As summer begins – officially at 6:51 a.m. today – Western New Yorkers are ready for a hot-weather season that is every bit as glorious as our blizzard-packed winter was bad.
And there is a simple reason why, perfectly stated by Betty Barvian of Wyoming County: “We deserve a good summer.”
Remember seeing double-digit negative wind chills that lasted for days on end? Snow, measured in feet? Howling, icy 60 mph winds?
“It was pretty brutal,” said Hamburg resident Nick Dotegowski, 21.
But summer redemption could be sweet.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say that they remember if it’s been a bad winter, it’s a hot and dry summer,” said Scott Kuczenski, 29, a teacher in Dunkirk who was getting ice cream in Hamburg with his wife, Rebekah, and children Paige, 3, and Paxton, 8 months, on a recent evening. “I hope those people are right.”
But here’s the big question: Will that happen?
Experts said it sounds nice, but there’s no science behind it.
If you’re trying to recall whether terrible winters are usually followed by great summers, you might want to know this: Weather experts said that’s probably not something that can be assumed.
“There’s no historical precedent for extreme winters leading to either extreme summers in warmth or length,” said David Zaff, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Buffalo.
“It doesn’t mean we’re going to have a warmer or longer or more beautiful summer,” Zaff said. “There’s no correlation.”
Is there anything we can point to, even this far out, that might show a foretaste of what summer’s weather will be?
At the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, a three-month outlook that was published in mid-May shows Western New York falling at right about average for temperature and precipitation through August. But, to our west, from Detroit to eastern Montana – places that were hardly exempt from a harsh winter – forecasters are calling for below average temperatures through mid-August.
A swath along the Eastern Seaboard from Florida to Maine, however, is expected to see temperatures well above average.
El Nino conditions are setting up and “are expected to be in place by late summer or early fall,” climate patterns show, according to forecast models.
So, while the summer might not be affected here, El Nino could affect our winter for 2014-15, resulting in a more mild season.
All over Western New York, people are looking forward to warm, clear weather and everything it means. Pool parties. Hamburgers and custard cones. Boating and beach-walking along the shoreline.
At the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, staffers said that the books that have been checked out and placed on hold the most since early May include titles by John Grisham, David Baldacci and James Patterson. Among e-books, popular choices include “The Fault in our Stars” and “Gone Girl.”
Sounds like beach reading to us.
“It was a really tough winter,” said Paul Szymanski, an Eden resident who spent the winter months plowing his driveway and shoveling off his roof. “I don’t even know how to describe it.”
Szymanski and his wife Susan were enjoying a recent sunny weeknight evening to the fullest, eating a fish fry and then some ice cream, and sitting outdoors.
Szymanski put their attitude this way: “We want it to be a great summer.”
Elizabeth Gibson, a Derby resident, said the long winter and late onset of warm temperatures have affected her gardening schedule.
Gibson said she is hoping for a terrific summer, but said that probably anything will seem nice.
“Anything would be better than what we had last winter,” she said.
Barvian said it seemed like many people’s moods were affected by the time the end of the long winter rolled around.
“Everybody was grumpy,” she said, adding that there was likely a reason for that.
“You want some sunshine. You need some sunshine,” Barvian said.
Dave Luckman, who drives and makes deliveries as part of his job, said last winter’s freezing cold will affect his outlook for a while.
“I used to complain about the heat,” said Luckman. “But I’m not anymore.”
“I’m actually looking forward to it.”
Tom Jolls, the longtime TV weatherman who covered significant storms including the blizzards of 1977 and 1985 during his career, said this winter struck him as singular.
“This past one was unbelievable,” said Jolls, who retired in 1999. “If not the worst, then one of the worst.”
Snowfall varied greatly across the Niagara Frontier, depending on proximity to the lakes, but generally was well above average across the Great Lakes as a whole. In Buffalo, for instance, 129.9 inches of snow fell – nearly a full yard more than normal – making it the seventh snowiest winter in 130 years of recorded weather history.
And, it wasn’t just the snow piles – it was the duration.
A Thanksgiving week lake-effect storm seemed to get winter rolling a little earlier than usual. There was 10 inches of November snow, more than two inches above normal for the month.
A few more lake-effect snows in December preceded the “polar vortex” being added to our weather lexicon around the start of the New Year. Then, days later, the first blizzard in 21 years – a three-day event – walloped Western New York from Jan. 6 to 8.
January remained in the icebox – temperatures ran 4.9 degrees below normal – and so did February, which at 19.8 average degrees, was actually colder than January.
March began with temperatures dropping into the single digits and below zero every night for the first week of the month before the second blizzard struck on March 12. Shorter in duration, it packed a more concentrated punch in terms of sheer snowfall, when almost 14 inches fell – the most all winter.
Temperatures ran below normal every month between November and April. That helped keep Lake Erie, which was 96.4 percent frozen over on March 6 (the most all season) iced in until late April.
But forecasters downplayed any notion the sustained cold will impact summer in Buffalo Niagara.
This week, the lake temperature had rebounded into the low 60s – just where it was a year ago at the same time.
Jolls said he understands where people are coming from, in wanting a wonderful summer.
“We can only hope that (today) there’s going to be a magic button pushed and we’re going to go into a long, hot summer,” Jolls said.
But some folks are feeling lucky just to be at this point in the year, with potentially fabulous warm weather season ahead.
“As long as it doesn’t rain too often,” said Luckman, “I can take anything … 70 or above.”