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 sunlinepr:


Spanish without ñ is not Spanish




ño! As we say in South Florida.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting JLPR2:


Nope, actually never been. Thought I'm planning on visiting NY next year.


Family visit?
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Quoting allancalderini:
A B C CH D E F G H I J K L LL M N Ñ O P Q R RR S T U V W X Y Z
That are 30 letters of the Alphabet in Spanish even though the letters CH,LL,RR are no more use.
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.
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TD 7 continues its trek W.


Termites,

Andrew look back.

Dat's bout it.

Oh, and some Spanish 1 and I learned something .
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
841. JLPR2
Quoting allancalderini:
you live on the usa thought right?


Nope, actually never been. Thought I'm planning on visiting NY next year.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
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.


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?
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839. SLU
Quoting wunderkidcayman:

wow ok well I am only forecasting a 60 MPH storm hmm lol
I don't know my friend but TD7 may get saved and does not dissipate as the NHC says



right now it's holding tight but as with all small systems it can easily go "poof" overnight
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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.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
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Quoting bohonkweatherman:
OK I have had enough Summer already, 107 today in Austin, 106 here, had a Thunderstorm with a trace of rain, dropped to 97. Any chance a tropical system could give Texas relief soon? My forecast is 105 every day.

Largofl says the CMC sends that Jamaican blob to us in a few days. The 'cold' front gave us virga with thunder, notice how it's firing up convection everywhere now that it's S of us.
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Quoting JLPR2:


Actually you are spot on.

My dad is from DR and my mom from PR, I live in PR.
you live on the usa thought right?
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Quoting CURIOUSWEATHERGRL:
PATRAP:
Did you hear/see the weather forecast from our LOCAL meteorologist saying that once a storm develops the rest of the storms tend to follow the same path and that we had nothing to be concerned about...What are your thoughts?


Most of the CV Waves are at the Mercy of the AB High so that's not a stretch, until its made one.


Sometimes we get those fuzzy from Nowhere Spurious Lows that can lead to Tropical Troubles.

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Quoting Patrap:


Winter Begins usually.


Don't scare the children, Pat.
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Quoting Patrap:


Winter Begins usually.


Oh...I thought it was some Mayan thing :) (I really should stop watching doomsday preppers)
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Quoting pcola57:


I worked in an installation for the military out in the middle of nowhere..that had to be the hottest place I've ever been..cactus and tumbleweeds..
Galveston is ok..ya'll gettin' dry again?


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
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It takes up the whole picture, lol:

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Quoting SLU:


64kt x 1.15 = 74mph

wow ok well I am only forecasting a 60 MPH storm hmm lol
Quoting redwagon:

To give Ernesto and 7 credit, they hauled/ing A through the gauntlet to safety in the Central Caribbean.. I wonder if conditions will allow for this expressway to be open throughout the season.

I don't know my friend but TD7 may get saved and does not dissipate as the NHC says

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Sun pounding the GOM day after day, this has gotta come to an end at some point

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Quoting RitaEvac:


Galveston county


I worked in an installation for the military out in the middle of nowhere..that had to be the hottest place I've ever been..cactus and tumbleweeds..
Galveston is ok..ya'll gettin' dry again?
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Quoting muddertracker:


What happens then?


Winter Begins usually.
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PATRAP:
Did you hear/see the weather forecast from our LOCAL meteorologist saying that once a storm develops the rest of the storms tend to follow the same path and that we had nothing to be concerned about...What are your thoughts?
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824. JLPR2
Quoting allancalderini:
I imagine that you were from DR or PR by the picture you have looks that I was wrong.


Actually you are spot on.

My dad is from DR and my mom from PR, I live in PR.
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Quoting HuracanTaino:
Where is the ☺ "ñ" ? that is the main feature of our belove Spanish language...ha.ha...


Spanish without ñ is not Spanish

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Quoting Patrap:
There are now 132 Days until the 2012 Winter Solstice.



What happens then?
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All the kids are in tropics chat... And I'm on. My phone
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820. JLPR2
Quoting Relix:


Whaaaaat?!?!?! Holy cow :P. What a bad luck. Heck, I had power until 4AM. Came back at like 2PM or something. That sucks man :P

Also, kinda on-topic of your conversation... fully bilingual here. Speak, read, write english and spanish fluently. Cartoons, books, video games, and the internet polished my english.


Those are usually frowned upon by parents, but thanks to those we are able to speak and write the language. :D

Quoting Articuno:

If you didn't say you spoke spanish 24/7 then I would have never noticed that. How long have you spoken english?


I also have to credit the years of English class at school, but speaking it while knowing what I was saying... I would say around 7-9th grade.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
I wish I lived in the Golden Age..


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O_O

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Quoting bohonkweatherman:
OK I have had enough Summer already, 107 today in Austin, 106 here, had a Thunderstorm with a trace of rain, dropped to 97. Any chance a tropical system could give Texas relief soon? My forecast is 105 every day.


If I had a nickel for every time I heard you complain about the heat, I'd be a millionaire. :P

Nah, just kidding bro. I would certainly like to see you get some significant drought/heat relief.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:


TD7 that



Nah that is not a wave thats for sure




dont went the t-storms fool you the low could be runing a way from the t-storms or even open up too a wave by now
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Quoting JLPR2:


And risk loosing power? Nah, I'm ordering my priorities. xD

I would prefer no action, over a little action and no power. :P
I imagine that you were from DR or PR by the picture you have looks that I was wrong.
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right next bouy coming up for TD7 is a french one
bouy Station 41101 located 14.600 N 56.201 W (14°36'0" N 56°12'2" W)


ok right when is any new microwave data comeing in for TD7 mind you not past ones the new ones that is to come out soon when ever it is
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Quoting pcola57:


I lived near Cureo at one time in TX..
Where are you located?


Galveston county
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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


ROGER THAT!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting Patrap:
TD 7 RGB




To give Ernesto and 7 credit, they hauled/ing A through the gauntlet to safety in the Central Caribbean.. I wonder if conditions will allow for this expressway to be open throughout the season.
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Quoting JLPR2:


Jeez! 94E looks like a Western Pacific typhoon in the making.
Saola part 2 wait this looks larger than Saola XD.
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Quoting JLPR2:


And risk loosing power? Nah, I'm ordering my priorities. xD

I would prefer no action, over a little action and no power. :P
I would appreciate a little storm in PR, to days off from work, is not bad, even though I hate to turn on my "power plant"...
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808. SLU
Quoting wunderkidcayman:

maybe maybe not it sure won't be the first time the NHC called storms TS before HH goes in and not really having enough evedence to back it up but it so happens to be when the HH's get there they now have the evedence



hmm lol models say caribbean storm and disagrees with NHC's dissapation in 72 hours

if you think about it people there has got to be a reason that SHIPS take TD 7 to 64kt at the end of the run btw 64kt is what in MPH again



64kt x 1.15 = 74mph
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807. Relix
Quoting JLPR2:


Blasphemy! XD

I lost power for more or less a week and my street flooded.

Next time I'll go ride out the storm with you. LOL!


Whaaaaat?!?!?! Holy cow :P. What a bad luck. Heck, I had power until 4AM. Came back at like 2PM or something. That sucks man :P

Also, kinda on-topic of your conversation... fully bilingual here. Speak, read, write english and spanish fluently. Cartoons, books, video games, and the internet polished my english.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
I'm going back in drought here in SE TX, at least the grass and yards are. Just watered


I lived near Cuero (near Victoria)at one time in TX..
Where are you located?
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Quoting bohonkweatherman:
OK I have had enough Summer already, 107 today in Austin, 106 here, had a Thunderstorm with a trace of rain, dropped to 97. Any chance a tropical system could give Texas relief soon? My forecast is 105 every day.


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

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Quoting JLPR2:


Thank you!

If you didn't say you spoke spanish 24/7 then I would have never noticed that. How long have you spoken english?
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803. Kumo
Quoting RTSplayer:
In related news:


Sadly I think we are going to continue seeing these trends. I am not a meteorologist but being a resident of Texas and having a big interest in all things dealing with weather and atmosphere from a very early age. I think it is very safe to say that many folks 35 and older remember a time when the weather was not so extreme. 70 Fahrenheit up in the Texas Panhandle during the Winter months was relatively unheard of two decades ago, now it seems to be commonplace.

I don't have a complete understanding yet on what exactly all this ice loss from the seas, ice caps and glaciers is going to end up having on the weather in my region, but my reasoning tells me after noticing local trends over the years... the consequences are not going to be good.

With the reflectivity of the Greenland ice sheet declining, it reminds me of a trick I've seen folks use years ago to get an early start on germinating and protecting seeds from frost in the early months of Spring. It involved laying out a black plastic tarp over the soil bed. With darker colors absorbing more light, even though the outside temperature was below freezing, the soil under stayed warm enough to keep the young seedlings safe. The tarp also had a better chance of staying snow free during a late season winter storm. I really think what we are seeing with Greenland is basically the same thing, but on a MUCH larger scale.

Considering that we have seen a trend the amplification of the power of Arctic storms recently as well as an increase in the amount of fresh water being released into the ocean. I am concerned at to what kind of effect that this is going to have on both High and Low pressure atmospheric disturbances as well as the Jet Stream.

In conclusion, it's good to see this information being presented on this site and others, the public has the right to see what is going on with our planet.

Edit: Found an old link, looks like Doc just about nailed it and answered some of my questions in this old article. The Science of Abrupt Climate Change: Should we be worried?
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Quoting Tazmanian:
all we no TD 7 may be a open wave right now


TD7 that



Nah that is not a wave thats for sure
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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,
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Quoting Patrap:
TD 7 RGB





Ernesto r.e.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Spanish was never hard for.I've always scored B's and A's in that class.

BTW is chiklit cyberted's mother?.

I am taking spanish this year..
For all of intro for spanish I got A's The highest being a 104 I think. (extra credit stuff)
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Quoting bohonkweatherman:
OK I have had enough Summer already, 107 today in Austin, 106 here, had a Thunderstorm with a trace of rain, dropped to 97. Any chance a tropical system could give Texas relief soon? My forecast is 105 every day.


I will gladly take your 105 than my 94:)
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That mess in EPAC goes from S America all the way out to sea past MX. Reminds of the storms on radar from the movie "The day after Tomorrow" with those huge storms they were looking at
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OK I have had enough Summer already, 107 today in Austin, 106 here, had a Thunderstorm with a trace of rain, dropped to 97. Any chance a tropical system could give Texas relief soon? My forecast is 105 every day.
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795. JLPR2
Quoting PRweathercenter:
your english is great!


Thank you!
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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