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A drought-free summer?

The thing that has stood out to me so far in 2013 is the amazing consistency of the overall weather pattern we’ve been locked into here in the Ohio Valley. Typically, the weather varies greatly from month to month and from season to season here in Kentucky. What we’ve seen since January has been quite the opposite.

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Temperature is one part of the equation but precipitation is arguably the most important statistic for most people. Whether you have agricultural interests, sporting interests or are an outdoor event planner, the precipitation stats are what you are really after. Attached is a simple chart showing where we are so far in 2013.

These stats come from Lexington because that is the nearest official reporting station for National Weather Service records, but the site is only about 17 miles from Lawrenceburg as the crow flies, so bear with me for the sake of conversation here. Look at the amazing consistency we have seen. January, March, and April were all roughly one and a quarter inches above average. February was the only month with below average precipitation so far this year by just a little over an inch and a half. May finished above average by 0.40 inches.  So each month except one has seen above average precipitation in 2013 thus far, but none have been extremely off average. This is unusual.

With five months in the books for 2013 and this wet pattern being so persistent, the reasonable forecast for summer would be to predict a continuation of wet weather unless some data strongly suggests otherwise. This is called a "persistence forecast." Farmers will be happy to know that at this point in time there is no data to suggest otherwise. It does not look like a drought will set up this summer. The first half of June, which had been looking to come in hot and dry, is now beginning to look cooler and possibly wetter as the computer models are starting to get a hold on how things will evolve. The official forecast for the critical growing months of July, August and September calls for “equal chances." In short, this means that the Climate Prediction Center forecasters cannot see any reason why drought would set up in this area, nor do they see any data suggesting abnormally wet conditions. Basically, one can look at it as if average weather for the time of year can be expected.

In the past several years we’ve seen a lot of hot summers and dry conditions. It makes sense that we’re due for a wetter and cooler summer overall and the data is supporting that idea right now. That’s not to say that we’re going to have another 2004 in which we never touched 90 degrees all year long. But I just don’t see the oppressive and consistent heat setting in this year. I also don’t think we will go into a serious drought this year. If we continue on our current weather pattern it would make for a pretty awesome growing season for those with agricultural interests.  That is, if the rain doesn’t come in the form of severe weather. The global indices and the medium range operational models as well as the monthly ensemble forecasts are all pointing to a June dominated by northwesterly weather systems and this can sometimes mean thunderstorms with wind damage and hail, but the oppressive heat should be held at bay. June 2012 ended with three days above 100 degrees. I don't see that happening at all this summer.

 — Shawn