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Don Paul: No signs of recurring drought this spring or summer

I’ll open with a disclaimer: Summer outlooks are fuzzy, by nature. In general, the weather and its patterns are less well-defined during summer months than during the winter. The low-pressure troughs and high-pressure ridges are flatter, the polar jet stream is slower and retreats to the north, and the storm systems that cross the nation are weaker…"in general.”

That disclaimer aside, there is currently no indicator summer in our part of the nation will be cooler than average. That is not to say there will be consistent above-average warmth. At left is the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center’s/CPC temperature outlook for May through July.

CPC is estimating a 40 percent probability of temperatures running above average during that time period. This is based partially on expected upper air patterns with warm high pressure more likely to set up over the southeast part of the country.

In the short term, there are good indications of well above-average temperatures setting up for a few days late this coming week. However, working against this warming amplifying to truly summerlike readings is the sodden soil over the eastern Great Lakes. Wet soil holds temperatures down. Dry soil allows the air above to heat more readily during the day.

Right now, our April rainfall for Buffalo is more than twice the average; Thursday was the wettest April day on record. Our liquid for the year is now at 14.40 inches, about 3.8 inches above average (compared to our burgeoning serious drought last year). It’s unlikely our soil will stay so wet later in spring and into summer, but there remains a good deal of uncertainty about precipitation trends.

At left is the CPC May-July precipitation outlook.

Western New York is in that white “EC” category. What’s “EC?” Simple: equal chances. That means there is no clear tendency for precipitation, with CPC’s estimate of a decent chance for drier-than-average conditions to our west in the northern and western Great Lakes. Should wetter than average conditions become more persistent in the eastern Great Lakes, soil moisture would stay higher than average and hold temperatures down to some extent.

In any case, there are obviously no signs of a recurring drought this spring or summer. The CPC seasonal drought outlook reflects little abnormal dryness anywhere near us:

The abnormal dryness over the southeast United States will allow the air to heat to above-average temperatures more often, and that is why the confidence for hotter-than-average conditions is higher over that part of the country and parts of the middle Atlantic and Northeast. Threading the needle, CPC believes abnormal warmth is more likely just east of Western New York.

By the time we reach July-September, CPC confidence grows higher for Western New York to have more persistent above normal warmth, as shown in the graphic at left.

My confidence is lower than that of CPC because I remain more uncertain about soil moisture in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Western New York. However, even with this wet April we’ve been having, our monthly temperatures so far are still running above average. Again, if the hot air to our south has to pass over wet soil, that will take some of the heat out of it (and put more humidity into it).

So, coming back to my original premise: Despite uncertainty about soil moisture, I’m not seeing evidence in extended range guidance of a persistent cool low pressure trough setting up in the Great Lakes, and I am seeing evidence of warmer high pressure stacked up in the atmosphere over the Southeast and middle Atlantic states. If that verifies, it would tend to produce more warm and humid days than average. At least we’ll be drying out into early next week. That alone – take it from this household – will not eliminate muddy paws. “Good luck with that,” applies to all of us dog owners.

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