Warm and Unsettled Midwestern May

June 8, 2022 // Article by: Steve Copertino


Overall, May was warmer than normal despite being very active with plenty of rainfall. The average temperature for Cincinnati was around 67 degrees (+3.1 degrees), Columbus was at 66 (+2.9), and Dayton was at 66.4 (+2.4). Precipitation in Columbus and Cincinnati was near 9" for both cities, which is substantially above normal of around 4.50". Dayton missed out on the bulk of the very heavy rainfall and saw 5.36" of rain, which was still almost an inch above normal.

The month kicked off with two separate periods of heavy rainfall, one on the 3rd and the other on the 6th, with around 2-4" falling during this timeframe. The second round of rainfall on the 6th was the heavier of the two for most places. 1-2" of rain fell, with locally heavier amounts reported just off to the west of the area. Specifically, 1.91 inches of rain fell in Columbus, setting a new daily record (previously 1.42 inches set in 1916). On the same day, Cincinnati also set a new daily record with 1.84 inches of rain (beating 1.48 inches set in 1908). This active period led to flooding on nearby rivers and streams as well as keeping temperatures around average.

An area of high pressure moved over the region during the second week of the month, which ushered in much warmer air as highs reached the low to mid 80s for several consecutive days. These highs were around 10–15 degrees above normal before another round of active weather brought temperatures back to normal for the middle portion of May. From the 14th to the 23rd, there was rain almost every day throughout the region. On the 19th, Cincinnati set another daily rainfall record of 1.82 inches, topping the previous record of 1.57 inches (recorded in 2020). In fact, during the first three weeks of the month, Cincinnati received 8.13 inches of rain, making it the wettest first 21 days of May on record!

Temperatures rose ever so slightly to above normal levels later in the month with heavy downpours and wind damage on the 25th and 26th. Much calmer weather took over in the last several days of the month. May 2022 was the 5th wettest May on record in Cincinnati, and the 3rd wettest May on record for Columbus. 

Indianapolis Area

As far as temperatures are concerned, Indianapolis followed suit with Ohio in May with a monthly average temperature of 66 degrees, which was 3.0 degrees warmer than normal. However, that's where the similarity ended as the total precipitation for the month was 3.77" inches, which is around an inch below normal (-0.89").

The month began rather dry and breezy with temperatures in the mid-upper 60s. A weak storm system brought some areas of showers and some gusty storms that moved into the area on the 3rd, but no storm damage was reported and rainfall totals were generally around a quarter of an inch. A much cooler airmass then worked into the region over the next several days, with temperatures in the mid-upper 50s over much of the area.

A general warming trend began on the 7th and lasted into the 9th, with highs reaching the upper 70s to around 80. Temperatures continued to warm from the 10th to the 15th, and highs eventually peaked in the mid-upper 80s. Little precipitation was recorded during this time due to a large area of high pressure overhead, but some severe weather did move through during the afternoon of the 14th. A few of these storms were able to produce half-dollar sized hail along with gusty winds. 

Into the 15th, a few showers and some garden variety storms lingered in and around the metro area. Highs fell into the upper 60s on the 18th but then rose quickly into the 80s on the 19th through 21st. On the 19th and again on 21st, the Indianapolis area experienced severe weather, including some 65 mph gusts downing trees and powerlines in spots. On the 19th, there was even an EF-2 tornado with 115 mph winds in Knox county. While the first tornado was well to the southwest of the Indianapolis area, another EF-1 tornado occurred much closer on the to the city on the 21st. This tornado produced a 13.8 mile long damage path through southern Shelby county. 

The last week of the month featured temperatures in the low 80s with another period of rain and storms on the 26th. Strong thunderstorms were once again an issue around the metro area, but the majority of the reports stayed outside of the city. Highs then cooled into the 70s on the 27th, but temperatures rebounded quickly and the month closed out with highs in the upper 80s.

Chicago Area

May was warmer than usual in the Chicago area with the average temperature for the month 63.7 degrees, which was an impressive three degrees above normal. Although there was periods of showers and storms, overall rainfall was slightly below normal at around 3.5" (~1.0 below normal). 

Although May was on the drier side, it didn't take long for the first system of the month to arrive as a rainstorm pushed through on the 2nd into the 3rd. Quickly on its heals, an additional round of steady rainfall pushed through on the 5th and 6th, with around an inch or so recorded in the metro area. Pleasant weather then followed on the 7th and 8th, with temperatures in the mid to upper 60s. An expansive area of high pressure then anchored itself in the region from the 9th to the 14th. This allowed highs to soar into the middle 80s, with the warmth peaking in the low 90s on the 11th and 12th. If that wasn't hot enough, when combined with humidity, the heat index values reached the upper 90s and into the low 100s! A record daily max temperature of 90 degrees was set on the 11th and tied on the 13th in the Rockford area. Two record high minimum temperatures were set during this time as well, in the same area. Additionally, this was the earliest occurrence of consecutive 90+ degree days since May 4-5, 1959; the earliest low temp above 70 degrees on record; and the earliest dew point of 73+ on record. A series of disturbances then pressed on into the region and led to much cooler and unsettled conditions into the 13th and 14th.

After the cool stretch, another period of very warm weather then took over on the 19th and 20th, with high temps in the middle to upper 80s. A cold front then swept through on the 20th, which brought showers and a few embedded storms during the morning. Some gusty winds occurred with this activity, with a few gusts of around 45-50 mph at Midway airport. Strong non-thunderstorm winds developed on the afternoon of the 20th, with additional wind gusts of 40–45 mph. A more impressive cold front then followed with gusty thunderstorms along with small hail. Cooler highs settled in behind the front during the 21st to the 24th with highs in the low-mid 60s. 

High temps warmed back into the upper 70s to around 80 on the 25th and 26th, leading to more thunderstorms on the evening of the 25th. Most of the gusts with these storms were non-severe (less than 58 mph), but a funnel cloud was observed. Additional heavy showers and storms dumped around an inch of rain near Romeoville and Dekalb before the rain came to an end on the 27th. A final warming trend took place for the last few days of the month with highs in the middle to upper 80s.