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Summer’s Promise

Damp June, hot July and August—and what the Summer 2020 forecast could mean for social distancing.

Summer in the United States is going to look different in many ways this year, given how the coronavirus pandemic has upended life. For many Americans, it’s still unclear if sports will be played and whether large gatherings will be held. Vacation plans remain up in the air for millions.

AccuWeather’s long-range forecast team, led by veteran meteorologist Paul Pastelok, has provided an early look at what weather trends can be expected in the mid-Atlantic region this summer.

Summer, which begins with the solstice on Saturday, June 20, will kick off with frequent showers and thunderstorms across the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes this year, not unlike the pattern that took hold for the early part of spring in our region when persistent wet weather suppressed temperatures below normal on most days.

The weather pattern will spell frequent unsettled conditions in the mid-Atlantic, from late June into July.

However, plenty of summer heat is poised to move in as the season progresses.

“Heat will come in spurts in the first half of the summer season,” AccuWeather Expert Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said. “But, as we get into July, it will start to dry out a little, and I think that’s when we’ll start to see the heat peak, with temperatures climbing into the 90s.”

Most of the scorching heat will take place in July and early August for places like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York. The latter part of summer will yield a good chance for heat waves, where highs can climb to 90 degrees Fahrenheit or greater for three consecutive days, although Pastelok said record-shattering stretches of heat are unlikely.

Compared with the summer of 2019, which brought grueling heat at times with above-average temperatures for the season, summer 2020 is likely to be a little hotter. Temperatures are expected to average 1-3 degrees higher across the Northeast compared to 2019 and closer to 1-2 degrees higher along the I-95 corridor, Pastelok said.

Once the hot weather arrives, the pattern may be tough to shake. Summer heat could persist well into September, said Pastelok, who’s been with AccuWeather for 28 years and in charge of long-range forecasting since 2011.

The coronavirus pandemic’s impact on heavily populated areas has become a concern for public officials as the warmer summer months approach, as social distancing measures may limit some cooling options.

The question for city officials is how will they protect residents from the combination of social distancing because of COVID-19 and the “potentially deadly consequences of being poor, disabled or elderly during the hottest days of the year,” the Washington Post reported.

Many residents often either don’t have air conditioning or limit using it to control electricity bills in many low-income city neighborhoods in the Northeast and Midwest, according to the Washington Post. As a result, people often gather outdoors, at public pools or at recreation centers, which also serve as cooling centers for senior citizens. But social distancing policies threaten the viability of those plans this year.

In summer, dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke are among the heat-related illnesses that resulted in 8,081 heat-related deaths in the U.S. from 1999-2010, according to the CDC.

“Heat kills a lot of people, and the elderly and very young are extremely sensitive to extremes of temperature,” said Dr. Joel N. Myers, AccuWeather founder and CEO.

“The temperature and other indices do not tell the whole story of how weather conditions make us feel,” said Myers. “Other weather variables in addition to temperature, such as sunlight, humidity, wind, precipitation and a multitude of other factors can impact our comfort or discomfort outside and may even cause harm or illness.”

New York City intends to free 40 miles from car traffic to create more outdoor space for residents.

The problem for people and the cities may be the duration of heat waves.

“Clearly, if a heat wave goes on for 10 days, 12 days or more … it can be devastating,” said AccuWeather’s Dr. Joel N. Myers. “Your body has a certain amount of resiliency, but the longer the heat wave goes, the more it creates a stress on your body and the more it takes out of you. That’s why the death toll accelerates with the length of a heat wave. It’s not only how hot it gets, but how long it lasts.” n

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