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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 10/ 1/2008

Grading Our Summer Outlook

By Matt Ross

The dark blue line represents long-term average high temperatures between June 1 and September 21 (spanning both meteorological and astronomical summers). The purple line shows the actual 2008 daily high temperatures.

After a warm end to September, we are finally experiencing more autumn-like weather. But before we get too consumed by football, pumpkins and colorful leaves, let us take a quick look back at summer and our summer outlook. (For the purposes of the summer outlook, we used the definition of meteorological summer which spans June 1 to Aug. 31.)

Released at the end of May, our outlook started out quite shaky. We called for normal to slightly below normal June temperatures, yet we were greeted with our 4th hottest June on record with the monthly average over 3 degrees above normal. June was highlighted by an early-month heat wave with highs in the mid-to-upper 90s. Our high temperature of 98 on June 7 ended up being the hottest of the summer.

To learn how warm the summer ended up and how well our outlook verified, keep reading. For the outlook through the weekend, see our full forecast, and UnitedCast for tonight's soccer game at RFK.

We got back on track somewhat in July. We called for normal temperatures and the month finished with temperatures 1.5 degrees above normal. We didn't squarely hit our target, but not a horrible miss either. The month was highlighted by a weeklong stretch of low-to-mid 90s mid-month with very warm overnight lows. The heat certainly wasn't unusual for mid-July and we didn't even get as hot as June when it reached 98, but the warmth was sustained long enough to push monthly temperatures above normal.

In August we finally hit our stride, but perhaps a bit too late. We called for temperatures to be normal to 1 degree above normal -- and we nailed it. August temperatures finished exactly 0.5 degrees above normal for the month. While we did get hot in August for brief spurts here and there, the month was highlighted by long stretches of dry, low-humidity days in the 80s.

Overall, we called for summer 2008 to have normal to slightly above normal temperatures. The season finished at 1.8 degrees above normal, which while just inside our +/- 2 degrees of "normal" range that we called for, was definitely closer to solidly above normal rather than slightly. While, as predicted, summer lacked the 100-degree days and extended heat waves of recent summers, the very hot June was enough to put summer 2008 on par with the last 3 summers, all of which were 1-2 degrees above normal.

Our call for slightly above-normal precipitation missed, but not horribly as we ended the summer with 95% of average precipitation. The most notable aspect of the summer's precipitation was the bombardment of severe thunderstorms in June which no one could have realistically predicted.

If I had to assign us a grade for the outlook, I would give us an overall C/C+, though I think a case could be made for slightly higher or lower. After a poor start, we finally got it right, but too little too late. Notably, as Jason mentioned in a recent post, we did accurately predict the number of 90-degree days.

With summer gone, we can now enjoy the crisp weather settling in this fall season, which will be capped off by our Winter Outlook in November.

By Matt Ross  | October 1, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Local Climate  
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Next: PM Update: Briefly Showery, Drying to Follow


This sort of analysis is what makes CWG great. May I ask if a date has been scheduled for the November release of the winter outlook?

Posted by: ~sg | October 1, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

"It's a monsoon outside!" Text I just received

Heavy rain currently moving through the area. If you aren't or haven't gotten wet yet, it will likely happen soon. After the storms move through, expect temperatures to be much cooler (Still 75 in part of Maryland, and some readings in the HIGH 50's behind the front). Stay tuned for more information.

Posted by: Jamie Jones, CapitalWeather Gang | October 1, 2008 2:36 PM | Report abuse

The "Bombardment of severe thunderstorms" that you stated lasted through June was actually FAR more widespread than started in mid-to-late May and didn't let up till the end of July. It was virtually unprecented in Washington area spring/summers. What happened is that the severe-storm, late-spring/early summer pattern that, in this area, usually peaks in late May-late June (typically when we get our worst storms) did not let up for almost a month and a half later than normal. We had an amlost nonstop pattern of upper-level lows, cold, dry air aloft, a dipping jet stream, and surface cold ingedients for severe storms. August of 1974....34 years ago.....was the last month I can remember so many severe storms back-to back....and hen it was only for about a three-week period.

Posted by: Mike from Vienna | October 1, 2008 8:25 PM | Report abuse

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