If you’re squinting when the sun comes out, there’s a reason for that.
This winter was cloudier than normal.
“Although this winter was not unusually cold, it was indeed much cloudier than usual,” said Daniel Huckaby, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth.
December, January and February are already the three cloudiest months of the year. Normally, the sun pokes out from behind the clouds for about half the daylight hours.
Not this year.
“This winter, we saw the sun less than one-third of the time,” Huckaby said.
That’s Portland, Oregon, and Detroit levels of cloudy.
Jennifer Dunn, the new head of the Fort Worth office, said the National Weather Service no longer tallies sunshine minutes.
Although the data is incomplete, Huckaby crunched the data and found that since winter 2002-03, this was easily the cloudiest winter.
“We also had both the cloudiest January and the cloudiest February of the last 17 winters,” Huckaby said.
Sanger resident Sam Alexander has his own kind of data comparing the cloudy days — his new solar panels generated much less electricity in January and February this year compared with last.
“You can tell which days are cloudy by how little they produce,” Alexander said.
Last January, his solar panels generated 810.18 kilowatt-hours of electricity. This January, they produced 535.33, or about 66 percent of what they produced a year ago. February was a little better, about 76 percent of the year before.
The long-range outlook for spring — the second-cloudiest season of the year — is for weather that is rainier and cloudier than normal, Huckaby said.
“We may not get out of our cloudy run anytime soon,” Huckaby said.
Some people might be feeling the mismatch in other ways, said Shannon Scott, a cognitive psychologist at Texas Woman’s University.
When spring arrives with better weather, most people have a higher mood, better memory and a broader cognitive style, especially when compared with the poorer weather in winter, studies show.
“This year, by this point, we’ve typically had that weather shift,” Scott said. “Some people may be experiencing a mismatch of what we expected to feel and what we are actually feeling.”
But there’s hope ahead. This weekend is daylight saving time, that odd little game Americans play with the clock every year to make it feel like the days are suddenly longer and sunnier.
And this is Texas, after all. Soon enough, the July sun will be here — and shining an average of 75 percent of the time, Huckaby adds. And as any Texan will tell you, summer here is as reliably hot as the hinges of hell, with bald skies and nary a cloud in ’em.