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  • Tim McGill

Could This Summer Be A Sizzler?

2020 has gotten off to a warm start for earth. After an April with temperatures well above average this year there is more than a 99.9% chance to finish among the five warmest years on record, and a 69% chance of ending up as the warmest year on record.

NOAA reports that April just missed the mark as the warmest April on record coming in only 0.07°C cooler than the record warmest April of 2016. This past April was the second warmest globally since 1880.

Year-to-date January through April ranks as the second warmest such period on record, behind only 2016. It is almost certain this year will rank among the top five warmest on record which would guarantee each of the past seven years among the seven warmest years on record.

Does this trend foretell a sizzling summer weather for the US?

The Weather Channel recently released their summer forecast and they are calling for a hotter than average June, July and August period.

They note that hot summers many times align with a shift towards a La Niña. Models are suggesting this shift could occur later this year. A La Niña means the region of the the central portion of the Pacific and areas around the equator cool by average at least a half degree Celcius (just under a degree Fahrenheit for a sustained period.

The Weather Channel's forecast for Chicago's summer specifically calls for near or slightly above average temperatures in June and July and above average temperatures in August.

AccuWeather's summer forecast has us outlooked as "turning very warm".

The Climate Prediction Center (part of the National Weather Service) has most of the country outlooked for above average temperatures this summer. Parts of the plains and Midwest (including Chicago) have equal chances of below or above average temperatures overall for the period of June through August. No shades of blue on the map means there isn't any part of the US outlooked for below average temperatures. Incredibly, that is the case for their seasonal three month forecasts all the way through the end of the year.

Last but not least only because a groundhog might do better, The Farmers' Almanac predicts a "sultry" summer here.

2019 ranked as the 51st warmest on record for Chicago. Of the top ten hottest Chicago summers on record two of them have occurred since 2010. 7 of the top 25 warmest Chicago's on record have occurred since 2000.

What is an average summer for Chicago? Here are the average high temperature spreads for the summer months at O'Hare:

June 1st average high 75° by June 30th average high 84°

July 1st average high 84° by July 31st average high 83°

August 1st average high 83° by August 31st average high 80°

On average the hottest span of summer is July 10-15 when highs average 85° each day.

Forecasts of a warmer than average summer also raise fears of a possible deadly heat wave. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the most deadly heat wave to affect Chicago in its history. At times during that torrid four day stretch from July 12-15 the combination of heat and humidity made it feel like 125°.

Chicago Magazine has an excellent article with firsthand accounts of that extreme event. It was a record breaking heat wave that brought about changes in the way the National Weather Service warns us about heat.

Here's more from a National Weather Service summary on the event:

An all time high temperature for any official reporting station in the Chicago area was set at Midway with 106 degrees. The "official" reading of 104 deg F at O'Hare International tied the all time record which was set on June 20, 1988.

Conditions in the neighborhoods of metropolitan Chicago were complicated by the widespread asphalt pavement, closely constructed buildings, and tendency for residents to close off their dwellings due to fear of crime. Consequently, deaths from "heat related factors" numbered over 500 in the 4 day period. This lead to subsequent initiation of preventative programs by the city and installation of a direct hot-line between the NWS Romeoville office and the city 'command center'.

Here's hoping for a warm but not excessively hot summer!

Hope you stay safe and enjoy it.


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