 Hottest Major Cities in the U.S. Key West, Fla., is No. 1 with an average annual temperature of 78. That is 78 degrees, day after day, year-round. No other city in America has such an average. Alabama has no city on the annual hot list. The state’s yearly maximum July temperature (1971-2000) is 93.6 F, and the all-time highest temperature for Alabama is 112, recorded in Centerville in 1925.
The consistently hottest place on earth is Death Valley, Calif., which recorded 154 straight days of 100 degrees in 2001.
The hottest world temperature ever recorded was 135.4 in Al Aziziyah, Libya.
How hot can it get at the North Pole? 39! Surprisingly, it is warmer in Antarctica, with the South Pole’s hottest reading at 59.3.
Evans, an eight-time Emmy Award-winning weather reporter, has written an informative and entertaining book explaining the dynamics of tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards and all forms of extreme and odd weather events.
If you are wondering about the book’s provocative title, “It’s Raining Fish and Spiders,” Evans offers a long chapter on strange “rainings” from the sky, including this confirmed sighting:
“In Chilatchee, Alabama, in 1956, a woman and her husband watched a small dark cloud form in an otherwise clear sky. When it was overhead, the cloud released its contents: rain, catfish, bass and bream. . . !”
Evans lists even more startling objects raining down on the world: snakes, spiders and rocks. The heavens have been known to let loose “periwinkles, tadpoles, jellyfish and even crabs … often still alive!” Don’t look up!
Art Gould is a former newspaper reporter and book publisher. He lives in Anniston.