May 2021 in Review: A look at last month’s weather

Weather

Beckley, WV (WVNS) — The end of May marks the unofficial end to spring and the beginning of what many, including meteorologists, would consider summer. June 1, specifically marks the beginning of Meteorological Summer and the end of Meteorological Spring, which runs from March 1 to May 31. Let’s look back and see how both May and springtime shaped up in southern West Virginia.

**ALL DATA LISTED IS FOR BECKLEY, WV UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED**

MAY 2021

May was fairly uneventful in Beckley. There wasn’t much in the way of any weather outside of some normal thunderstorms, and few days at the beginning of the month where it was just really windy! Notably though, with a lack of an active weather pattern, it’s been fairly dry during May, which is typically our second wettest month.

Temperatures

May was a chilly month falling 2.3-degrees short of normal when compared to the 1991-2020 climate ‘normals’ that were released this year. Keep in mind that the previous statement should be taken with a grain of salt. That ‘below normal’ claim only comes from 30 years of data, a statistically significant amount of data but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

When compared to the last set of climate ‘normals’ [1981-2010] for example, this would still be a below ‘normal’ month but only by 0.8-degrees. Using an approximate average of the 20th-century [1901-2000], the general baseline for diagnosing changes in the climate, for May this would only be 0.9-degrees* below ‘normal’.

What to take from this? Compared to the past 30 years this was a fairly below-normal month. When compared to previous ‘normals’ and widely accepted baselines the significance of how far below normal this May was faded quickly. A clear indication of how anomalously warm the past 30 years have been compared to previous years and how our climate is changing quickly in Southern West Virginia.

*AUTHORS NOTE: Starred values were calculated using a simple moving average, only using months with five (5) days or less missing from the dataset. Dataset and calculations via https://xmacis.rcc-acis.org/

Precipitation

Whether you look at the month as a whole or just day by day, it was dry in Beckley. Our highest single-day rainfall total was just 0.49-inches on May 28. Our total for the month just a measly 2.12-inches. Less than half of the 4.54-inches May receives based on the 1991-2020 climate ‘normals’.

Notable Weather Events

  • A widespread windstorm swept through the area on May 9 as a low-pressure system passed off to our west.
    • Peak gusts included 52 mph at the Beckley Airport and a 48 mph gust in Bluefield, WV

SPRING 2021

Meteorological Spring has come and gone in West Virginia, much like May with little fanfare save for flooding at the beginning of March. The one notable feature of the March through May period was dry weather!

Temperatures

Spring was as close to average as you could likely get based on the 1991-2020 climate ‘normals’, 52.6-degrees, coming in at 52.4-degrees, only 0.2-degrees below ‘normal’.

But yet again, this doesn’t speak for a ‘true’ measure of above or below normal when it comes to discussing how the climate is changing. Compared to the 1981-2010 ‘normals’ for Spring it would have been considered 1.1-degrees above ‘normal’. Using the baseline of an approximate average of the 20th-century [1901-2000], that figure rises to 1.5-degrees* above ‘normal’. A sizable difference.

*AUTHORS NOTE: Starred values were calculated using a simple moving average, only using a period of March to May with fifteen (15) days or less missing from the dataset. Dataset and calculations via https://xmacis.rcc-acis.org/

Precipitation

Spring was dry, and not just for rain but for snow too! According to the 1991-2020 climate ‘normals’ we see 10.4-inches of snow between March and April. This year we saw only 0.8-inches total. Rain lacked by an impressive number too. A combination of a slightly below normal rainfall for April, and a large departure in May overall totals took a hit.

If you have any questions about the data shown in this article please reach out to me at lhealy@wvnstv.com and I will be happy to answer them!

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