This summer is likely to be hot in the U.S., and not just because it is typically the season of swelter.
Ocean temperatures, soil moisture, forecast models and long-term trends are all contributing factors in predicting a warmer-than-normal summer this year. The coasts of New England could be hot because the Atlantic Ocean already feels like summer, while the center of scorching temperatures will once again almost certainly be the Southwest.
I can almost hear the groan from those of you who are skeptical that meteorologists can deliver a good forecast seven days out, let alone for an entire summer. But before you send me, a meteorologist, accusatory emails, allow me to explain how predictions for an entire season work.
Experts at the National Weather Service create the forecasts by considering the land, water and atmospheric conditions that could influence and control weather patterns over the coming months. They use words like “leaning” if they believe there is a slight chance of temperatures or rainfall being outside the norm.
The map below, which shows the experts’ predictions for this summer, doesn’t necessarily mean that Arizona will be hotter than Michigan. It means that the chances of an extra-hot summer are much higher in Arizona than they are in Michigan.
If you find yourself this summer in an area where above-average heat is expected — like New York, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles or Seattle, to name a few — it doesn’t mean every day will be that way. What the experts are suggesting is that, over the next three months, there is at least a chance, maybe even a likelihood, that it will be warmer than it has been in the past three decades. That time span has consistently featured a trend toward warmer summers, magnifying extreme heat because of human-induced climate change.
In the rest of the newsletter, I’ll explain what different regions of the U.S. should expect this summer. While much of the nation will be hot, there is quite a bit of variation — it’s a big country, after all.
Around the country
Forecasters are expecting a hotter summer in the Northeast because ocean temperatures near the coast are already much higher than usual. That might make for a pleasant swim at New England beaches; it will also increase the air temperature. Because coastal waters are a major factor in driving up temperatures, experts are less sure whether it will be a warmer summer inland, in places like western New York and Pennsylvania.
In the South, warmer weather is also likely, with a greater likelihood near the coasts. But the weather story of the summer may end up being the rain: In June, forecasters say, Florida and other southeastern states could be drenched, mainly because of some possible early-season tropical cyclones. It’s possible that the Midwest and Great Lakes also have a rainier summer than usual.
The Southwest will probably see above-average summer temperatures and below-average rainfall. That’s because the southwest monsoon — a seasonal shift of winds that help bring about rainstorms — is expected to have a sluggish start.
Forecasters predicted above-average temperatures for the West Coast, though they’re not as confident about it as they are for the East Coast. They are also expecting a drier-than-normal summer in the Northwest partly because El Niño, a Pacific weather pattern that is on the verge of forming in the summer, tends to lead to below-average rainfall.
More on weather
The Southwest is especially vulnerable to summer blackouts. If a heat wave coincided with a blackout in Phoenix, it could overwhelm the city’s hospitals.
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