Summer Weather Forecast: From Springs Snows to a Summer Sizzle

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As Yahoo! On the Road trundles across America (and planning a hop, skip and jump to Europe) to pass out tickets to (a jampacked spring schedule of concerts), the crew has also been showing off new apps like Weather. Chances are, if you check it out, you’ll see temperatures starting to climb — but the question is, will they be anything like last year’s scorchers?

Last June, the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) head guru predicted to Yahoo! that higher-than-normal temperatures would come, thanks to a one-two punch from El Nino and La Nina. Sure enough, regions sweltered in the triple digits, airplanes sunk into melted runways, and wildfires broke out.

But this year, flurries put a freeze to the start of spring in many states: People built snowmen in Arkansas, Kansas City players were tossing snowballs instead of fastballs when a blizzard cancelled their game with the Tampa Bay Rays, and Duluth, Minn., shivered through its snowiest April on record.

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Yet, atypical snows aside, the latest summer forecast, CPC meteorologist David Unger tells Yahoo!, predicts “better than even chances” of above-normal temperatures all around. Ocean breezes should cool coastal conditions on the west. Warmer-than-normal climes will be true in the north central — Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa — although thanks to winter rains (and snows), increased soil moisture should help cool things down. Expect the heat to turn up as well in Tennessee and Kentucky.

New England will also get hotter than usual but recent weather trends don’t indicate the area will hit the searing temperatures of 2012 — but don’t rule it out.

Late summer rains

There may be more rain — showers and thunderstorms, with possible hail — coming in the later summer months. The dousing will hit Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the western panhandle of Florida. The rains may extend as far east as New Jersey, although New England has been a bit dry this spring.

Wet weather will keep temperatures on a more even keel. That’s not necessarily great news for crops and there’s always a chance of flooding, but this could be an improvement from near-drought conditions that affected the mid-Atlantic.
Drier is good though in Tornado Alley. Last year, when Tropical Storm Beryl jumped the gun and hit landfall before June, then Tropical Storm Debby doused the southeast in July. Gulf of Mexico sea temperatures are below average, which doesn’t favor hurricane conditions either.
In 2013, Accuweather reports, forecasters don’t expect any storms to come before they’re scheduled, and in fact fewer storms overall.

Fire in the hole

The West, though, will be wanting those wet conditions. Low rainfall and snow levels this winter set up the tinder-dry conditions in the West — California has had the driest January through April period since people started keeping records in 1875. Now, state fire departments have already seen fires increase by 60 percent, consuming acreage from Napa County to the Southern California.

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Fire weather meteorologist Robyn Heffernan says dry field conditions got the fire season to a four- to six-week early start. “As you can imagine, that’s going to accelerate the fire season,” Heffernan tells Yahoo!. Any trigger — be it hot dry offshore winds like the so-called Santa Ana winds from early May, or a misplaced match — will can set off a blaze. Southern California will see more normal summer rainfall, but really, unless the state gets the kind of Old Testament rains that sparks ark-building (and it’s not in the forecast), people will have to think of saving water for emergencies.

Other states that might want to check that their hydrants are in good working order are Arizona and New Mexico. In June, areas like Oregon, western Montana, Idaho, and portions Washington will want to be vigilant as well. Drought conditions will worsen in the Rocky Mountain areas and the southern Great Basin, whose grass crop doesn’t burn as hot as timber-rich areas like Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

Texas of course has had severe drought issues for several seasons, and ironically that’s in its favor when it comes to fire threat. “The worst situation is when you have a really wet year and a really dry year,” Heffernan explains, because then you set up the fuel conditions. For Texas, “they’ve had so many years of dry condition that their grass crop isn’t there this year,” Heffernan says. Normal rainfall will return to the central and eastern portions, but expect persistent drought in the West.