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The Summer 2022 outlook

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As hard as it may be to believe, summer will arrive – at least meteorologically speaking – on June 1st.

So what can Virginia expect this summer? While it’s near impossible to predict specific weather events, we can take a look at some climatological norms. That is, what has Virginia typically seen in the summer months over the span of a few decades? That can provide us a good baseline on how to prepare for all of those summer plans.

In our last edition, we talked about all things tornadoes in Virginia, and while Virginia doesn’t typically see as many tornadoes in the summer months compared to April (the month that statistically sees the most), they certainly do still happen.

Temperature-wise, most of the state can expect July to be the warmest month. I looked into the average, daily maximum temperature over the last 20 years for most of the cities RADIO IQ serves – and July had the highest values, followed by August. That includes Blacksburg, Roanoke, Charlottesville and Richmond.

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Climate Prediction Center
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That being said, 90-degree days are certainly a possibility in May and June, too.

The Climate Prediction Center is currently predicting that most of Virginia will – on average – see higher-than-normal temperatures during the months of May, June and July. The best chance for those higher temperatures will occur along and east of the Blue Ridge – according to that CPC projection.

The center is also projecting above-average precipitation totals over the next three months. That will certainly be helpful to Virginia. While not quite to drought levels just yet, a good chunk of the state (just over 56%) is abnormally dry right now. That’s according to information from the latest U.S. Drought Monitor.

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Climate Prediction Center
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With those projections in mind, there are also some other factors to consider. One of them is the impact of a warming climate. A recent study shows excessive rainfall events have increased over the last 50 years for several Virginia localities – including Roanoke, Lynchburg and Norfolk. And officials that conducted that research expect the trend to continue.

June 1st also marks the beginning of hurricane season, which runs through November 30th.

A typical Atlantic hurricane season will have 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes – storms with winds of 111 miles per hour or greater. CSU is projecting 19 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes.

Phil Klotzbach – a research scientist who worked on the projections – says a global weather pattern is a big factor.

“We do not anticipate El Nino this summer and fall. El Nino is warmer than normal water in the central and eastern tropical Pacific," Klotzbach explains. "When you have warmer water, it tends to increase winds at high levels in the atmosphere – so say 20, 30-thousand feet in the atmosphere in the Atlantic. And that tends to tear apart hurricanes.” 

He says the projections are an informational tool for people curious about how active the hurricane season will be – including the more inland communities of RADIO IQ’s listening area.

“Obviously the wind is a huge factor and the storm surge is a huge factor along the coast," he says. "As you move inland, obviously the storm surge is a lot less of a threat to basically no threat. The wind can still be a problem, but obviously you still have to deal with really, really heavy rainfall.” 

Hurricane Camille was one of those systems – bringing devastating flooding to inland Virginia communities back in 1969.

And, while later in the season (October), Hurricane Michael back in 2018 is a more recent example.

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Colorado State University
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The Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1st to November 30th. Colorado State University recently put out its updated projections for the season (and yes, that’s more than a bit ironic considering they’re a landlocked university). Officials there are currently anticipating an above-average year.

All of that said, the best way to prepare for the summer months in Virginia is to stay informed. The National Weather Service stresses that it’s very important to have multiple ways to receive weather warnings – whether that be through your local public radio/TV station or your mobile device. That’s good advice anytime of the year, but especially in the summer months – where everything from extreme heat and drought to severe thunderstorms and tropical systems are all possible.

Thanks for checking out this edition of CommonWx — the weather and climate newsletter from RADIO IQ. Use this link to get the newsletter sent to your inbox.

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Nick Gilmore is a meteorologist, news producer and reporter/anchor for RADIO IQ.