The “wow” factor of this summer continues — slightly cooler-than-normal weather is forecast for the rest of the week in Omaha.
But will that coolish weather continue to extract a price in the form of missed rain chances?
Tonight and Thursday bring moisture-deprived Omaha and western Iowa the next good chance for rain. The ongoing presence of cool, relatively dry air has been among the reasons that east-central Nebraska and west-central Iowa have been skipped as storms rolled through the region.
Omaha has gone 50 days without a 1-inch rainfall, even though areas to the north and west have been soaked, according to the National Weather Service. In the past month, western Iowa has developed into one of the driest pockets of the central United States.
Despite the feel of things, temperatures have averaged remarkably close to normal, said Bryon Miller, a meteorologist for the weather service. This month is running just 1.6 degrees below normal, and June and July averaged within a half-degree of normal.
Miller said it has been the lack of high humidity that has made it feel cooler.
“If the air is moist, it feels warmer during the day, and the air does not cool off as quickly at night,” Miller said.
“So we have been very lucky to not have many nights this summer where it seems the air conditioner runs most of the day and part of the night.”
That is borne out by numbers from the Omaha Public Power District.
Spokesman Mike Jones said electricity use has been running about 6 percent behind expectations this summer and even more, 10 percent, behind last summer's actual use.
Barbara Mayes, also a meteorologist at the weather service, said the sharp contrast between this summer and last summer is another reason the weather feels so nice. The summer of 2012 was one of Omaha's hottest, driest on record.
“This is so distinct from last summer,” Mayes said. “It was so far out of the lines that even this year's normal feels quite a bit cooler.”
Mayes said much of this summer's weather has been flowing in from the cool Pacific Northwest, instead of the desert Southwest or the Gulf of Mexico. This pattern has contributed to Omaha and western Iowa missing out on rain.
She said cool, dry air stabilizes the atmosphere, and that can deprive storms of the fuel they need to continue traveling across the country. In this sense, storms have been running out of energy as they near Omaha, she said.
The stability that Mayes made reference to can be seen in temperature charts. Omaha has had one 90-degree day this month. In 2012, six of the first 14 days of August saw highs ranging from 94 to 103 degrees.
Lack of rain can also be simple bad luck.
Dave Fobert, a weather service meteorologist, said Fort Calhoun, about 8 miles north of Omaha, received nearly 2 inches of rain last week. Omaha got about one-third of an inch from the same storm.
“It's just luck of the draw,” he said. “Rain has come close.”