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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795. JLPR2
Quoting PRweathercenter:
your english is great!


Thank you!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:
Monsoonal insanity is what this is



Gilma compared to ex-Ernesto is kinda ridiculous lol.
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Quoting PlazaRed:

Hi Hyrus!
As John Mc Enroe used to say!
You Cant be serious!
We could form the "Bad prediction club 2013?"
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..:)
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:


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

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. Strengthening in light of such an assessment literally makes no sense.
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791. JLPR2
Quoting RitaEvac:
Monsoonal insanity is what this is



Jeez! 94E looks like a Western Pacific typhoon in the making.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:
Monsoonal insanity is what this is

Wow..Just wow..I know Ike was huge but this is humungus.Talk about a huge moisture field.If that was over the Atlantic it'll moisten the way for others.
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I'm going back in drought here in SE TX, at least the grass and yards are. Just watered
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787. JLPR2
Quoting Relix:


Nah, we'd only lose it for what.... a max of 8 hours? I mean with Irene I had power back in about that time frame, but then again Irene was a wimp when it hit us


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!
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Quoting JLPR2:


That's just it, English is my second language, I speak Spanish 24/7.

I guess watching cartoons in English when I was a kid and participating in this blog for 5 years has polished my English grammar. :)

Who says watching storms doesn't have a reward? XD
your english is great!
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Quoting JLPR2:


That's just it, English is my second language, I speak Spanish 24/7.

I guess watching cartoons in English when I was a kid and participating in this blog for 5 years has polished my English grammar. :)

Who says watching storms doesn't have a reward? XD

hmm really I couldn't tell english was your #2 well maybe thats because I'm part Scottish not English lol
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Jeez, Greg Fishel is the worst meteorologist I've ever watched... he was really hyping things up with big severe storm events here in Raleigh for this afternoon that caused football scrimmages to be all messed up. Central NC didn't get much at all... a 100% bust. I'm sorry, but WRAL need new meteorologist.
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Monsoonal insanity is what this is

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http://www.sat24.com/af
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all we no TD 7 may be a open wave right now
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TD 7 RGB



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Quoting JLPR2:


That's just it, English is my second language, I speak Spanish 24/7.

I guess watching cartoons in English when I was a kid and participating in this blog for 5 years has polished my English grammar. :)

Who says watching storms doesn't have a reward? XD
Now you can be bilingual :).If they offer tour guide jobs down there you should ask for one.Then again annoying tourist asking questions and camra flashing isn't every one's thing.
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Quoting weatherh98:


Is the mjo over there? Haven't seen


Don't know about MJO but that is some high MOJO fuel out there
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There are now 132 Days until the 2012 Winter Solstice.

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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.
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775. Relix
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


Nah, we'd only lose it for what.... a max of 8 hours? I mean with Irene I had power back in about that time frame, but then again Irene was a wimp when it hit us
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774. JLPR2
Quoting wunderkidcayman:

you know I think TD 7 may not fall apart for that reason it is building up its self to take on the E and central Caribbean

honestly I think it will not fall apart but rather weaken slightly or remain steady in intensity


I have my doubts, it may survive, but its size might hurt it. Ernesto was much larger and it almost died, a small circulation could be disrupted more easily.
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Quoting hydrus:
When El-Nino does arrive, the weather is going to be unusual to say the least. It will not be like El-Nino,s that we normally see Ni�o's effects on North America

Generally speaking El Ni�o brings:

cooler and wetter weather to the southern United States
warmer weather to western Canada and southern Alaska
drier weather to the Pacific Northwest
cooler weather to northern Canada
wetter weather to southern California

These effects are felt strongest in the winter after onset of the event.

The Atlantic hurricane season is usually diminished during El nino, while the tornado season is more active.

The following animations will show the temperature (in Celcius) and precipitation (in centimeters) departure from normal over the entire North American continent.

The time starts from the fall season after onset on through the following summer . Western Canada has lower heating bills during an El Ni�o.
good effects There is reduced risk of spring flooding due to the lower amounts of snow.
Fisheries have greater return on sockeye salmon, navigating further north with the warmer coastal water.
bad effects More icebergs impeding travel on the eastern seaboard.
bad effects Ski areas are effected by the mild weather.
bad effects Thin ice on the Great Lakes poses a hazard.
bad effects Landslides, storms, and flooding in British Columbia.


United States:

bad effects Storms, flooding, and landslides in Southern California
bad effects Crop damage in California
bad effects Northern US ski industry suffers from lack of snow
bad effects Heavy precipitation cause flooding and damage in Gulf states
bad effects Reduction in crops the following summer such as corn, soybeans, sorghum, and tobacco.
good effects Lower heating bills in the northern US
fish icon Pacific Northwest fisheries experience a decline in the size and numbers of salmon.

