Summer Heat Wave Likely

Dry May Foretells Scorching Summer

It’s less than two weeks before the Memorial Day weekend, so our thoughts are turning to summer “fun in the sun”. In Ironton, folks are prepping for the longest running Memorial Day parade in the USA. In Grayson, Memory Days will attract tens of thousands to a fun weekend celebration. Dad is busy cleaning the grill and your community pool is in the process of being spiffed up for opening day.

Of course, all sorts of vacation getaway plans are being made and one thing is for sure. Whether you are planning a trip to the lake, a jaunt to the shore (that’s a Philadelphian’s lingo for beach) or a caravan to the mountains, it sure would be nice to know the weather in advance!

Well, I have news for you, I can’t tell you what the weather will be on any given summer week or weekend yet. The state of the art in meteorology just isn’t that precise. Best to check with us the week before you leave for our best and latest! But I can tell you with a high confidence level what the theme will be for the summer ahead. “Baby, it’s going to be a scorching hot summer”! Here’s why.

There are many gauges I use to predict the weather in the long range (monthly or seasonal forecasts). In winter, you know I watch the extent and depth of the Canadian snow pack. In summer, I look for the strength of the Bermuda high. The stronger and farther west the cell forms, the hotter and drier it is here in Appalachia. So far the high has not distinguished itself as particularly hot and its position is climatologically normal. So a first guess would be for a normal 15 ninety degree days, right?

So why am I predicting at least 30 ninety days this summer? Well, experience has taught me that a more important indicator of heat in summer is how wet/dry the ground is entering the June-July. The wetter the ground, the more clouds will form in afternoon (thru the Hydrological Cycle) and the lower the temperature will be. Sure it will be more humid in that case, but right now I am just talking temperature. Conversely, the drier the ground the less clouds that will form and the higher the temperature will be.

This year, after a moderately wet winter, spring soils were rich enough in water to preclude a summer drought forecast, at least at first. Then both March and April held their own with decent but not prolific rainfalls. Sure we had a flooding episode in April thru the Coalfields, but looking at spring rains as a whole, they were not as impressive as one would think. Still, ground soil levels were good heading into May.

Now, a fortnight of dryness (it hasn’t rained in earnest since Cinco de Mayo) has turned un-watered lawns brown. Cracking soils have been plowed and seed sown from the Corn fields in Jackson and Vinton Counties Ohio to the tobacco fields of Carter and Elliott Counties Kentucky. The hay fields of West Virginia look lush from a distance, but are in need of a good drink of water before the first cut around Memorial Day.

But May rains at this point won’t soak into the ground. Instead, now that the trees are fully leafed, the vegetation will soak in most of the rain water only to evapo-transpire it to space the next day when the sun comes out. In effect, a dry May soil will stay dry much of the summer unless rains are constant. Trouble is constant rains are highly unusual in Appalachia in summer.

Now I am not predicting a summer drought at this point. Given how wet the soil is in the Mississippi Valley, I feel we will be on the verge of drought much of the summer, only to have an afternoon cloudburst soak our lawns and farmers crops. In 1993, these identical conditions led to a hot summer (30+ ninety days) and a very good harvest courtesy of evening thunderstorms.

So in a repeat of 1993, I am predicting 30 ninety days this summer (Charleston has its first under its belt with Huntington perhaps joining the fray on Tuesday). So for my jogging buddy Mark George of Pepsi, my recommendation is to lay in an extra supply of those delicious Pepsi products (my favorite is Gatorade) since folks will be mighty thirsty this summer.

One final prediction, if we stay dry into June, look for a run at 100 degrees before the first full day of summer and a scorching Fathers’ Day weekend here at home and in Pittsburgh for the U.S. Open golf championship (to be shown on WSAZ).

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