Searching For Fall Weather and Talking History

Good Monday, everyone. Our toasty September rolls on across the bluegrass state as we head into a brand spanking new week, but this week shouldn’t be anything like last week. Can a hot September give us any clues to the rest of fall or the winter ahead? I’ll take a look at some numbers here in a bit in what may be one of the longest blog posts in KWC history.

Let us begin with the toasty present. Highs today are back into the 90s for much of the state, but a weak cold front could touch off a scattered shower or storm this afternoon and evening. This front is dropping in from the north and that’s initially where the storms fire up. Here are your tracking toys…

That front may slow down across the state early Tuesday, keeping a shower or storm around…

This boundary will knock the numbers down from today, but we are still likely to roll on the warmer than normal side for many.

From there, things continue to run MUCH warmer than normal through the week. Timing a few fronts into the area from late week through early next week remains tough because of a stubborn pattern, due in part to the tropics. Humberto continues to look like a fish storm…

cone graphic

There’s also a system behind Humberto that should develop into a hurricane in the coming days. Plus, a sneaky little system may try to ramp up near the Texas coast…

Let’s talk about this hot September and how it stacks up with similar years. As you are aware, we are on pace for one of the warmest Septembers on record. I’m going to use Lexington for this little trip down memory lane.

The top 5 warmest Septembers go like this:

1. 1925   2. 1939   3. 1936   4. 1998   5. 1954 & 1941 (Tie)

1925 featured 14 90+ degree days in September and was very dry. The following October turned cold after the first week and turned into the snowiest October on record with nearly 3″ late in the month. The cold kept going into November with the following winter turning even colder relative to normal and very snowy.

1939 featured a whopping 18 days of 90+ and was very dry. The rest of the fall turned much colder and the following winter turned very cold and gave us one of the snowiest winters on record with nearly 40″.

1936 gave us 14 days at or above 90 and had near normal rainfall. This was during the dust bowl era and we had just wrapped up the hottest summer on record. As we made our way into October, temps skewed much colder and we had a little snow toward the end of the month. November was very cold with an early month snowstorm and other lighter snows later in the month. The winter averaged a little warmer than normal with near normal snowfall.

1998 only gave us 9 days of 90+ and was a very dry month. This was coming off of the, at the time, strongest El Nino ever recorded and was transitioning into a potent La Nina. The fall temps were normal and with a pretty wimpy winter that turned warmer than normal with below normal snowfall.

1954 gave us 12 days at or above the 90 degree mark, but was wetter than normal thanks to a 3″ rain day later in the month. The following October produced much colder temps and it snowed on the final 3 days of the month, giving us the 4th snowiest October on record. November gave us a few inches of snow with the following winter averaging slightly colder than normal and a touch above normal snowfall.

1941 featured 16 days of 90 or better for temps and was very dry. The rest of fall was normal for temps and snow. The winter started warm then went cold for January and February with near normal snowfall.

What about more recent years that have been similar? The year that keeps jumping out at me is 2010. That September gave us 10 90 or better days and was also super dry. That warmth and dry weather lasted through October. November made a slow transition to colder and then it was on. December was one of the coldest and snowiest on record with nearly 17″. The rest of the winter followed suit with the 10th snowiest overall on record with bitter cold.

2016 gave us 13 90 degree days and was very dry. I put an asterisk beside this year because of the tainted thermometer at Blue Grass Airport. Even the NWS is finally admitting to me it is running too hot and they’re trying to find a solution to it. Regardless,  that was a warm fall and warm winter with very little snow. But, this was similar to 1998 in that it was coming off the strongest El Nino Ever and transitioning to a La Nina.

2018 is another year with an asterisk but “officially” gave us 8 90 degree or better days. Where it’s a horrible match is it was also the wettest September on record with nearly 11″ of rain. Get this… even with all that rain, the airport thermometer still manged to give us the 7th warmest September ever. THIS is why I rail against the official thermometer in Lexington. Anyway, last winter was actually very close to becoming a big one around here, but the southeast ridge kept the core of the cold just to our north and west.

So, what can we take from all this, if anything? It’s always difficult to find a direct correlation to anything with weather, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find clues. For instance, several of the years did feature some snow in October and that certainly stands out. The majority of the following winters were near normal snowfall or well above normal snowfall, a few even historic.

We can whittle a few years off the mix fairly quickly. 1998 and 2016 were coming off the two strongest El Ninos ever recorded.. 2018 was the wettest September and year on record, so most of it can be thrown out. 1936 could be another one to throw out because of the historic dust bowl and overall historic heat/drought of that entire year.

I hope you enjoyed my little trip back in weather time. 🙂 My next update will focus on a few long range computer forecasts for the winter ahead.

Make it a good one and take care.


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19 Responses to Searching For Fall Weather and Talking History

  1. K D Lloyd says:

    Ah, we love the long post! Adventures into past and possible future is fun! I love looking at future post and coming back to see how close you were, keep up the good work!

  2. BH says:

    After this winter coming we will wish we had some of these beautiful days were having. Other than it being so dry.

  3. StormtrackerWV says:

    Loved this post, Chris! Thank you so much for your hard work!

  4. Dottie says:

    Great post today Chris. I’m looking forward to your next one about the winter ahead.

