Can YOU Predict the Weather?

Continuing on with our discussion from Monday about planting tomatoes and other warm season vegetables early, I want to take a look at what some of the long-term predictions are for the weather this summer.

Of course, one reason that everyone is thinking about planting early is just because the weather is so nice…like we expect April and May to be. As gardeners, we’re programmed to pay attention to the weather and plant when it seems right, with some guidance from the calendar and common sense. It stands to reason that we would want to plant now!

The other reason that so many gardeners are anxious to get their tomatoes planted early is because they are certain that the hot summer followed by a warm winter means we are guaranteed another scorching summer. We’re all desperate for some good tomatoes, and if planting a month early will do it, then let’s go!

I think it is interesting that the widespread assumption is that the 2012 summer is going to continue the trend of way-above-normal temperatures and continuing to be dry. After the winter of 2010-2011, where we hit low temperatures we hadn’t seen in years, we didn’t all assume that the summer was going to be record lows! If growing up on a farm, working on farms, and now being in Extension has taught me anything, it is that you don’t try to predict the weather, especially based on what you are currently experiencing!

I’d like to share a couple of general long-term weather forecasts from 2 very different sources. Then we can revisit the issue at the end of the summer and see if either (or both) turned out to be right.

The first forecast is from the K-State Climate Prediction Center. I participated in a webinar they hosted back at the beginning of March and found it very interesting. Their long-range models were showing that the trend for summer 2012 has a good chance of being below-average temperatures and above-average rainfall. (I’m liking that!) They did make a point of saying that February models are often inaccurate, and the range of possibilities did stretch from very cool and wet to slightly warmer and still dry. (Although last February the models were predicting very hot and very dry, which was only too correct!)

National Weather Service Jun-Jul-Aug Temperature Outlook

Their most recent long-range forecasts (from March 15th) show an “Even Chance” for above, normal, or below average temperatures and rainfall. The skeptic in me says that means they have no clue which model is going to be right! Still, that doesn’t seem to agree with the assumption that we’re in for another very hot, very dry summer.

The other forecast is from a source that generally makes me rather twitchy as an Extension Agent making research-based recommendations. That source is the Farmers Almanac. I don’t plant by the Farmers Almanac, never have, and probably never will. I don’t recommend other people plant by the Farmers Almanac either. However, I was in a local garden center last week that had copies and thought it would be interesting to check out what it said about the long-range summer forecast, given that I had already seen the K-State early model projections.

The Farmers Almanac has the eastern half of Kansas pegged for cooler than normal and dry weather this summer, and the western half of Kansas expecting cooler than normal and wetter than normal weather this summer. Interesting! The Farmers Almanac and the K-State predictions seem to at least partially dovetail. (In the interest of full disclosure, the Farmers Almanac predicted normal winter temperatures and precipitation for us this winter. Um. Yeah, that was obviously wrong.)

This is the closest I am ever going to come to predicting the weather on this blog. I think it will be very interesting to look back after the summer and see which (if any) of these predictions are correct. I have to be honest that I would be very much in favor of a cooler than normal and wetter than normal summer after last year!


About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on March 28, 2012, in Around the Garden and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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