After a pleasant start to the week, with comfortable temperatures Sunday and Monday, much warmer and more humid air is expected to return by mid-week.

Sunday dawned bright and cool under mostly clear skies. After the latest three-day tropical steam bath, with highs pushing or topping 90 across the Berkshires, the refreshing respite was especially welcome.

As the first half of August concludes, hardly any rain has been recorded at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, though some parts of the county have been drenched by thundershowers. Temperatures have averaged slightly above normal for the two-week period.

Starting Tuesday, there’s a daily chance of afternoon or evening showers and thunderstorms through next weekend. Clouds will blot out the sun during each day, capping temperatures around 80.

A wild card for late Wednesday and Thursday is the track of Tropical Storm Fred, or what’s left of it. As National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Montgomery pointed out in a Sunday online post, a period of moderate to heavy rainfall could develop in the Berkshires, though that’s not yet reflected in the current day-by-day forecast.

Heading into Friday and beyond, uncertainty still prevails, though it’s safe to say temperatures should rise into the 80s by Saturday, with overnight lows in the 60s. At this point, the prospects of a pleasant late-August weekend are no better than a coin-flip, unfortunately.

The long-range outlook from the government’s Climate Prediction Center for the final weeks of August indicates more above-normal temperatures and rainfall for western New England and the rest of the Northeast.

NATIONAL OVERVIEW

Having regained tropical storm status on Sunday, Fred will affect Florida’s Gulf Coast and the Southeast with heavy rain and gusty winds before an expected landfall in Alabama Monday night. The National Hurricane Center posts updates every three hours.

On Fred’s heels, Tropical Storm Grace may threaten southern Florida at midweek and move into the Gulf of Mexico by the weekend.

Oppressive, potentially record-breaking heat will continue to afflict much of the West, also spreading into the Northern Plains. Smoke from wildfires has prompted widespread air quality alerts in the Northwest and parts of the Rockies. The Pacific Northwest can expect cooler temperatures arriving on Tuesday.

WILDFIRE UPDATE

The National Interagency Fire Center’s tally on Sunday showed 103 active large fires that have burned two million acres in 14 states.

The states with the highest number of fires are Montana (24), Idaho (21), Washington (17), Oregon (16) and California (9), where the Dixie Fire, now in its second month, continues to expand, prompting more evacuations.

CLIMATE CHECK

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports July was the hottest month on record worldwide, with the Northern Hemisphere charting nearly three degrees above average. The records date back to 1880.

The main culprits of human-made climate change: Fossil fuel energy consumption and destruction of forests caused in large part by wildfires.

Earlier last week, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sounded a five-alarm warning. Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered, the report predicted, unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.

The impact of unimpeded climate change includes more frequent hot extremes on the earth’s surface and oceans, heavy precipitation in some regions, agricultural and ecological droughts in others, more numerous intense tropical cyclones, as well as reductions in Arctic sea ice, snow cover and permafrost, the report stated.

This summer’s list of miseries include include not only wildfires continuing in California, Oregon, Montana and other western states, but also intense heat waves in much of Europe and Asia, conflagrations caused by fires in Siberia, and record-setting heat waves in the Pacific Northwest, Greece, Sicily, Turkey, Japan and Northern Ireland.

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