  5. Mike S says:

    Fairly good synopsis except toward the end. Limiting oneself to just one location skewed your perspective for September 2018. Going from hot and dry September months, which was the general theme, to hot and wet (Why?), I ask how did the rest of the state compare to Lexington? Everyone was warm and wet. Jackson had an average temperature similar to Lexington and was 3rd warmest September (but only 38 years of data). Louisville, Paducah, and Bowling Green had warmer average temperatures than Lexington (even top ten material for some) and they were really wet too. So, statistically, I saw little reason for bantering or ranting about Lexington. You’re right, 2018 should have been left out.

  6. Bryan says:

    Trying very hard to find a pattern that exceeds this in miserable heat, dryness, and plain boredom. Maybe 1999? At least last September was wet. Even hurricane season has been wimpy thus far, in terms of US landfalling storms. From what I’ve gathered we are under the dreaded southeast heat ridge with really nothing promising in the future. Maybe late week and next week aren’t furnace hot, but temps still above normal. There are signs that the very end of September may trend cooler with a breakdown of the ridge, but not holding my breath. We maybe blasting the heat and drought well into late October.

    Any thoughts?

  7. MarkLex says:

    I love these types of posts, Chris. Regarding the KLEX thermometer. I used to think it was too warm……but sometimes it’s cooler than the mesonet, especially at night. Also, my car thermometer always ties with KLEX’s and so does the other car thermometer. I’m not very far from the airport. Maybe around 5 miles (if that). Over the past year, I’ve wondered which locating is accurate……the mesonet or KLEX.

    Oh, and about all the rain we were getting. I never complained about that. I’ve always preferred that over hot/dry/boring weather.

    • Jake says:

      I agree about the Lexington airport thermometer. It may read one…MAYBE two degrees higher than it typically does, but I think it is a more accurate representation of the actual city temperature than the mesonet site is. Any thermometer located at an airport (of all places) should understandably read a little bit higher because of all the asphalt/concrete and jets constantly taking off and landing (and moving around on the tarmac). The Lexington mesonet site is ALWAYS lower than any other mesonet site in central Kentucky, which makes no sense because it is located in the second largest city in the state. BUT…it’s located in a random corn field away from asphalt, vehicles and buildings. It does not provide an accurate representation of the true temperature reading in Lexington in the middle of the city (say, if one was standing on the sidewalk out in front of the mall right beside Nicholasville Road). I guarantee you the KLEX site is closer to the real air temperature in the urban part of the city than the Mesonet site is. And a little side note… I know not all Weather Underground weather stations are totally accurate, but I’d say most of them are pretty darn close. Most of them consistently show temps closer to KLEX than to the Mesonet site. My takeaway: KLEX does seem to be about a degree (two at the most) warmer than normal, but I don’t personally feel that it is wildly skewing data like some people think. Just look at the KSDF (Louisville) thermometer! Nobody complains about that site and it’s always reading too hot. It’s always hotter than the one at Bowman Field. Airport thermometers…not a smart idea.

  8. Mike S says:

    Here’s a first. Need to empty my homemade rain gauge. Not because of collected rainfall, but a light film of dust has collected at the bottom…not quite measurable, but a Trace of dust. I will have to clean the funnel as well.

  9. Herb says:

    I am hesitant to speculate on one month of weather and what it holds for the next month, let alone the upcoming season. I mean, we haven’t even made it to fall and some are already prognosticating winter. Given that the LEX ASOS has been running warm, I would not even consider that data in a calculation. Nonetheless, the majority of climate models show a warm winter, but much of that lies on what happens in the Pacific this winter. Yes, I have seen WeatherBell’s outlook for 150% of normal snow for the Ohio Valley. However, that didn’t work out at all the last time that Joe predicted something like that.

  10. AstralLibrarian says:

    I never comment, but I’m a daily reader. I just wanted to let you know I really enjoyed this post. I’ve been looking forward to it for about a week, whenever you first hinted about it.

  11. Mike S says:

    Looking back through the post, I’m surprised you did not highlight 1931. It was not a super dry month, the September total of 2.15″. But, that winter was strange. Winter did not arrive till March 1932, because December through February was a blowtorch period, the warmest winter ever for Lexington and the least snowy Meteorological winter on record at 0.1″.

  12. Mark says:

    Brief downpours developing in the Louisville area at 3pm. Was great to see and feel rain falling, if only very briefly. Ironically, the NWS in Louisville’s forecast discussion put out at 2:30pm said this:

    “Wouldn`t be surprised to see a few isolated short-lived “blips” pop
    up on radar late this afternoon in south-central Kentucky, but
    expect nearly everyone in the CWA to remain dry by the end of the
    day. As such, will only carry a isolated chance of a shower/storm
    for our southern counties for 2-3hr timeframe late this afternoon
    into the evening.”

    Kind of funny that right after they discounted any showers in north-central KY, they popped up in the Louisville area.

  13. Chris Davis says:

    Love the post and taken with a grain of salt. Gotta say though, I’m itching for some winter predictions! Thanks CB

  14. Mike S says:

    Louisville Bowman Field dry streak ends at 19 days with 0.05″ during the last hour. Record remains at 23.

  15. Mark says:

    Louisville officially hit 98 today, a new record. 6 out of the last 7 days with a record high. Quite unprecedented for September. The brief downpours in the southeast areas of the city sure was nice, though. Up to half an inch in a few localized spots.

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