July 2012: hottest month in U.S. history

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:16 PM GMT on August 10, 2012

During the 1930s, a series of epic heat waves gripped the U.S., drying up the soil in an unprecedented drought that brought about the great Dust Bowl. The most intense heat hit during July 1936, which set a record for hottest month in U.S. history that stood for 76 years. That iconic record has now fallen, bested by 0.2°F during July 2012, which is now the hottest month in U.S. history, said NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) this week. So far in 2012, we've had the warmest March on record, 3rd warmest April, 2nd warmest May, and warmest July. These remarkably warm months have helped push temperatures in the contiguous U.S. to the warmest on record for the year-to-date period of January - July, and for the 12-month period August 2011 - July 2012. Twenty-four states were record warm for that 12-month period, and an additional twenty states were top-ten warm. The past fourteen months have featured America's 2nd warmest summer (in 2011), 4th warmest winter, and warmest spring. The summer of 2012 is on pace to be a top-five warmest summer on record, and could beat the summer of 1936 as the warmest summer in U.S. history.


Figure 1. When the temperature peaked at an all-time high of 108° in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 14, 1936, the want-ad staff at the 'St. Paul Daily News' was provided with 400 pounds of ice and two electric fans to cool the air in the press room. Photo from the Minnesota Historical Society.


Figure 2. Year-to-date temperature, by month, for 2012 (red), compared to the other 117 years on record for the contiguous U.S., with the five ultimately warmest years (orange) and five ultimately coolest years (blue) noted. The 2012 data are still preliminary. The year-to-date period of January - July was the warmest on record by a huge margin--1.0°F. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.


Figure 3. For the fourth consecutive month, a new U.S. record for hottest 12-month period was set in July 2012. Five of the top-ten warmest 12-month periods in the contiguous U.S. since 1895 have occurred since April 2011. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.

Most extreme January - July period on record
NOAA's U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI), which tracks the percentage area of the contiguous U.S. experiencing top-10% and bottom-10% extremes in temperature, precipitation, and drought, was 46% during the year-to-date January - July period. This is the highest value since CEI record-keeping began in 1910, and more than twice the average value. Remarkably, 83% of the contiguous U.S. had maximum temperatures that were in the warmest 10% historically during the first seven months of 2012, and 74% of the U.S. of the U.S. had warm minimum temperatures in the top 10%. The percentage area of the U.S. experiencing top-10% drought conditions was 20%, which was the 16th greatest since 1910. Extremes in 1-day heavy precipitation events were the 24th greatest in the 103-year record.


Figure 4. NOAA's U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI) for January - July shows that 2012 has had the most extreme first seven months of the year on record, with 46% of the contiguous U.S. experiencing top-10% extreme weather.

Little change to the U.S. drought during the past week
The great U.S. drought of 2012 remained about the same size and intensity over the past week, said NOAA in their weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report issued Thursday, August 9. The area of the contiguous U.S. covered by drought dropped slightly, from 63% to 62%, and the area covered by severe or greater drought stayed constant at 46%. The area of the country in the worst drought categories (extreme to exceptional drought) doubled from 10 percent last month to 22 percent this month. The extreme dryness and excessive heat devastated crops and livestock from the Great Plains to Midwest. During July, the area of the U.S. covered by moderate or greater drought was 57%, ranking as the 5th largest drought in U.S. history:

1) Jul 1934, 80%
2) Dec 1939, 60%
3) Jul 1954, 60%
4) Dec 1956, 58%
5) Jul 2012, 57%



Video 1. This is Not Cool: Peter Sinclair's July 2012 video from the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media couples historical footage with contemporary clips and news segments. In one of the latter, for instance, NBC anchor Brian Williams opens the network’s flagship news program with the words: “It’s now official. We are living in one of the worst droughts of the past 100 years.” NASA scientist James Hansen is featured testifying about risks of “extreme droughts” in the nation’s breadbasket, and I'm featured in a few clips talking about the drought of 2012.

I'll have a new post by noon Saturday.

Wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt has a post looking back at the great Heat Wave of July 1936.

Jeff Masters


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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Quoting wunderkidcayman:



ok so far us three
Four. I'm waiting to see it open out before I believe it.

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1144. JLPR2
Quoting CaribBoy:


What does that mean?


Earlier Kman though there was no 925mb vort because the map malfunctioned, so that would mean no low level circulation, but now that the map updated it is clear that TD 7 is still spinning.

925mb is closer to the surface than 850mb.
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Quoting CaribBoy:


TD7 is turning WNW, NOGAPS/UKMET and BAMM were right.


Still looks awfully westward to me, but motion, particularly with disorganized systems like this one, is often extremely difficult to gauge at night.
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Link

could not really see this with the bare eye, but WHAT is this?
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Quoting JLPR2:
There we go...



What does that mean?
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1139. Grothar
Quoting RussianWinter:


Omg, I've been trying to find out what this stuff was in Miami Dade county, it's affecting some fruit trees in me own Backyard in MIA.


