Summer not ‘average’ for all in Charlotte area; is stormy autumn ahead?

The National Weather Service’s statistics will show that summer 2014, which officially ended at 10:29 p.m. Monday, was about average for Charlotte.

Temperatures, which were below average for the season in early August, rebounded later in the month and were about on par for a Charlotte summer. Precipitation was a bit below average, but not far from the norm.

But our “average summer” included a couple of major flooding events, some near-record cool weather at times in July, and the earliest land-falling hurricane in North Carolina history.

And despite the cooler conditions which began spreading through the Charlotte area Monday, meteorologists predict autumn will be warmer than usual, especially early in the season. Some forecasters expect a severe weather threat later in October and November, as an El Niño condition takes hold across the South.

Temperatures and precipitation at Charlotte Douglas International Airport during the summer were within two-tenths of a degree of average, according to the Weather Service. For the second straight summer, there were no 100-degree days. Rainfall was about a half-inch below seasonal averages.

But don’t talk about “average” rainfall for people who live in Matthews, Mint Hill and western Union County, where 4 to 6 inches of rain fell in two hours on the evening of July 15. A number of houses were flooded, roads were closed, and Goose Creek in western Union County reached 11 feet, its highest level in 10 years. The same thing happened June 27, in central and western Mecklenburg County, where 3 to 4 inches of rain fell in thunderstorms. The Little Sugar and McMullen creeks flooded.

And those “average” temperatures? Carolinas residents awakened after Independence Day celebrations on July 5 to readings 10 to 15 degrees below norms. It dropped to 53 degrees in Statesville and 60 in Charlotte, about 10 degrees cooler than usual.

Later in the month came the arrival of a pocket of cool air that some observers called a summer version of the “Polar Vortex” that put the eastern United States in the deep freeze last winter. The Carolinas had well-below-average readings in the last 10 days of July. The chilliest morning was July 30, when it dropped to 53 once again in Statesville, 60 in Charlotte and a frosty 39 degrees on Mount Mitchell.

Perhaps the Carolinas’ biggest summer weather story was Hurricane Arthur, which formed July 1 and quickly grew into a tropical storm and then a hurricane on July 3 as it approached the North Carolina coast. Arthur made landfall near Beaufort as a Category 2 hurricane, its top winds at 100 mph. It was the earliest landfall by a hurricane in North Carolina in recorded history.

Damage was not extensive, but Arthur disrupted Independence Day celebrations and chased away tens of thousands of visitors from the Outer Banks on the busiest tourist weekend of the year.

Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center and private meteorologists agree that a mild autumn appears likely for the Charlotte region. Both NOAA and most private forecasters predict temperatures will be above average, especially from now into November.

Rainfall predictions are a bit more problematic. The Climate Prediction Center said there is an equal chance of above-average, average or below-average rainfall this autumn. Meanwhile, Paul Pastelok of Accu-Weather said the development of an El Niño (warmer-than-average water temperatures in the eastern Pacific basin) will bring rounds of wet, stormy weather across the South.

“We’ve seen in past years like 2009, 2004 and 2002, years with patterns similar to this year, that there have been several tornadoes that have broken out during the fall season,” Pastelok said. “Back in 2004, there were over 150 tornadoes that broke out in the month of November.”