Year Without Summer? Don't Believe It
Lightning reaches down from clouds in a step-by-step manner. But scientists don't know exactly how it works.
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If you've seen headlines today on the Web about this being a "year without a summer," don't buy into the hype.

The claim, based on a news story at Accuweather.com, involves a misconstrued quote from long-range forecaster Joe Bastardi.

AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity told LiveScience this morning that Bastardi's quote, which on one Accuweather page says that areas from the northern Plains into the Northeast will have a "year without a summer," is not what Bastardi meant. Rather, Bastardi meant that summer would be delayed. Bastardi was not available for comment.

Forecasters at various outlets have been explaining how cool air from the north has delayed the onset of summer-like conditions in many parts of the country. One stark consequence: The year-to-date U.S. tornado tally is 685, is about half of normal, Margusity pointed out today.

The jet stream has been farther to the south than normal this spring, throttling the conditions that spawn the thunderstorms that generate tornadoes, the forecasters say.

"A cold pool of air over Canada for the past two months has delayed summer," Margusity said in a telephone interview. "We will see some moderation happening," he said, meaning summer will get here, but "it won't be a real hot summer," he said.

Climate extremes are, in a sense, normal. Wherever you live, the "climate" is what happens historically, on average, for a given stretch of time. Summer is typically hot and dry out West and hot and wet back East, for example. But "normal" is a statistical computation based on a continuum of data that also includes extremes.

Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are possible in the central Plains this afternoon, Accuweather reports.

The National Weather Service outlook for June, July and August calls for a mixed bag:

  • Enhanced likelihood of below-normal temperatures for the Northern Plains into Minnesota.
  • Likelihood of above normal temperatures is enhanced for most of the Western United States, along the Gulf Coast and for the Eastern Seaboard from Florida to New England.
  • Elsewhere, equal chances of below, near, and above normal temperatures.

As always, the weather will be sometimes strange, often a lot like you'd expect.

Robert Roy Britt is the Editorial Director of Imaginova. In this column, The Water Cooler, he looks at what people are talking about in the world of science and beyond.