May Trends Much Drier in the Midwest

June 9, 2023 // Article by: Shawn McGarrity


May fared much drier than normal for the Chicagoland area with only 0.71” of rainfall being reported; shy of the typical 4.49”. The month also trended a bit warmer as well with an average temperature of 62.4°F...1.8° warmer than normal.

The month started off unseasonably cool with showers around as afternoon highs only reached the 50s, feeling more like a late March day than May. However, this cool spell was brief as highs trended warmer in the days that followed. By May 4th, temps peaked in the 70s and eventually 80s in the subsequent days. Some showers returned on the 6th, then were followed by several days of storms. A heavy band of rain and storms developed on the 7th just south of the Chicago area that brought high rainfall rates, though the immediate metropolitan area remained largely unaffected.

This initial warming trend reached its peak on the 7th as highs reached 87°F before cooling to the 60s the following day. A drier set up returned as temperatures rebounded back into the 80s. When unsettled weather did return spanning from the 12th to the 14th, temperatures slipped back to the 60s once again. 

Conditions were then more variable toward the middle of the month before cooling off into 60s the with the passage of a dry cold front on the 17th. Temps then gradually rebounded back tino the 80s a few days later. This period was also the start of a longer stretch of dry weather that would span nearly the final third of the month. Other than a few showers on the 19th, Chicago would not see rain again until month’s end.

Smoke visible over the Midwest on May 16th. Courtesy of NWS Chicago. 

Skies were a bit hazy during this time as smoke from distant Canadian wildfires filtered into the region. Temperatures were again varied, warming into the 80s for a time before cooling back into the 60s both the 24th and 25th. It wasn’t until the final days of May that the first glimpse of summer arrived as afternoon highs reached the low 90s. Showers and storms returned on the 31st, bringing the highest daily rainfall for the month with a mere 0.29”.


Similar to other areas in the Midwest, Indianapolis also fared drier and warmer than normal. 2.84” of rain fell, short of the normal 4.75” typically seen, and the average temperature was 64.5°F; about one degree warmer than normal.

It felt chilly as the first day of the month only started off with a high of 48°F with some showers around. But, this unseasonably cool air didn’t stick around long as temperatures climbed back to the 60s and eventually 70s in the days that followed.

Generally, temperatures were consistent for the first half of the month after the initial cool start as afternoon highs typically reached the 70s through the 15th with a few days peaking into the low 80s. Conditions were also generally dry during this stretch as well with the only notable rainfall occurring the 6th through the 8th with scattered storms.

Showers returned for a time from the 13th through the 16th. A more widespread event on the 19th produced the highest amount of rainfall for the month with 0.84” being recorded.

The final third of the month resulted in a long stretch of dry weather as highs were mainly in the 70s and 80s, trending more toward the latter for the end of the month. It was on the 31st that Indianapolis saw its warmest day of May with a high of 88°F.


As for the Ohio Valley, Columbus and Cincinnati both fared a tad cooler than normal for May as both cities averaged 62.6°F and 63.4°F (both 0.7° cooler than normal) respectively. They also both fell short of their usual rainfall for the month. Cincinnati collected 2.16” of rain while Columbus received 3.67” (normally 4.67” and 3.99” respectively).

Cooler conditions were in place across the region at the start of the month with highs limited to the mid to upper 40s. Dayton broke its record "low maximum" temperature on the 1st when it only reached 45°F for the day, well below the previous record of 50°F set in 1994.

Conditions began to feel more like May in the days that followed as afternoon climbed back towards normal. Much of the first half of the month thereafter saw highs generally hold in the 70s with a few occasional days reaching into the low 80s. This stretch was also largely drier as well with only a few showers around on the 7th through the 9th. Heavier rains on the 7th produced the highest amount of rainfall for the month for Cincinnati, which reported 1.42”.  Then, a more impressive rain event on the 12th would break the 24 hour rainfall record for Columbus with 2.49”, well above the previous record of 1.92” set all the way back in 1918.

A few showers were around on the 15th and 16th before a cold front swepth through the area between the19th and 20th bringing with it more widespread showers and storms. Highs only reached the 60s a few times during this more unsettled period before returning to the 70s and 80s.

The remainder of the month held dry as temperatures trended warmer and highs mainly in the 80s. The tail end of the month saw the warmest days of the month for both cities, with Columbus reaching 87°F on the 30th and Cincinnati reaching 86°F on the 31st.