DC region experiencing 5th-driest year on record, Friday’s dry heat pushing 90 degrees

Through five months, D.C. has had the fifth driest start on record. (Courtesy Chad Merrill)

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Notice a crunch when you walk in the grass or how often you’ve had to water your flowers or garden this spring? You’re not imagining anything; this is one of the driest years on record so far.

The D.C. area has only tallied 10.22 inches of precipitation (mostly rain) this year through May 31 — enough to qualify as the fifth-driest year on record through the first five months.

The transition out of La Niña to El Niño — two opposing climate patterns — could be to blame. Equatorial Pacific waters are rapidly warming and El Niño is on the fence of returning. Three of the top five driest years through May 31, including 1969, 1977 and 1986 saw a transition to El Niño.

Other records recently established in D.C. include the ninth-driest May on record with 1.34 inches of rain and the 13th-driest spring on record with 6.49 inches of rain.

The D.C. region has been experiencing moderate drought conditions on-and-off since mid-April. Much of D.C.’s rainfall comes from thunderstorms, which have been absent.

The National Weather Service in Sterling, Virginia, reported no Severe Thunderstorm Warnings issued in May by its office, which serves the entire WTOP listening area.

The last time not a single Severe Thunderstorm Warning was issued from the Sterling office in May was in 1987, also an El Niño year.

After a cool start Friday morning, temperatures are into the 90s in the D.C. area — making it the hottest day so far this year. Overnight will be partly cloudy and a little bit more muggy with lows in the 60s, according to 7news First Alert Meteorologist Brian van de Graaff.

That is expected to be followed by a chance for a few showers and rumbles of thunder Saturday afternoon, even though it’ll be partly sunny. Temperatures will be in the low to mid-80s, van de Graff said.

With a cooler weather pattern due next week, there is no strong evidence to suggest rainfall will be near to above average this month. The best chance for a wet June is the Mountain West, which does not bode well for the beginning of the agriculture season in and around the nation’s capital.

Chad Merrill

Chad Merrill is a meteorologist and digital weather content producer for WTOP. Prior to joining WTOP, Chad was a meteorologist in the private industry and television. He loves to share his passion with listeners and readers and is eager to hear from anyone who has any weather questions!

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