Pittsburghers can look forward to cooler, somewhat wetter summer

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The weather this summer is expected to be wild and weird pretty much everywhere but in Pittsburgh.

Drought will continue to parch California and extend into the Pacific Northwest. Texas and the deep South will be hotter than a barbecue grill. And strong storms will regularly rake the Midwest and lower Ohio River Valley. And add El Nino to the mix.

But according to the long-range forecast released this week by AccuWeather, summer in the Pittsburgh region might be a touch cooler than usual, at least in the first half, and it might be a little wetter. But altogether it will be what we have come to expect when our hemisphere tilts toward the sun.

The only chance for a little weather excitement will come in the first month or so when cooler air masses to the north, caused by the widespread ice cover in the Great Lakes and colder-than-usual water, meet warmer air surging up from the south, said Paul Pastelok, an AccuWeather senior meteorologist and head of long-range forecasting.

"Pittsburgh and areas to the south and west are going to have some rough weather from now through May, June and into July," Mr. Pastelok said. "Every week to four days, there will be a new front to contend with because we're between those two different air masses and they are going to bite us."

After those storms pass, the region won't experience any drought, long-term dryness or exceptional heat, he said.

"Rainfall will not be exceptionally above normal. And it won't really be cool. We'll have temperatures in the 80s. But it will be cooler on average through the middle of July," Mr. Pastelok said, adding that it will turn warmer and drier as the summer progresses.

AccuWeather predicts much more extreme weather elsewhere.

"It'll be a third year of drought in California and that will spread into the Pacific Northwest with Seattle and Portland seeing some 100-degree days," Mr. Pastelok said.

"And in California, the valleys will be really hot and the water restrictions will be really bad."

He said last year's heat wave and drought in central Texas will expand eastward into Dallas and Houston.

While one summer's predictions shouldn't be used to support global warming, Mr. Pastelok said he believes extreme weather patterns are evidence that climate change is occurring.

"This is just one year," he said, "but the extreme temperatures and storms will come on more as climate patterns change."

Mr. Pastelok also noted that an El Nino cycle is forming now with warmer water surfacing around the equator in the far eastern Pacific Ocean. That distant ocean current change, part of a normal two- to seven-year cycle, will have a marked effect on wind patterns, cold and warm front positions, and storm patterns in the U.S. and around the world, he said.

"By fall and into winter, we could be in a moderate El Nino, and that could have impacts on the Southern states and the drought states, bringing more rain earlier in the fall because it allows more storms in the eastern Pacific and hampers storm formation in the Atlantic Basin," Mr. Pastelok said.

That would square with predictions for a below-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic, with 10 named storms and five hurricanes.

According to AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski, two of those five will be major storms that make landfall in the U.S.

On average, 15 named storms and eight hurricanes occur annually.

The National Weather Service also produces long-range weather outlooks and its predictions for the area mirror those of AccuWeather.

"We do the outlooks in three-month groups: May, June and July; June, July, August; and July through September. And each one of those groups show near normal temperatures in the Pittsburgh region and above normal temperatures to the south," said Brad Rehak, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

"Of course, our predictions for last summer were dead wrong. So, except for some long-term trends, this is not very reliable."


Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.

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