May is typically one of the best, if not the best, months of year for weather in Washington, D.C.  It offers a lovely transition between the cool, damp days of April and the crescendo of June heat and humidity.

Average highs in May are in the 70s for most of the month. It’s common to have extended stretches with the optimal mix of sunshine, humidity, and temperature.

The region comes to life. Outdoor happy hours are packed and weekend soccer and little league games are played under azure blue skies and beautiful sunshine.

But plagued by persistently  cool and wet weather, May 2016 has not delivered or even come close to delivering the magnificent days it is known for. Outdoors events are in constant limbo due to frequent showers and most of us have spent the balance of the month hunkered down inside, deprived of sunlight.

Every time there is is a nice day (or two),  it is followed by a series of dreary, damp ones.

We asked people around D.C. to send us their most recent snapshots of the sun. Here's some sunshine to get you through this record rainy spell. (Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)

It certainly hasn’t been the coolest or wettest May D.C. has ever witnessed. It ranks around number 20 (out of 146 years on record) in both of those categories (month-to-date).

But when you consider statistics that convey the frequency of the month’s gloom, it leaves little doubt this May is the worst in recorded history:

It is almost always cloudy and rainy…

  • It has rained on 14 of 17 days, including the first 11 days of the month – part of a record 15-day streak with measurable rain.  No May on record has had so many rainy days month-to-date.
  • Skies have been overcast at noon on 75 percent of days whereas “normal” is 32 percent. No other year on record has been so cloudy.

(Iowa Environmental Mesonet, Iowa State University)

It is almost always cooler than it should be…

  • It has yet to hit 80 degrees, joining just four years without such a day this deep into the month: 1893, 1917, 1935, and 1989.
  • It has reached 70 degrees (or higher) just five times, tied for fourth fewest on record month-to-date.
  • Four days (including today) have had highs only in the 50s, tied for seventh most on record month-to-date.

The forecast for the next week isn’t particularly promising for dry, warm weather, either.

We sneak in a couple of dry days Thursday and Friday, but the weekend forecast is dreadful with a soaking rain likely Saturday and lingering clouds and showers possible Sunday.


Rain forecast Saturday morning by European model. (WeatherBell.com)

Early next week is a wild card, but models are hinting at on-shore flow (off the ocean) which means the possibility of more overcast, drizzly conditions.


European model 15-day temperature forecast. Note that forecast confidence generally decrease with time and there is not much skill in forecasts beyond 7-10 days. (WeatherBell.com)

What’s becoming clear is that D.C. is unlikely to hit 80 degrees this May until between May 24 and 26. If it doesn’t happen until May 26, it will be the deepest into the month on record.

We may salvage the month with a decent stretch of late spring weather around the Memorial Day weekend.  But that’s so far out into the future, the confidence in the forecast is still low.