IT’S NOW TROPICAL STORM ANA: “Mark it down: on August 15, two-and-a-half months into the Atlantic hurricane season, we finally have our first named storm. Tropical Storm Ana formed overnight.” And we just got our second, Bill, which is expected to become a hurricane.

UPDATE: Steven Den Beste emails:

Related: it’s now been 36 days since the last sunspot.

Based on previous cycles, solar cycle 24 should have begun a year ago, and we should have been well into it by now. But the sun has been amazingly quiet, and that’s probably why it’s been so damned cold lately.

My tomatoes are just starting to bear. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a few before the first frost. But it’s been hot some places.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader John Braue emails:

Den Beste’s comment is misleadingly benign. There are other measures of the beginning of a sunspot cycle, such as reversal of magnetic polarity and the latitude of disturbances. Every one indicates that cycle 24 began with 2009…except the presence of sunspots.

We’re not seeing a prolonged tail-off to cycle 23, or an inexplicable gap, or anything like that; we’re seeing a spotless cycle. We don’t have good data, but it would not be unreasonable to suggest that the Maunder Minimum began like this.

We’ll find out, I guess. And gardenblogger Dave Walters writes:

Ditto on the tomatoes here in Alberta. I just picked a pink one, more to save it from the slugs than because it is ripe. Everything has been 11-14 days behind this year and with a frost warning on Friday and 2 C (~34 F) at the International Airport this morning and the hummingbirds and yellow warblers already migrating south, it looks like it will be another bumper crop of hard green tomatoes wrapped in newspaper in the basement. Good news is that green tomatoes, unlike green potatoes, are edible and with their firm consistency are good for a number of treats like green tomato pie and fried green tomatoes with bacon.

Trouble growing tomatoes in Alberta is one thing, trouble in Tennessee is another. I got more than we could eat from a couple of plants last year; I’ll be lucky to get a few salads from twice that many this year. I’m only guessing that it’s the cold, rainy summer — I don’t think we’ve broken 90 even once — but I don’t know what else it could be.