U.D. Ciccarelli has seen nearly 90 Modesto summers, but none like this one.
"This is pretty nice," said Ciccarelli, who worked decades ago in his family's fruit-drying business. "It would be nice if I was working in the dry yard and it was this cool."
The summer of 2010 has been relatively mild, a boon to people who work or play outdoors, and to people who don't like to pay big power bills for air conditioning.
July's average daily high was 91.8 degrees, versus the historical average of 94.3. The first 13 days of August averaged 90.7, which is 2.9 degrees below the norm.
These are not huge gaps, but for many people, they may be the difference between warm and hot. This summer also is notable for its shortage of days over 100 -- and for true anomalies such as Wednesday's 79.
Ciccarelli talked about the weather during a visit Friday to Four Seasons Farms, a retail
nursery in west Modesto.
The business has added an eight-acre farm that produces vegetables for sale. The lower temperatures have delayed some crops, but they are still bountiful, co-manager Bernadette Paul said.
"It's kind of warm, but it's tolerable," she said of Friday afternoon's high-80s weather. "It's not unbearable."
The National Weather Service forecasts a high of about 90 today, then low to mid-90s through Friday. The latter will be close to the historical average for August, but still well shy of the 105-plus days that can happen this time of year.
So what gives?
The high-pressure system that usually produces summerlong heat has moved east, said Angus Barkhuff, a Weather Service forecaster in Sacramento. That has produced hot spells in other parts of the country but has kept the Central Valley mild.
A cooling of the eastern Pacific Ocean also has contributed, another Weather Service expert told The Sacramento Bee last month. That has increased the delta breezes that temper the valley heat, he said.
So can we forget about this whole global warming thing? Unfortunately not, according to NASA researchers, who reported last month that the planet's average temperature likely will reach a record high this year.
Farmers in the Modesto Irrigation District have cut their water use because of the cool, rainy spring and the not-so-hot summer, spokeswoman Melissa Williams said.
"MID has delivered approximately 129,000 acre-feet of water to date," she said. "Our long-term average is 173,750 acre-feet."
The weather has delayed fruit and nut crops by seven to 10 days, but they look good, said Roger Duncan, a farm adviser with the University of California Cooperative Extension.
"All the peach growers that are picking right now are reporting good quality with few defects," he said.
The longer growing season also means larger fruit sizes, he said.
Most of the Modesto area's peaches go to canneries, which have had to tweak their production schedules as each variety has ripened over the summer. The same goes for canning tomatoes, many of which were planted late because of wet fields in the spring.
The MID also has seen reduced demand from its power customers. Consumption in June was 13 percent less than the same month in 2009, Williams said.
"I think we have had the air conditioner on this summer two or three times," said Cheryl Carmichael of Modesto, another customer at Four Seasons Farms.
She, too, has enjoyed the weather in her large garden of mostly ornamental plants.
"Not only is it nicer to work in the garden, but the flowers stay longer," she said. "I've used less water, and the birds stay longer."
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2385.