Fourth of July

A view of Park Square and South Street at the beginning of the 2017 Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade. The weather should be ideal for celebrations this July 4, with daytime highs below 80.

Despite brief doses of heat and humidity, the first weeks of summer continue to be unusually pleasant in the Berkshires, with temperatures near or slightly below normal, and that’s how the holiday weekend shapes up, at least for Sunday and Monday.

But as gardeners know and boaters observe on our rivers and lakes, the scarcity of beneficial showers is beginning to take its toll. Rainfall for June was just above 3 inches, according to the National Weather Service gauge at Pittsfield Municipal Airport. That’s about one-third below normal.

Temperatures were a modest one degree below average, with the month’s high of 86 recorded on June 25 and 26, and the low of 42 on June 20, the last day of spring and a record for the date. Only four days saw temperatures reach the 80s.

After a warm and sunny start on Friday, the advance of cooler air may trigger showers and thunderstorms, some of them severe late Saturday afternoon, with a greater risk in South County. The primary threat would be damaging wind gusts, and potentially severe hail, according to the government’s Storm Prediction Center. Rain could be locally heavy, but any beneficial effect would be unlikely.

After some clearing on Saturday night, it will be cool, dry and very pleasant for the rest of the holiday weekend, with daytime highs below 80 along with low humidity. The setup is ideal for outdoor music, theater and dance as well as July 4 celebrations, notably the annual Pittsfield parade.

Starting late Monday night into Tuesday, clouds, showers and thunderstorms are expected ahead of another clear day on Wednesday. Forecast confidence is limited for the rest of the week, though no soaking rainfall is in the current forecast.

The Climate Prediction Center’s early look at July 8-14 calls for below normal temperatures and above normal rainfall.

DROUGHT UPDATE

A moderate drought now extends through much of Massachusetts, including the central Berkshire hill towns (Becket, Hinsdale, Peru and Windsor), though the lower-risk abnormally-dry category covers the southeast coast and the Islands, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor.

Short-term abnormal dryness and moderate drought expanded across much of New England this past week, as rainfall remained sparse. Streamflows also continued downward. Heavier precipitation from eastern Pennsylvania northward through eastern New York kept any pre-drought concerns at bay there.

Widespread moderate drought and abnormal dryness extends over a large portion of the eastern U.S., with a few areas of severe drought forming or expanding as well. Spotty rain and thunderstorms occurred in some parts of the East, but in areas that missed out on heavy rainfall, high temperatures, browning lawns and curling corn signaled that rapid drying was taking place in many areas.

An early start to the North American monsoon, particularly in New Mexico and southern Colorado, led to widespread improvement of extreme and exceptional drought in those states. Extreme drought formed or expanded in parts of the central Great Plains last week, where warm, dry weather continued. Despite slight improvements in parts of the West, severe, extreme, and some exceptional drought remains widespread there.

NATIONAL OVERVIEW

Over the weekend, heavy rain is likely from the Upper Texas coast to the central Gulf Coast, lower Missouri Valley and portions of the Georgia and South Carolina coast.

Monsoonal spotty showers and storms are forecast in the Southwest and southern/central Rockies, with weekend thunderstorms possible in the Northwest.

Seasonal temperatures continue across much of the nation with slight cool-downs in the areas receiving the monsoon showers as well as along the Southeast coast.

Next week, the central states will be hot, while storms track across the Northwest and eastward along the northern tier states.

A stagnant weather system from the north-central Plains to the mid-Atlantic region will produce showers and storms, with some locally heavy rainfall.

Intense heat is likely across the central states early in the week from the Plains to the mid-Mississippi Valley, with highs topping 100. Warmer than average temperatures may build into the northern Rockies to northern Plains by the end of the week while the West remains cooler than normal, trending closer to average later in the week.

The Outlook is today's look ahead at the weather this weekend and next week, including its impact on the Berkshires and beyond. Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com.