Does a wet spring mean a rainy summer? The answer may surprise you

Does a wet spring mean a rainy summer? The answer may surprise you

From one of the driest months of March ever, to the second snowiest April on record, and the second rainiest May in Madison history, meteorological spring 2018 was an complete roller coaster.

We could all use a few normal months this summer, don’t you think?

With the massive amount of rain in May, Madison slid comfortably into ninth place in the race for wettest spring seasons.

But, it’s over now. And while we could take Rihanna’s advice and “take a bow,” we’re also naturally wondering what summer 2018 will bring.

First, a warning about seasonal prediction: It’s very difficult. So much can happen that can alter a forecast on just a weekly time frame, let alone on a monthly or annual one. Meteorologists and climatologists use many tools at our disposal, such as teleconnection pattern forecasts (El Nino, NAO, MJO) as guidelines to predict trends for a season.

The Climate Prediction Center has predicted a slight chance for a wetter than average summer and an equal chance of a hotter or colder than average season for southern Wisconsin.

Does a wet spring mean a rainy summer? The answer may surprise you

And that could very well be the case as we head forward into the next three months.

However, what’s happened in the past can also be useful as well in predicting what this summer will be like.

There have been eight springs that have been wetter than spring 2018 in Madison. I analyzed these years (which, for those curious minds, are 1973, 2004, 1933, 2013, 2009, 1998, 2000, and 1974) and looked at the corresponding summers.

In almost every case, the summer after a really wet spring was very dry, dry or near-normal in terms of precipitation. Only one summer, in 2000, was slightly wetter than normal.

Does a wet spring mean a rainy summer? The answer may surprise you

A few notes:

This is a small sample size, and there are big exceptions. In 1993 (11th wettest spring all time) it rained incessantly during the spring, summer, and into the autumn months. A number of cities across the Midwest and Great Plains reported major flooding.
Seasons are like snowflakes and people: no two are alike. It’s almost impossible to take what happened in a previous season and apply it to the next (i.e, we had a wet spring so we’ll have a wet summer, etc.)

Despite these caveats, the data is interesting. Will history prevail or will history be changed? We’ll have to wait and see.