Month may be just average after all The temperature, rain viewed as not far from normal.

May 27, 1992|By Douglas Birch | Douglas Birch,Staff Writer

It drizzled on Earth Day. It poured on the Preakness Parade. Memorial Day was memorable mostly for the cold and rain. And yesterday's high temperature was the coolest May 26 on record in Baltimore.

But if you think May has been a lot chillier and wetter than normal, think again.

"Everybody probably thinks it's been 4 to 5 degrees below normal this month, but it really hasn't," said Ken Shaver, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Instead, he predicted that May temperatures would wind up only 1 degree below average. And, he said, the airport had recorded only about 2 inches of rain for the month by yesterday afternoon, while 3.44 inches is typical.

His conclusion? "It's going to turn out to be pretty much of a normal month," he said.

No one is claiming that the past couple of days haven't been cold and damp. Yesterday's high of 52 in the city and at the airport was the briskest on record -- and 26 degrees cooler than the 78-degree average high temperature for the date.

Fred Davis, also a Weather Service meteorologist at BWI, said that previously the airport's coolest high temperature for the date was 55 in 1973. In the city, the comparable record was 54 in 1901.

This year's moderate May follows an unusually cool March and April, a phenomenon blamed on a laggardly jet stream, which normally moves north into Canada in late winter. Instead, the jet stream lingered farther south this year.

The problem with Memorial Day and its aftermath, Mr. Shaver said, was a high-pressure system that rolled in from the West. It swung north to New England, where, spinning clockwise, it swept cool, wet air in from the East, off the Atlantic. That set the thermometer back a couple of months.

In the big picture, May will likely appear ordinary in the record books, Mr. Shaver said. "But it's pretty abnormal when you look at it with a magnifying glass," he added.

Why did May feel so cool?

Mr. Shaver has a few theories. First, the month's periods of cooler weather were sandwiched between balmier days.

Second, and more important, nighttime temperatures did not dip much below normal, even when cool daytime temperatures sent people digging jackets out of storage boxes.

"There wasn't a big range in temperatures during those days," the meteorologist said.

Even so, it got down to 47 early yesterday in the city, 3 degrees from the record cold for the date of 44 in 1925.

Warmer weather is creeping our way. Temperatures were expected to reach the mid- and upper 60s today, Mr. Shaver said, and the mid-60s by tomorrow.

By Friday, the thermometer should reach between 65 and 70, and climb to the mid-70s, near normal, by the weekend.

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