Summer may be hot — or maybe not

For many, Memorial Day weekend marks the arrival of summer — even if the official start isn't until late June.

But that's about all weather forecasters seem to agree on about this summer.

Depending on who's doing the forecasting, this summer will be remarkably hot and dry — or it's going to be mild and damp.

Joe Bastardi, chief long-range meteorologist for AccuWeather, expects a dry and hot summer for much of the nation — particularly in August.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center,

on the other hand, forecasts that most of the nation will see cooler temperatures and the heartland will receive above-normal rainfall.

"We'll see who's right," AccuWeather's Bastardi said. "It's amazing looking at the difference" in forecasts.

Last summer was so cool and wet for much of the nation that Bastardi calls it "the year without a summer."

But this year, he said, most of the country will see temperatures 1 to 3 degrees above normal. A zone stretching from western Texas north into western Kansas will be particularly hot, he cautioned.

"People are going to remember this summer as the year heat returned to the U.S.," Bastardi said.

In a competing forecast, the federal government's Climate Prediction Center has a "bull's-eye" of increased rain for Wichita from June through August, said Jim Caruso, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wichita.

"There's a little difference of opinion there," Caruso said. "Sometimes you get 10 meteorologists sitting at a table, looking at the same prognostic charts, and you'll get some different opinions."

Mike Smith, founder and president of WeatherData, a Wichita-based subsidiary of AccuWeather, said he hopes the Climate Prediction Center is right, but his head tells him Bastardi is.

Bastardi's father was a meteorologist, and he grew up hearing about how bad the weather was during the Great Depression and the 1950s. Both times were marked by hot weather and severe droughts.

"It was astounding how bad the weather got in this country," he said. "It was so darn hot between 1929 and 1955."

Recent weather patterns echo the 1950s, Bastardi said, though there are subtle differences. A more recent comparison can be drawn with 2005, he said.

If that's true, then Wichita can expect a slightly cooler than normal summer with plenty of rain, said Dick Elder, meteorologist-in-charge of the Wichita branch of the weather service.

A review of the records for the summer five years ago shows it was "pretty seasonable and pretty wet," Elder said.

June had an average high of 89.1, with 7.3 inches of rain.

July had an average high of 91.4, with 4.38 inches of rain.

August had an average high of 88.8, with 11.96 inches of rain.

The temperature reached triple digits only twice.

"It wasn't all that warm" in 2005, Elder said.

Wichita averages more than 10 days each year on which the temperature hits 100.

Bastardi stands by his prediction of a sizzling summer for much of the nation.

"It's going to be an interesting battle," he said. "Let's just see who's right."