AccuWeather's summer forecast: Drought in West will deepen

AccuWeather has issued a summer outlook for the U.S. every year, focusing on the major highlights of the season.

Most areas from the Mississippi Valley to the mid-Atlantic coast will have more days with rain and near-normal temperatures this summer, while heat and drought build over much of the West.
Many areas in the Eastern states will have good growing conditions with lower cooling bills for the Midwest. Lower temperatures in much of the Mississippi Valley and the east should result in a lower-than-average number of tornadoes for the year. The weather conditions in the West will be ripe for wildfires and a lack of water could become a serious concern for agriculture and some communities.

Weather Pattern in Brief

An atmospheric road block will allow a southward dip in the jet stream centered over the eastern half of the nation and a compensating northward bulge in the jet in the western half during much of the summer. (The jet stream is a ribbon of strong winds high in the atmosphere that guides weather systems along. During the summer it often marks the dividing line between hot air and relatively cooler air).

Conditions will change over time in parts of the nation.

Drought worsens, expands in the West

As much of the eastern half of the nation has cooler and wetter conditions relative to last summer, the West will bear the brunt of this summer’s drought and heat.

“The core of drought and heat will build west of the Continental Divide to California during the first part of the summer, then will expand northward as the season progresses,” Pastelok said.

A lack of snowfall this past winter and a lack of rain this summer, could lead to serious water resource problems.

While drought, heat and wildfire issues are expected to be far-reaching in the West as the summer progresses, the heavily populated and major agricultural state of California could be at the center of drought-related issues ranging from water problems to wildfires. Some water for agriculture use was already being cut back to start the spring.

The monsoon is forecast to become active from West Texas to the California and southern Nevada deserts beginning during the middle and latter part of the summer. However, farther north, the moisture supply will be very limited.

Many of the thunderstorms will have little or no rainfall, especially farther away from the flow of tropical moisture from Mexico. When combined with the expected heat and dryness, an above-average wildfire season is likely. Fires could be just as much of a problem in Washington, Idaho and Montana as they are in California, Arizona and New Mexico.

“The Northwest will trend drier and warmer much faster, when compared to last summer,” Pastelok said.

Great Plains, Texas Caught in the Middle

A very challenging area to forecast for this summer is the swath from Texas to North Dakota.

Late-winter and early spring storms have delivered moisture from the northern and central Rockies to part of the southern Plains.

Early this summer, like an echoing effect from the spring, rounds of showers and thunderstorms are projected to be more frequent than last summer from the Dakotas to eastern parts of the southern Plains and perhaps part of northeastern Texas.

However, heat and dryness could build eastward later in the summer throughout the Plains.

“If there is going to be impact in Texas from a tropical system during June, July and August, it would probably be June rather than August,” Pastelok said.

A large area of high pressure is likely to get so strong in the West that its influence would tend to keep tropical systems away from the northwestern shores of the Gulf of Mexico.

The weather patterns suggested in this article represent a greatly simplified version of what is expected to unfold. Effects at the local level are beyond the scope of this analysis. Regional and sub-regional impact stories will follow on

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