Dear Paul

Expert answers to your most pressing questions

The temperature has been well below average since March! And in recent years, September and October have been more summer-like. Is there some sort of seasonal shift happening? My perception is pretty close to yours when it comes to late springs and lingering autumns, so I checked with Pete Boulay at the Minnesota State Climatology Office, who sent me the raw data. It turns out that 11 of the 20 warmest springs occurred since 1980. I was surprised; it’s a classic case of perception not quite matching up with reality. As for warm weather lingering into autumn, there is also some evidence that “meteorological autumn” (September, October, November) is trending warmer. The nine warmest autumns since 1891 have been observed since 1985.

Once and for all: Is it the heat—or the humidity? A trick question! In truth, it’s both. The “Heat Index”, how it really feels, factors in temperature and humidity. The evaporation of sweat off your skin, of course, has a cooling effect; it’s our body’s natural thermostat. But when there’s a lot of water in the air, this process isn’t nearly as effective, and you can overheat. That’s why an 85-degree day with a dew point of 75 feels like 95.

I’m a native Minnesotan, but I’ve never understood why people have such an intense affection for the state fair—it’s usually hot, crowded, and expensive. Please explain. It’s the same reason why some of us watch soap operas; they make our lives look reasonable. The fair is the best people-watching this side of Las Vegas, you can eat until your belt buckle bursts, and it somehow captures the sweet, quirky, hometown essence of Minnesota Nice. There’s something inherently democratic about the state fair too. Rich, poor, old, young—doesn’t matter. It’s neutral ground where (almost) anything goes and where everyone is wearing the same outfit: shoes, shorts, and sandals (with or without black socks). Trust me, I’m a weatherman.

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