If you have a pool, it should be covered with a white film. It is the wings. Lift up the leaves and look underneath. They have webs likes spiders.
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Quoting Grothar:


Wonder what they were saying? :)


Frightening situation, specially if you are trapped in that roof and don't know anything about your family...
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Quoting alexhurricane1991:
theres a spin there will this need to be watched?


Most definitely. The original discussion from the NHC said that they had issues finding a circulation and the system may have been elongated. If it's got some spin, it's not too elongated and may not dissipate. Also, as for the GFS, if it continues to initialize TD7 a little high, then it would make sense why it dissipates it. It clearly thinks it's weaker than it is and would not make it through any issues. However, if that IS the case, I would expect that it would not dissipate. I wouldn't be surprised to see some ups and downs much like Ernesto did, but just can't forsee dissipation...especially if it's managed to make it this far.
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1136. JLPR2
There we go...

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1135. Grothar
Quoting alexhurricane1991:
theres a spin there will this need to be watched?


Is that old alex from years ago? How you doing?
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Quoting Grothar:


Don't believe it. The stuff around here is dying fast. Entire branches are coming off of the black olives and the almost every leaf is covered white with the webs. Leaves are falling like snow.


Omg, I've been trying to find out what this stuff was in Miami Dade county, it's affecting some fruit trees in me own Backyard in MIA.
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1133. Grothar
Quoting sunlinepr:


Remember Analyze Learn Prepare .... ....



Wonder what they were saying? :)
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1132. JLPR2
Quoting CaribBoy:


The two last frames.. Well, my eyes are probably tired lol


It is starting to build convection in that area so it could be the convection giving you that idea. But anyways, no matter what happens to TD 7, it will hit someone today.
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Quoting Patrap:
TD 7 RGB Loop


Also, TD7 seems to be positively responding to DMAX, where Ernesto didn't even learn what it was until he was in the WCARB. Ernesto liked DMIN, and withered with the sunset for most of his life.
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1130. Grothar
Quoting 954FtLCane:

not like the sounds of that. Another blogger mentioned they had their yard full of them and they live in oak pk. I will have to look closely tomorrow morning.
I listed 2 links earlier. It looks like there is a ficus white spiralling fly and a gumbo limbo version with the gumbo limbo being less evasive and easier to combat.


We contacted the county. They addressed concerns about this hitting the citrus industry. Not good. They told us to use a systemic, but not working so far. Our home is surrounded by giant black olive and mahogany and gumbo limbo trees. The palms are getting hit badly.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:

no TD 7 will be in the central Caribbean by the time that UUL reaches that Lat of TD 7 now
it look like TD7 will miss some strong shear from that ULL


dude go and sleep because you are seeing things TD 7 is not moving WNW



dude no no and no it is not moving WNW get it out of your head


Thanks for the advise lol
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:

no TD 7 will be in the central Caribbean by the time that UUL reaches that Lat of TD 7 now
it look like TD7 will miss some strong shear from that ULL


dude go and sleep because you are seeing things TD 7 is not moving WNW



dude no no and no it is not moving WNW get it out of your head


This kid is right, look at it.



It's going west, +/- 5 degrees.
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Quoting JLPR2:


I don't see it, seems like plain west to me.


The two last frames.. Well, my eyes are probably tired lol
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1126. JLPR2
Quoting CaribBoy:


TD7 is turning WNW, NOGAPS/UKMET and BAMM were right.


I don't see it, seems like plain west to me.
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1125. Grothar
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Quoting tennisgirl08:


ULL coming down over TD7. Let's see how far south it gets. This could affect it.


no TD 7 will be in the central Caribbean by the time that UUL reaches that Lat of TD 7 now
it look like TD7 will miss some strong shear from that ULL

Quoting CaribBoy:
TD7 moving a bit more to the WNW ;)

dude go and sleep because you are seeing things TD 7 is not moving WNW

Quoting CaribBoy:


TD7 is turning WNW, NOGAPS/UKMET and BAMM were right.


dude no no and no it is not moving WNW get it out of your head
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Quoting Grothar:


It's Friday night and none of us has dates. What else would we talk about?


Remember Analyze Learn Prepare .... ....

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Quoting Grothar:


Don't believe it. The stuff around here is dying fast. Entire branches are coming off of the black olives and the almost every leaf is covered white with the webs. Leaves are falling like snow.


Gotcha, not good.
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1121. hydrus
1977,s Hurricane Anita was vicious. It struck a unpopulated area, so not much info except the the barometric pressure was 926 mbs at landfall.Hurricane Anita near its Mexican landfall
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Quoting Grothar:


Have you ever seen anything like it with these flies. I am in Coral Ridge. They have webs like spiders.

not like the sounds of that. Another blogger mentioned they had their yard full of them and they live in oak pk. I will have to look closely tomorrow morning.
I listed 2 links earlier. It looks like there is a ficus white spiralling fly and a gumbo limbo version with the gumbo limbo being less evasive and easier to combat.
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1119. dibird
Quoting hydrus:
Old sat pics and photos of past storms..Remember Frederick.?Beach washout in Dauphin Island, Alabama.


