May Isn't Always This Cold and Cruel! - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Written by Jeff Porter

May Isn't Always This Cold and Cruel!

Shown is a color graphic image demonstrating the May 1991 heat wave. Shown is a color graphic image demonstrating the May 1991 heat wave.

Mother Nature has been giving us the cold shoulder for too long now! 

Salisbury experienced below average high temperatures 19 of 23 days this May, Georgetown 18 of 23, and Wilmington 17 of 23.  I’m not alone in clamoring about spring 2005 not living up to its end of the bargain either.  Jackets, windbreakers and umbrellas have been common sight for virtually anyone venturing outside. 

Watermen working at the coastline’s seemingly icy edges don thick, winter garb, while others seize meager crab counts because of nippy bay temperatures.  Area farmers are one to two weeks behind in their crop cycles because of consistently below normal temperatures and early May frosts.  And if that’s not enough to warrant the cordiality of even a luke warm turnaround, consider the winter-esque nor’easter currently spinning off the eastern seaboard, rolling thick clouds, squally showers, and more unseasonably cold air over the Delmarva Peninsula.  Isn’t this getting a little ridiculous, Oh Matriarch of the Seasons??? 

The truth of the matter is that it’s not unreasonable to see extreme temperature swings in the month of May in either direction, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Larry Brown in Wakefield, Va. 

“You see some crazy stuff in records over time," Brown said. "The last three springs temperature-wise are cold in 2003, warm in 2004, and now cold again in 2005.  I saw this trend in the late 1800s, the late 1900s, and now.” 

Gary Szatkowski, head meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Mt. Holly, N.J., took that sentiment one step further, but in a cautionary manner, when he warned of cool springs being followed up by sharp heat waves in early summer.

“People aren’t acclimated," he said. "It would be a shock.” 

One such instance of steamy summer-like heat in May occurred in 1991 on Delmarva and throughout a lot of the Mid-Atlantic.  Five records were set in Philadelphia including 96 on the 25th and 97 on the 30th and 31st. 

Five more marks were shattered in Georgetown, Del. in 1991 with a sizzling 96 on the final day of May, 94 on June 2 and 95 on June 3.  The annals of weather history were also rewritten in Wallops Island, VA for three days and in Dover, Del.  Additionally, Salisbury, Md.  tallied seven 90-degree days in May 1991, which is the most 90 degree plus days for any May from 1948 to 2005. 

The impressive stretch of warmth was sparked by the climatologically unusual formation of a Bermuda High. Brown explained, “The Bermuda high probably took control a littler earlier than normal that year.  It’s unusual, but so is this year, but only in the other way (direction).” 

After further analysis through government weather maps, the jet stream pattern also proved favorable for unbridled warmth in May 1991 with trough tendencies and upper low pressure in the central plains and concurrent ridge action across the east.  This atmospheric configuration leads to southerly and southwesterly winds for as many as several consecutive days, which ensure a continual flow of sultry, gulf coast air to Delmarva. 

It’s historically significant to know that many local weather watchers use the May 1991 blazer as a benchmark for assessing the magnitude of heretofore warm anomalies.  

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