Mexico and Central America:

bad effects High runoff in northern Mexico
bad effects Wild fires to the south

Hi Hyrus!
As John Mc Enroe used to say!
You Cant be serious!
We could form the "Bad prediction club 2013?"
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770. JLPR2
Quoting washingtonian115:
Don't worry.I know some young spanish folk that know more english than spanish.So when they communicate to their elders they don't know how to translate some words.


That's just it, English is my second language, I speak Spanish 24/7.

I guess watching cartoons in English when I was a kid and participating in this blog for 5 years has polished my English grammar. :)

Who says watching storms doesn't have a reward? XD
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:
Is the EPAC ok? cuz I aint ever seen it so damn convected and so massive since being alive


Is the mjo over there? Haven't seen
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TD 7 Dvorak Loop

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Quoting washingtonian115:
Don't worry.I know some young spanish folk that know more english than spanish.So when they communicate to their elders they don't know how to translate some words.
You're not alone, writing English is easier for me,even though Spanish is my native language...
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Is the EPAC ok? cuz I aint ever seen it so damn convected and so massive since being alive
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Looking good 97L looking good.
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Quoting JLPR2:
Also, slightly stronger and rounder 850mb vort.



Even if TD 7 does fall apart after the islands, it is trying hard to strengthen when it has the chance.


you know I think TD 7 may not fall apart for that reason it is building up its self to take on the E and central Caribbean

honestly I think it will not fall apart but rather weaken slightly or remain steady in intensity
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Quoting HuracanTaino:
Where is the ☺ "ñ" ? that is the main feature of our belove Spanish language...ha.ha...


It was taken out haha
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761. JLPR2
Quoting Relix:
Its looking better... now all it needs to do is visit Puerto Rico and Ill be happy.


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

I would prefer no action, over a little action and no power. :P
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Weather forecast Africa Satellite, Clouds, Astro, Sun over Africa, Middle East - Source: SAT24.com








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Quoting weatherh98:


A b c ch d e f g h I j k l ll m n � o p q r rr s t u v w x y z

If ur trying to Learn the names of the make a song
If ur trying to make the sounds... You have it or you dont
Where is the ☺ "ñ" ? that is the main feature of our belove Spanish language...ha.ha...
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Quoting JLPR2:


It is interesting that I passed the English test for college, but not the one for Spanish, was close though. Embarrassing considering my native tongue is Spanish. To me English has always been easier in terms of grammar, I'm just weird. XD
Don't worry.I know some young spanish folk that know more english than spanish.So when they communicate to their elders they don't know how to translate some words.
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I am so angry 94E should have stay with the name Ernesto even if they name it Hector it would be Ernesto to me btw 94E is the fattest invest I had ever seen.
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755. Relix
Its looking better... now all it needs to do is visit Puerto Rico and Ill be happy.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

1978 was a cold neutral year.


Copier...
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Africa is about to give us 2 more, let's see how far north they emerge
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Quoting KoritheMan:

Shut up Cody.

Nah, I'm good.
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'Weirdest thing' floats in South Pacific

By Todd Sperry, CNN
August 10, 2012 -- Updated 2235 GMT (0635 HKT)




Officials reported the floating rock shelf to be 250 nautical miles long by 30 nautical miles wide.

Huge swath of pumice brings investigation
New Zealand Royal Navy vessel gathers samples
Scientists will try to determine volcanic source


(CNN) -- Pumice, the lightweight stone used to smooth skin, is usually found in beauty salons, but on Thursday sailors from New Zealand's Royal Navy found more than 7,500 square miles of the lava rock bobbing on the surface of the South Pacific Ocean.

By comparison, the state of Rhode Island comprises approximately 1,200 square miles.
Described by one sailor who witnessed it as "the weirdest thing I've seen in 18 years at sea," the sea of white rock was initially spotted by air and then relayed to a ship for further investigation, according to a statement released by the New Zealand Royal Navy.

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/08/10/world/asia/floa ting-pumice/index.html



I can picture an Alfred Hitchcock movie of a
Hurricane Pummeling People with Pumice...
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
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


64 knots is 74 mph.

SHIPS does not factor in trade winds.
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749. JLPR2
Quoting allancalderini:
Its not hard its actually easy the worst part is where you need to put tildes and stuff like that.


It is interesting that I passed the English test for college, but not the one for Spanish, was close though. Embarrassing considering my native tongue is Spanish. To me English has always been easier in terms of grammar, I'm just weird. XD
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Quoting JLPR2:
Compared to yesterday, it looks impressive.



Compared to yesterday!

yes it does
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

1978 was a cold neutral year.
Shut up Cody.
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TD 7 ShortWave IR 2 Loop

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Quoting sunlinepr:

interesting
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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