I remember well. I live on Dauphin Island.
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1118. Grothar
Quoting 954FtLCane:


Haven't seen anything but I better look closer tomorrow. I did find info online for the "gumbo limbo" spiralling white fly (link below) but it isn't as evasive as the "ficus" white fly.
ficus white fly LINK

This link is for the Gumbo limbo whitefly
This new whitefly is a large, slow moving insect capable of infesting a wide range of landscape plants such as:
%u2022 gumbo limbo
%u2022 banana
%u2022 black olive
%u2022 mango
%u2022 palms
%u2022 live oak
some shrubs such as copperleaf, cocoplum and wax myrtle Adults on the underside of a palm leaflet.
%u2022 and other plants
But DON'T panic. This whitefly is different from the ficus whitefly. So far, the gumbo limbo spiraling whitefly is not causing severe plant damage such as plant death or severe branch die-back.
What


Don't believe it. The stuff around here is dying fast. Entire branches are coming off of the black olives and the almost every leaf is covered white with the webs. Leaves are falling like snow.
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Quoting unknowncomic:

Ditto with the systemic at the base. Cut and trash the infected foilage. Or hope for a hurricane to blow all the whitefly to the next county.
Also, no systemic on edibles.
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Quoting Patrap:
theres a spin there will this need to be watched?
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1115. Patrap
TD 7 RGB Loop

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Quoting tennisgirl08:


ULL coming down over TD7. Let's see how far south it gets. This could affect it.



TD7 is turning WNW, NOGAPS/UKMET and BAMM were right.
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1113. hydrus
Quoting Grothar:


It's Friday night and none of us has dates. What else would we talk about?
Old sat pics and photos of past storms..Remember Frederick.?Beach washout in Dauphin Island, Alabama.
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1112. Grothar
Quoting c150flyer:


Yes, we just moved to Oakland Park from Texas back in June... And we bought a house that has a very lush, tropical backyard. Everything is covered in whitefly...mpositively disgusting!!!!!


We never saw them before. It is really bad in Wilton Manors area, too!
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1111. Patrap
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Quoting Grothar:
Anybody in South Florida experiencing the infestation of the spiraling white fly. It is virtually killing everything. First the ficus, now the palms and black olive trees. In the mornings, cars are covered with them and our pool has a white layer of film from the wings. No eradication plan for them either. Nothing kills them.

Ditto with the systemic at the base. Cut and trash the infected foilage. Or hope for a hurricane to blow all the whitefly to the next county.
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TD7 moving a bit more to the WNW ;)
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Quoting sunlinepr:
Huge flare of WV from what used to be Ernesto



ULL coming down over TD7. Let's see how far south it gets. This could affect it.

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so are the models showing anything out there to watch in the future?
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1106. Grothar
Quoting 954FtLCane:


Oakland Park here as well. welcome to the neighborhood.


Have you ever seen anything like it with these flies. I am in Coral Ridge. They have webs like spiders.
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Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:
close... but no


look closed but missed the COC by that much
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Fresh OSCAT...looks closed to me !!!
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1103. Grothar
Quoting tennisgirl08:
What's with all the doomsday stuff being posted tonight??


It's Friday night and none of us has dates. What else would we talk about?
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Huge flare of WV from what used to be Ernesto

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Quoting JLPR2:
Hmm... the GFS screwed up at 24hrs, it broke TD 7 in half, with two vort max areas.

Remember when it insisted on splitting another low from Debby?

possibly speed induced....
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Quoting xtremeweathertracker:
Trade winds are not screaming as ive seen some bloggers post!! Although there are a few pockets of 20 mph!! Western Carrib looks quite conducive for development!!


Also TD 7 is small and compact and doesn't have relatively far to go before he can start grabbing any moisture off of SAmer when he gets there. That was key to Ernesto staying alive for that leg of the trip, pulling unlimited juice as he traversed it.
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Quoting scott39:
What resource do we have to know how strong the trade winds are?

well I use the CIMSS steering winds behind the white lines speed are colour coded and looking at that the winds are droping in speed

Quoting JLPR2:


Makes you wonder what's wrong with the trade winds, right?
They seem pretty normal to me. Unless they are forecast to strengthen.




yesh I was looking at another thing and it had the winds weakening

I don't think it will get stronger at this time

Quoting scott39:
thats just it about weather enviroments....they can change very quickly. Ive never been a big fan of being able to forecast wind shear or trade winds.

I know the feeling
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:

you ar not the only one to think that

it does look a little better but stiil need work I think by the time D-MAX kicks in that should be fixed

i agree.it looks better.
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close... but no

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1096. JLPR2
Hmm... the GFS screwed up at 24hrs, it broke TD 7 in half, with two vort max areas.

Remember when it insisted on splitting another low from Debby?

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Trade winds are not screaming as ive seen some bloggers post!! Although there are a few pockets of 20 mph!! Western Carrib looks quite conducive for development!!

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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather