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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895. wunderkidcayman
1:34 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
lookig at TD7's Advisorys from the start lets look at the movement speed

Thurs 5pm advis#1 20MPH
Thurs 11pm advis#2 20MPH
Fri 5am advis#3 20MPH
Fri 11am advis#4 23MPH
fri 5pm advis#5 24MPH
fri 8pm interadv#5A 24MPH
its maybe getting ready to drop speed a little hmm

well I remember someone saying that TD7 being on the SE side of the ridge of high pressure being bad for it well just looking at the steering maps and it looks like it is now on the S side which is the better side

looking at the shear there is a small tongue of 20-30kt shear TD7 has to pass by in the morning if TD7 can pass it will no real major problems with its convection and/or it core I think its really gone clear and dissipation will be less likely and development can start btw anyone has the latest SHIP model text please can you post it thanks

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894. atmosweather
1:32 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I got bored and decided to look back at some of the comments from Dr. Masters very first blog. Noticed some people we know now.



Well me and CybrTeddy were correct...lmao.
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893. Grothar
1:32 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting redwagon:

What did y'all order? German restaurants don't exist around here, so we have to live vicariously through other diners :)

Which is odd, since Centex was largely settled by Germans.


You should read about what they did to the early. German Immigrants in Indianola. Incidentally, a city that was wiped off the map by two hurricanes. Interesting story.
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892. Kumo
1:32 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting muddertracker:


Oh...I thought it was some Mayan thing :) (I really should stop watching doomsday preppers)


Those folks seem rather silly don't they. 21 DEC 2012 will pass much like 01 JAN 2000 did, nothing happened. Unless you count the increased alcohol sales and many dumbstruck people. :D
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891. WeatherNerdPR
1:31 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting MAweatherboy1:
It would've looked pretty weird if they had circled this whole thing:


Gilma is pathetic next to 94E. I know the NHC will name it Hector, but he will always be Ernesto to me. He will live on!
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890. TropicalAnalystwx13
1:31 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
I got bored and decided to look back at some of the comments from Dr. Masters very first blog. Noticed some people we know now.

Quoting Levi32:
Welcom to WU Dr. Master's! ROFL!!!
Quoting atmosweather:
ROFL DONT YOU KNOW THAT UR GONNA BE WRITING ONE EVERYDAY DR MASTERS LOL AHAHAHA!!!!!!!!
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Oh this blog has no idea what it's in for..
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889. Patrap
1:31 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
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888. mitthbevnuruodo
1:30 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Hi all just in from work and notice on the tropical page actually lists it as 'remnants of ernesto'....so does that mean they'll keep his name even though he's technically not a storm anymore? or is it too far now and will re-name him next off the EPac list?! Just thought it odd to still list it as that if they would re-name anyway.
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887. kmanislander
1:30 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting Grothar:


Like so many other things, eh, kman?


Life's a box of chocolates

LOL
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886. muddertracker
1:30 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting Grothar:


I could never say ferrocarril, without wetting everyone around me.


It would be a lot easier to just say train. LOL!
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885. kmanislander
1:29 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
The shortwave IR loop does not show much rotation to speak of
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884. Grothar
1:29 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting kmanislander:


That's how it is in the tropics. One minute doom the next salvation


Like so many other things, eh, kman?
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883. Patrap
1:29 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
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882. redwagon
1:29 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting Grothar:
I'm back. Quick run down please. Who is fighting? Who is being insulted? Who is wishcasting. Then please tell me about the the storms. I'm too tired to read back.

What did y'all order? German restaurants don't exist around here, so we have to live vicariously through other diners :)

Which is odd, since Centex was largely settled by Germans.
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881. MAweatherboy1
1:29 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
It would've looked pretty weird if they had circled this whole thing:

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880. Patrap
1:28 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
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879. Grothar
1:28 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting HuracanTaino:
We used them when we speak: "la Cucaracha, chica, llama, llanos, carro, arroz", etc. But it's true , those double letters are not officially in our Spanish Alphabet any more.


I could never say ferrocarril, without wetting everyone around me.
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878. kmanislander
1:28 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting JLPR2:


That's impossible, there was a strong one there before it updated, seems the map is wacky.

Noticed that before, it seems to skew to the right from time to time, so TD 7's vort must be out of the map to the right.


Perhaps, but it is what it is for now
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877. kmanislander
1:27 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
i did not want to be the first to say something but you may be correct


We will know soon enough
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876. tennisgirl08
1:27 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
There is a lot of energy in the tropics right now. Mother Nature has a way of distributing that energy.
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875. JLPR2
1:26 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting kmanislander:
Good evening

Obs seem to suggest that TD7 may already be an open wave. No 925 mb vort at all



That's impossible, there was a strong one there before it updated, seems the map is wacky.

Noticed that before, it seems to skew to the right from time to time, so TD 7's vort must be out of the map to the right.

21z
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874. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
1:26 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting kmanislander:
Good evening

Obs seem to suggest that TD7 may already be an open wave. No 925 mb vort at all

i did not want to be the first to say something but you may be correct
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873. hericane96
1:26 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting Grothar:


Depression-caster!

i know its far off but what are the chances that it could get in the gulf??
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872. kmanislander
1:25 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting muddertracker:


It really needs that "sweet spot" you were blogging about earlier..pronto.


It does but it might be too little too late
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871. kmanislander
1:25 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting Hurricanes101:


well that changed very quickly, earlier someone showed the 925 vort and it was pretty impressive


That's how it is in the tropics. One minute doom the next salvation
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870. Grothar
1:25 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
97 doesn't look that bad.

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869. tennisgirl08
1:24 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
#783. Holy cow! That is the largest thing I have ever seen. That is ex-Ernesto??
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868. muddertracker
1:24 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting kmanislander:
Good evening

Obs seem to suggest that TD7 may already be an open wave. No 925 mb vort at all



It really needs that "sweet spot" you were blogging about earlier..pronto.
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867. Hurricanes101
1:24 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting kmanislander:
Good evening

Obs seem to suggest that TD7 may already be an open wave. No 925 mb vort at all



well that changed very quickly, earlier someone showed the 925 vort and it was pretty impressive
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866. barbados246
1:22 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
have a great night everyone, i'm off to bed
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865. Patrap
1:21 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
TD 7 RainbowTop Loop

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864. kmanislander
1:21 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Good evening

Obs seem to suggest that TD7 may already be an open wave. No 925 mb vort at all

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863. Grothar
1:20 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting hydrus:
.I believe 07 gets a his name, grazes Hispaniola, crosses the rest of the Caribbean in a weakened state. Then restrengthens in the Extreme N.W. Caribbean or S.E gulf.


Depression-caster!
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862. bohonkweatherman
1:20 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Last rain here in South Central Texas was 26 days ago, Weatherman was saying moisture from leftover Ernesto could give parts of Texas some rain in a week from Pacific?
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861. Grothar
1:19 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting weatherh98:


Multiple users are accusing wunderkidcayman of wish casting. As usual Cody is insulting the rest pus with is useless and idiotic jokes. Well, 93L is at 20% not doing well lost convection but it is still likely to develop overall. Td7 is doing about the same just moving along and of course "Ernesto" is making a comeback


Aha! Just as I thought. Thanks, 98.

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860. RTSplayer
1:19 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting muddertracker:


What happens then?


Then the New Age movement has to come up with something else to obsess about, after the false interpretation of a simple calendar is proven wrong.
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859. weatherh98
1:19 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

No.


Nes
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858. weatherh98
1:18 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting KoritheMan:


Cody and I are fighting. wunderkid is wishcasting (kidding, I swear :P). Looks like a probable renumber for Ernesto at 11:00 PM, and the NHC now forecasts TD7 to dissipate south of Puerto Rico in three days.

Good enough?
sums it up
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857. JLPR2
1:17 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting KoritheMan:


Family visit?


