2016 US summer forecast: More 90-degree days than normal to scorch East; West to battle drought, fires
By by Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
May 12, 2016, 6:41:02 PM EDT
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As a strong El Niño fades, the weather across the country will slowly change. In much of the eastern United States, a hot summer is in store.
Rain and thunderstorms will dominate the pattern in the central and southern Plains, while the opposite occurs in California and the Northwest, and scarce rainfall leads to severe drought conditions.
JUMP TO: Northeast, mid-Atlantic: Heat to come on strong in early summer| Southeast, Gulf Coast: Tropical threats may hold off until late summer | Hot, dry pattern to grip the Midwest and northern Plains | Southern Plains, Southwest: Rain, thunderstorms may keep summer temperatures down | El Niño’s aid not enough for the West; Drought to rebuild across the region
Heat will come on strong in June for the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, including in New York City, Boston, and Hartford, Connecticut. However, severe weather in July could turn the warm pattern on its head.
“July is a tricky month where there may be a few cooldowns from thunderstorms and back door fronts, but other than that I think June, July and August, you’ll see your series of heat waves,” AccuWeather Expert Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said.
For the season as a whole, numerous 90-degree days will be recorded from Boston to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Late in the season, the intense heat will lead to increasingly dry conditions, which could boost the fire threat across the Northeast.
Heat will also extend down into the Southeast and Gulf Coast; however, humidity will be higher than in areas farther north.
The lingering effects of El Niño will limit the chances of early season tropical development, but activity will ramp up during the month of August.
“With a trend toward a La Niña pattern, along with warming waters and less wind shear over the Gulf of Mexico, this can lead to impacts anywhere on the Gulf Coast and including the east coast of Florida,” Pastelok said.
After heavy spring rainfall for the Gulf Coast, above-normal rain for the summer season may lead to bouts of flooding.
Dryness and heat will be another common theme in the Midwest and northern Plains states.
Heat will develop late spring and early summer across these areas and tighten its grip throughout the season.
“Actually we are seeing evidence of this in parts of the region already,” Pastelok said. “If the rest of the spring works out as planned, then these areas may fall into a drought with frequent heat waves during the summer.”
Indianapolis, Indiana, Chicago and Minneapolis could enter a minor to moderate drought, he said.
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While much of the country will endure above-normal temperatures this season, the southern Plains region may be the only exception.
Rainfall and thunderstorms will be frequent over this region, keeping temperatures at bay.
“Abnormally dry conditions already present in eastern New Mexico, the northern Texas Panhandle and southwestern Kansas are expected to persist, although there will be enough chances for rain to prevent conditions from deteriorating to widespread significant drought,” Pastelok said.
In the Southwest, a weaker monsoon season is forecast overall, despite a strong start in July. The pattern will quickly trail off in August, leading to normal to slightly above-normal precipitation.
Despite the rain, the risk for fires will be high due to increased wind.
Though the El Niño pattern brought much-needed rain to northern and central California, Southern California wasn’t quite as lucky. Drought will remain in this area and intensify into the summer season.
“We have a long-term drought going on and we didn’t get much rain in Southern California, so Los Angeles, Burbank, Riverside — they’re still in drought conditions. They’re going to feel the heat there,” Pastelok said.
Wildfires will also be a significant threat.
In the Northwest and much of central and northern California, El Niño led to a wetter-than-normal winter, but it fell short of what was needed to eliminate the drought. “The Northwest and northern California are coming off a good winter and spring with rainfall and snowfall,” Pastelok said.
However, it wasn't enough to provide long-term relief.
Significant drought conditions may return in the middle and latter part of summer and may result in another year of rampant wildfires for northern California and the Northwest.
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