Questionable Summer

May 7, 2014 Updated May 7, 2014 at 4:19 PM EDT

By WKBW News

May 7, 2014 Updated May 7, 2014 at 4:19 PM EDT

"Actually it's the coldest extended period of winter weather. Normally we do climatological winter from December to January to February but if you go November to March or November to April it ranks into a very, very cold period as well." says Bill Hibbert, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Buffalo, New York.


Because of the cold, harsh winter all of the Great Lakes has lasting effects.  Nearly 20 percent of ice remained on the Great Lakes as of May 3rd, one of the longest on record from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.


George Leshkevich a Physical Scientist and Manager of the CoastWatch Great Lakes Program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory says the impact from lake Erie could vary depending on the type weather experienced here in western New York.


"A year ago the Lake Erie average surface water temperature was about 7.5 degrees C [45.5 degrees F].  This year it is currently [April 30, 2014] 4.3 degrees C [39.74 degrees F].  If the summer is normal to cool (and cloudy), water temperatures could remain cooler than normal, affecting coastal temperatures.  However, if the weather turns sunny and hot with air temperatures similar to 2012, that could change things, as Lake Erie is relatively shallow."



"That’s going to mean lake temperature wise it's going to take some time to recover here in May and June and it can hold back air temperatures and also stabilize the atmosphere a little bit,” says Paul Pastelok an expert in long range forecasting and senior meteorologist at Accuweather.


On a broader scale, Pastelok says the ice on the Great Lakes as a whole could have a major impact on the type of weather experienced across the Great Lakes and to the south.


"When you see a change in difference in temperatures it alters your wind flow and your wind pattern and if we see cooler more stable air developing over the Great Lakes area and a lot more warmer air over the course of the summer you get higher dew points coming out of the Gulf of Mexico, warmer air building in the south you're going to set up a good temperature different between what's happening around the Great Lakes and what's happening in the south and what tends to happen is all your storminess happens in between."


That means early summer storms and potential severe weather stays to the south because of the cool air surrounding the lakes.  There still could be potential strong storms crossing the Great Lakes from time to time depending on weather patterns but the overall outlook keeps the Great Lakes a bit more quiet for the spring and early summer.


Back to the localized effect of a colder lake Erie this spring and summer will be the formation of lake breezes.


“The warming that takes place inland compared to the cool temperatures that are on the lake so we have more lake breezes that take place during the course of the early summer months which means that folks along the lake shore will feel the chill there in the afternoon hours other than that I think it's more of the broader pattern we looking at changing” says Pastelok


Bill Hibbert agrees, "anytime there's a wind off the lake you'll get a quick chill but not much farther inland you'll be back in the warm air.”


What gives us hope here in western New York is the shallow quality of Lake Erie.  Take for example the ice cover from mid-March to late April.


“It was a rapid, rapid decrease in ice cover day by day by day from going from almost 100% ice cover in March to only 2% ice cover in the end of April” says Hibbert.


All we need is warmer temperatures and lake Erie will be back to normal in no time.  The only problem is model outlooks tend to keep western New York cooler than average through July.


Pastelok says "Temperature-wise I think that we are going to be held back just a little bit this year with we may not get as much 90 degrees or upper 80 degree weather that we typically see, we'll fall short of that I do think overall it'll end up just slightly below normal on temperatures."


Overall our weather for the summer seems to look quite average.


“I think we'll have some periods of where we'll have showers and storms and it'll be off and on for 30 to 40 day periods and then I think they'll be some dry spells especially later into summer” says Pastelok.


Hibbert believes the polar vortex plays a role for our summer months.  “Tends to be after every [winter] season, what we have in this polar vortex we'll develop a large hot dome of high pressure so there's hope.”


By the time we get into August, Pastelok says the micro-climate from the lake breezes will be gone because of lake temperatures getting close too normal.  This will allow more typical August weather across a broad section of the Great Lakes.


Overall the summer can be divided into two sections, the early months of June and July and the later summer month of August.  The first half being a bit cooler than average and the second half remain a bit more typical summer weather.


To view more information on the Great Lakes ice cover and lake Erie click on the links below:

Ice Cover on Great Lakes

Current Lake Erie water temperature compared to 21 year average

MODIS imagery of lake Erie

Below are some links to extended long range forecasts:

From the Climate Prediction Center

From Accuweather

Farmers Almanac