This has been a good old-fashioned hot July like I remember we had in my childhood days up on the farm in northern Maine. I’m loving it. We’ve even had what Grampa Roy would call: “ripsnorters.” These are those small but mighty thunderstorms that come seemingly out of nowhere and are seemingly aimed just at you as they let loose with thud and blunder, galloping overhead with drown-standing-up rain that is blowing sideways, the better to scrub every blade and blossom clean and drooping.

We haven’t had a lot of severe storms for a few years. We’ve had a lot of rainfalls, but without the rampaging winds and ear-drum busting thunder and lightning with sideways high-wind-driven rain. We have had a couple of those this month brought on by the heat of a sweltering hot July. I can hear Grampa say: ”Now wasn’t that a ripsnorter!”

One of these this month had me counting the seconds between the crashing light from a bolt of lightning and the thundering boom that follows. Remember counting out the seconds? “One little second, two little seconds, three…” to calculate how far away the epicenter of the storm is? The distance between the bolt of lightning and the clap of thunder is approximately 1 mile per 5 seconds. If you start to count “One…” when the lightning hits and the thunder hits with it, duck. It’s directly over your head.

I expect we’ll see some more of these out-of-nowhere ripsnorters come August, which is usually hotter than July, slam straight down seemingly targeting just you. They sure do comb out the dead needles from the pines.

Yep. I’m loving it.

But why is this July so much hotter that the last few years? And I’ve been around long enough to go through several of the sun’s 22-year cycles that are cut in half into 11 years trending cooler, Solar (Maunder) Minimum and 11 years on the hotter side, Solar Maximum, which we entered into in 2019. This warming cycle, driven by increased sunspot activity, will peak in 2025.

We used to be taught these things in school. We also knew about the ocean cycles: El Niño and La Niña, which are caused by cycles of cooling and warming of the waters, mainly around the equator, by the sun cycles and round and round we go.

And who remembers the illustrations in elementary school that taught us about the cycles of oxygen and carbon dioxide? That is a little closer to home, involving every breath we take. We had the cartoons that showed the circle with us standing on the ground and breathing the oxygen that the trees and other plants breathe out. We follow the line showing us breathing out carbon dioxide into the air that the trees breathe in.

Without oxygen, we die. Without carbon dioxide, trees and growing things die.

We learned about other, longer cycles of weather patterns. For example, warmer — even grape vineyards in England. People prospered. We learned about the not-so-far-back “Little Ice Age” where plants and crops didn’t grow, particularly above-ground crops.

Indeed, one colder spell contributed to the downfall of King Louis XVI of France who got his head offed. They were in the middle of a long cold period. Food was scarce and crops didn’t grow, especially above-ground crops. Starvation stalked the land.

King Louis used to have his meals in the great hall in public. He reasoned he was less likely to be poisoned that way. The king suggested the people add potatoes to their diet, as they could still be grown. So he ordered a public banquet and he served and ate potatoes. The people took this as an ultimate insult. They considered potatoes nothing better than pig food. This was another chink in the unrest. It wasn’t long before “Storm the Bastille” was a phrase sealed in history and Louis and Antoinette lost their heads. (It wasn’t that long ago that lobster was considered fit only as pig food and fertilizer. This summer, a lobster roll is $25.) And only as far back as the ’60s, mussels were on no menu. They were not considered fit to eat. Each generation has its mental limitations, it seems.)

But back to today. Hang on to your hats, preferably ventilated straw hats, because it’s predicted that 2025, smack dab in the peak of the 11-year Solar Maximum cycle we’re in now, may be the hottest.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, is a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools. She now lives in Morrill.

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