The summer will likely be warmer than usual. But will it be wet or dry?
A warmup is coming in June, but conflicting forces make it impossible to predict whether the summer will be hot and dry or hot and wet.
FARGO — Those weary of rainy and cool weather — the Red River Valley recently sloshed through a record wet streak — will be happy to learn that signals point to a warmup in June.
The region is expected to enter its second consecutive moderate La Niña summer, an oceanic and atmospheric circulation in the Pacific Ocean that usually produces hot and dry summers in the area, according to John Wheeler, chief WDAY StormTracker meteorologist.
“Signals are pointing to it warming up in June,” he said. Temperatures are likely to stay mostly in the 70s, but highs in the 80s and 90s could be possible.
Although warmer weather is on the way, Wheeler can’t predict whether it will be accompanied by drier weather, especially during early summer.
That’s because the Red River Valley is emerging from the wettest April 1 to May 15 on record — Fargo had 7.88 inches of precipitation during the period, and Grand Forks received an even wetter 8.91 inches, according to WDAY StormTracker records.
A widespread area of Minnesota and North Dakota, including Fargo, received 250% to 400% of normal precipitation during a 60-day period this spring, according to a cumulative precipitation map by WDAY StormTracker.
Many other areas in North Dakota and Minnesota weren’t far behind, receiving 125% to 250% of normal precipitation during the period.
As a result, the soils are soaked throughout the region. That means plenty of moisture is available for evaporation, which could help fuel thunderstorms, Wheeler said.
The continued La Niña pattern will be dueling with the latent waterlogged soils, making it impossible to predict whether dry conditions will emerge this summer, he said. “Those two are now sort of in conflict,” he said.
“We still are leaning toward it being a warmer-than-average summer,” Wheeler said. “But I’m concerned it may be warm and wet rather than warm and dry.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get crops in," he added.
Precipitation likely will be uneven as trends become established. Some areas could get repeated rains, while others could miss out on the moisture, Wheeler said, adding that he can’t predict where those lines will be drawn.
Several weeks of consistently hot weather, without thunderstorms, would be stressful for crops, he said.
Abrupt shifts in the weather are common on the northern Great Plains and Upper Midwest. “Our climate is known for dramatic swings,” Wheeler said.
So a flip from wet weather back to dry is possible, he said, noting last year’s drought was preceded by a wet period.
“I’m a little bit sketchy about the dry part” of the summer outlook, Wheeler said, noting that the wet weather could linger.
Fortunately, the record-setting precipitation from April 1 to May 15, which began as blizzards before turning to rain storms, followed the spring snow melt. If the very wet weather had coincided with the snow melt, it could have produced record floods in the Red River Valley, Wheeler said.
The Red River at Fargo is gradually receding but will remain in minor flood stage beyond next week, according to the National Weather Service river forecast .