By Kristen Rodman
As summer 2014 takes shape, Mother Nature will show no mercy as the West will sink deeper into drought and severe thunderstorms will ignite from the Plains to the southern mid-Atlantic.
While a typical summer is in store for much of the East, hurricane season looms, threatening areas along the coast. While this year’s hurricane season is expected to be below normal, two systems may make landfall in the United States.
JUMP TO: Drought to Intensify in the West, Texas| Below-Normal Hurricane Season | Cool for Great Lakes | Strongest Heat Arrives Late Summer in East | Central, Southern Mid-Atlantic Storm Battle Zone Takes Form
Drought to Intensify in the West, Texas
Following the driest year ever recorded for the state of California, the summer season will lock in the drought for the Golden State and cause drought conditions to expand into the Northwest.
With above-normal temperatures and below-normal rainfall expected from Phoenix to Los Angeles and up through Seattle, much of the West will undergo a dry spell this summer.
“The temperatures this summer will be dictated by where it’s dry,” AccuWeather.com Lead Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said.
As the drought strengthens across the Southwest, the temperatures in this region will heat up quickly due to dry conditions.
Across the West, temperatures will rise quickly heading into June 21, 2014, with highs reaching into the 90s and 100s in the valleys of California. Even farther north, the mercury will climb above seasonal normals frequently by midsummer.
“We are going to see the 90s and 100s popping up pretty quickly in the valleys and even the 90s showing up in the big cities such as Seattle and Portland as we get into midsummer,” Pastelok said.
As dryness increases across the region, wildfires could prove troublesome for the Northwest this summer. As the wildfire risk heightens, minimal rainfall and lack of water will continue to hit the agricultural and livestock industries hard across the region, limiting fruit and nut production in the U.S.
“They are going to go into a very dry period, and that could lead to some big problems as we get into the middle to later parts of the summer,” Pastelok said.
While the drought tightens its grip on the West this summer, the West may not be the only region with a major drought.
As June and July heat up across southern Texas and the tropics remain relatively tranquil in the western Gulf of Mexico, rain will consistently bypass the state.
“We could have a drought developing in the lower valley of Texas along the Gulf Coast, southeast Texas and the lower Mississippi Valley,” Pastelok said.
Only two years after the state’s previous drought battle in 2011, areas from Brownsville up through San Antonio and Dallas will be at risk for another drought situation this year.
Below-Normal Hurricane Season
While the heart of hurricane season is not until the tail end of the summer season in August and September, roughly 10 named tropical storms and five hurricanes are expected in the Atlantic Basin this season.
According to AccuWeather.com Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski, of those five hurricanes two major hurricanes are predicted to make landfall in the U.S.
Although this season’s tropical storm and hurricane count is expected to be statistically below average, with seasonal averages at 15 storms and eight hurricanes, it takes only one storm to create massive destruction, as Hurricane Andrew proved in August of 1992 when it struck Florida and Louisiana.
Despite reduced activity in the Atlantic Basin, the Pacific Basin will be extremely active this season with 19 tropical storms and 10 hurricanes predicted.
Cool for Great Lakes
With their second highest ice coverage on record, the Great Lakes reached their peak ice coverage on March 6, 2014, with 92.19 percent of the lakes encrusted in ice. Despite the spring season, as of April 16, the lakes were still 38 percent covered by ice.
“There are no years in the last 30 years that are even close to that, so it’s very unusual this late in the season to have that much ice coverage,” Pastelok said.
This image, acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite, shows the Great Lakes on Feb. 19, 2014, when ice covered 80.3 percent of the lakes. (Satellite Image/MODIS)
The extent of the ice coverage still present on the lakes will make water temperature recovery very difficult and, as a result, may have a huge impact on the summer weather for the region including some of the U.S.’s major cities, such as Cleveland, Detroit and Buffalo, N.Y.
“It’s going to affect the overall atmosphere around the region,” Pastelok said. “It may be a bit on the cooler side.”
In addition to cooler weather for the area, the lagging lake temperatures could lead to less severe weather near the lakes, as storms track farther south.
Strongest Heat Arrives Late Summer in East
A relatively normal summer weather pattern is in store for much of the East this year with temperatures expected to be back and forth in June and July.
In the I-95 corridor, temperatures will average out to near or slightly above average for the summer, as thunderstorms sporadically pop up in the area, according to Pastelok.
Despite normal temperature ranges in the midsummer months, areas from Washington, D.C., up through Boston are expected to heat up quickly in May before returning to more seasonal temperatures in June and July.
Forecast High Temperatures for US
AccuWeather Severe Weather Center
Severe Storms, Tornadoes: The Difference Between Watches and Warnings
To end the summer, August will bring the hottest weather of the summer to cities along the coast.
Farther south, the Southeast and Florida will experience a fairly typical summer with spotty thunderstorms and near-average temperatures and humidity.
Central, Southern Mid-Atlantic Storm Battle Zone Takes Form
Between the warmth in Texas and the cooler trend in the Great Lakes region, a battle zone of unsettled weather will set up.
Severe storms will erupt in the Midwest, Ohio Valley, central Appalachians and into the Carolinas in June and July, due to the vast differences between the two weather patterns neighboring the areas. Some of these storms, however, will make their way into the southern mid-Atlantic region, putting the region at risk for many storms this summer.
The sun sets across southwestern Kansas as a storm supercell remains in the sky, following a severe weather outbreak in the area on Wednesday, April 23, 2014. (Photo/Cory Mottice)
“Expect a few severe weather events here, which will be a dividing area of cooler air across the Great Lakes and warmer air building along the Gulf Coast,” Pastelok said.
Farther west, moisture from the Pacific Ocean will be ushered into the Rockies at times, helping to fuel numerous thunderstorms and threats for flash flooding in the area.
“Early [tropical] development there will send some moisture up through New Mexico and into the Four Corners region, so they will get their dose of rain,” Pastelok said. “They could have some flooding issues around Denver down towards Albuquerque during the course of the summer.”
While rain and thunderstorms could lead to flash flooding in the Rockies, the increase in moisture should help to limit wildfires in the area.
However, some of the moisture in the Rockies will move into the Plains and, when combined with an offset upper high in the region, will set up yet another battleground for thunderstorms and showers throughout the summer.
Have questions, comments, or a story to share? Email Kristen Rodman at Kristen.Rodman@accuweather.com, follow her on Twitter @Accu_Kristen or Google+. Follow us @breakingweather, or on Facebook and Google+.
More at AccuWeather: Summer 2014: Series of Storms to Attack Central US, Mid-Atlantic