Ask anybody and they’ll tell you: This spring has been strange. A frigid and snowy January kicked off the year, but we turned around with the wettest February on record which was also the 5th warmest. A cold March brought more snow and rain and we had measurable snow in early April. If we stay on track, this will be one of the coolest Aprils on record. You can see in the graph below that February was the only "warm" month so far this year.
It has been unusually wet so far this year, too. February's 9+ inches of rain caused widespread flooding and forced rivers to levels not seen since 2011:
A weak la Nina pattern held through the winter, and this is forecast to transition to a so-called Neutral pattern for summer. This means that cooler and wetter weather is more likely in the Ohio Valley, with hot drought conditions in the southern plains and southwest. The neutral pattern keeps a northwesterly jet stream over us for much of the time.
In looking at the year so far, we see the cold/wet has definitely occurred here in the Tri-State, while the southern plains and southwest have indeed had hot and dry conditions which have prolonged the drought there.
To come up with some ideas for how the summer might shape up, I looked at the last 50 years of weather data for the Tri-State. My goal was to see how years similar to this one played out. In order to focus my research, I only looked at Neutral years. I then looked for years that had a much-warmer than normal February and a much cooler than normal April. Applying these conditions yielded 4 matches or analogs: 2005, 1997, 1996 and 1990.
For those 4 years, I looked at May, June, July and August temperatures. Interestingly, 13 of the 16 months had below average temperatures. Overall, 1996 and 1997 were among the coolest years in that period, while 2005 and 1990 were among the warmest. All 4 years were in El Nino neutral pattern and started out with cold springs.
Next, I looked at rainfall for those same 4 years. 10 of the 16 months had above normal rainfall, and of those 10, more than half were ranked near the top of the wet years list. August of 2005 was the wettest on record, and May of 1990 was the 3rd wettest on record. This led to historic flooding along the White, Wabash and Little Wabash rivers, and was coincidentally the year of the June 2nd tornado outbreak the biggest in Indiana history.
The Climate Data Center’s outlook is leaning toward a warmer than average June, July and August. Their precip outlook is inconclusive at this point. New outlooks should be available next week.
Despite, the Climate Center’s outlook, I believe that based on the data I showed you, it would be reasonable to expect a cooler than normal summer with wetter than average conditions and a lower overall number of severe weather events. Of course, we will still have tornadoes and dry weather and hot temperatures…but I believe the overall numbers will be lower this summer.
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