, Salem, MA

May 2, 2014

In Salem, cool April leads into the warmth, sunshine of May

By Arthur A. Francis

---- — April was a month of rather insignificant weather. We had our usual April showers, giving us 3.2 inches of rain, a little less than our usual average. There was very little snowfall, a total of only 0.7 inches one day.

Temperatures were cooler than normal, and Salem had 11 days when the temperature dipped to the freezing point or below. The high reading for the month was 74 degrees, and the lowest temperature was 27. We had many windy days, with gusts up to 55 mph, that made us feel even colder.

Now May is upon us, often one of the most pleasant times of the year here in New England. The ideal conditions of bright sunshine and occasional showers give us the luxurious, fresh green foliage and delightful spring blossoms. A leisurely drive through the back roads and highways can be a most pleasant experience, rivaling that of autumn.

This is a transitional period between spring and summer. From now on, most of our rainfall will come from showers and thunderstorms. There is still the possibility, however, of one of those sneaky coastal storms or the passage of a “back door” cold front, accompanied by the characteristic cool, damp, dismal weather.

At the beginning of the month, high temperatures are usually in the 60s, falling to the mid-40s by sunrise. Freezes are rare, but some low-lying areas are vulnerable when radiational cooling occurs. Toward month’s end our readings climb into the 70s, with morning lows in the mid-50s. The highest May reading of our records (dating from 1977) was a summer-like 97 degrees in 1987. On the other hand, we had a wintry 30-degree low as recently as 2010.

Normally we receive about 31/2 inches of rain, but there have been times when the May rainfall has been excessive. The blockbuster was May 2006. Salem had the greatest amount of rain in the Boston area — an unprecedented 16.2 inches. There was more rain here than in any May, according to the National Weather Service. Flooding was rampant in Salem and Peabody, and the Ipswich River reached its highest level ever.

In startling contrast, our least amount of rain was a mere 0.84 inches in 1993.

Snow is a rare occurrence in Salem during this late spring month, but it can occur.

Arthur A. Francis is a Salem meteorologist.