That's part of the trip. XD
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856. Grothar
1:17 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting KoritheMan:


Cody and I are fighting. wunderkid is wishcasting (kidding, I swear :P). Looks like a probable renumber for Ernesto at 11:00 PM, and the NHC now forecasts TD7 to dissipate south of Puerto Rico in three days.

Good enough?


Now that is concise. Why can't they get you to write the bulletins at the NHC. Thanks Kori.
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855. PlazaRed
1:17 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting hydrus:
McEnroe is actually a quiet dude off the court..He really get into his game tho..I like my predictions this year, they have been pretty good. I missed a couple,but who doesnt. I darn near ate some crow with Ernesto..:)
Supose that Mc Enroe was a bit like us not too deifiant unyil wound up.
No Trolls tonight I think, Friday, probably all out chasing some sort f fantasy?
The probability climatic problem sub bolg might have some merit as we can then sub post to the real blogs what we speculated was going to be real in the blogs before they occurred. Like the emergence of Ernesto under another name in the Pacific! Or the melting out of the Arctic, even though it wasn't supposed to happen for another 50 years.
I'm sure they will be only too happy to extend to us a multiple re entry visa to area 51, just to keep in with us!
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854. hydrus
1:17 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting KoritheMan:

There's always a reason for every modeled scenario. But it also sees a mean vertical shear value of 20 knots for the next five days. Such an assessment literally makes no sense.
.I believe 07 gets a his name, grazes Hispaniola, crosses the rest of the Caribbean in a weakened state. Then restrengthens in the Extreme N.W. Caribbean or S.E gulf.
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853. KoritheMan
1:17 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

No.


Let's see you do better.
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852. weatherh98
1:16 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting Grothar:
I'm back. Quick run down please. Who is fighting? Who is being insulted? Who is wishcasting. Then please tell me about the the storms. I'm too tired to read back.


Multiple users are accusing wunderkidcayman of wish casting. As usual Cody is insulting the rest pus with is useless and idiotic jokes. Well, 93L is at 20% not doing well lost convection but it is still likely to develop overall. Td7 is doing about the same just moving along and of course "Ernesto" is making a comeback
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851. JLPR2
1:16 AM GMT on August 11, 2012
Quoting KoritheMan:


Cody and I are fighting. wunderkid is wishcasting (kidding, I swear :P). Looks like a probable renumber for Ernesto at 11:00 PM, and there has been little change to TD7.

Good enough?


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Just discovered this from Masters




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Quoting RitaEvac:


Need that monsoonal junk over the EPAC over TX, that would cover the state 4 times, maybe when El Nino kicks in it's aiming right at us. Maybe the signs of whats to come for El Nino cuz that's where the rains come from for TX

That would be nice, not holding my breath but things start dying when you get temps of 105 to 107. To me that is too hot for humans and animals, LOL
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Quoting RitaEvac:


Yea, grass wilting pretty bad now, grass along the roads and freeways turning brown and dying along the curbs due to excessive heat, so it's going down hill


Well hope it gets better for ya'll soon..
Just not crazy wet :p
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Quoting Neapolitan:
Ex-Ernesto is about to get a new name in the EPac:

EP, 94, 2012081100, , BEST, 0, 170N, 1030W, 30, 1001, DB, 0, , 0, 0, 0, 0, 1005, 120, 45, 0, 0, E, 0, , 0, 0, INVEST, M,


Wanted it to keep on being Ernesto. Did its LLC actually dissipate? Seems awful quick to be redeveloping as soon as it crosses over.

Keeping Ernesto's low pressures too.

For all intents and purposes tonight, 94E is Ernesto.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Cody and I are fighting. wunderkid is wishcasting (kidding, I swear :P). Looks like a probable renumber for Ernesto at 11:00 PM, and there has been little change to TD7.

Good enough?

No.
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Quoting sunlinepr:


Spanish without ñ is not Spanish




ño! As we say in South Florida.
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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