The northern Cumberland Plateau is just 48 hours removed from damaging frosts and record-setting cold temperatures, but a summer-like pattern is beginning to take shape for the days ahead.
Temperatures in the 70s — and even in the 80s — will quickly become the norm, as will near daily chances of afternoon thunderstorms.
While the National Weather Service at Morristown has not updated its data from Oneida — collected from the Oneida Water & Wastewater Department’s water treatment plant on West 3rd Avenue — record-breaking temperatures were believed to have been experienced Saturday morning, as the thermometer plunged well below freezing for the area’s first hard freeze in the month of May in 36 years, and the latest hard freeze in more than 40 years.
That’s par for the spring on the northern plateau. April featured temperatures that were slightly below normal, while May started off as one of the coldest months of May on record in East Tennessee.
But the pattern is changing, and Wednesday is expected to be the last day to feature below-average temperatures for at least the next several days.
The NWS was forecasting a high of 61 degrees in Oneida on Tuesday, still more than 10 degrees below normal for mid May. And temperatures weren’t expected to be much warmer on Wednesday with an increasing chance for showers, with highs only in the low to mid 60s.
The normal afternoon high temperature for this time of year is 74 degrees.
By Thursday, temperatures are expected to be several degrees above normal, approaching 80 degrees. Highs in the 80s are also expected through the weekend.
With summer-like temperatures comes the nearly omnipresent chances for afternoon thunderstorms on the plateau, where the elevated terrain helps trigger garden-variety thunderstorms that are fueled by diurnal heating during the summer months. The NWS is forecasting a slight chance of thunderstorms each day through the weekend, with chances growing on Sunday and Monday.
The warmer temperatures are expected to arrive in the form of a warm front that will lift across the region on Wednesday, bringing spotty light rain showers with it. Exactly how warm temperatures get on Wednesday will depend on the cloud cover; however, unless the warm front lifts further north than expected, the northern plateau region will remain draped in clouds throughout the day, helping to keep temperatures down, while the southern portions of Tennessee will see more sun and warmer temperatures.
Warm weather seems inevitable on Thursday, however, as an upper level ridge builds in the atmosphere, as the weather pattern flips from early spring to early summer.
However, it’s not truly summer yet, meaning intrusions of colder air are still possible. That is expected to be the case for the weekend, with a weak cold front moving into the region to help enhance rain chances Sunday and Monday.
The cold front won’t do much to cool temperatures at the surface, however, and temperatures in the 80s are expected to continue through next week — perhaps building into the mid 80s by the end of next week and into Memorial Day weekend.
Long-range modeling does show signs of a cool-down by the end of the month, though climatology begins to argue against massive intrusions of colder weather as the month of May progresses.