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 TropicalAnalystwx13:

Telling somebody how to spend their time is a good way to waste yours. ;)


i ain't got nothing to do....
didn't take much energy
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Quoting JLPR2:


Ah yes, forgot that one.

Ours is basically the same as in English with the exception of the n with the hat(~). XD

I always thought it was more of a combover. But that's just me.
...are we seriously talking about letters with hair?
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Quoting Hurricanes305:
Are the 6z models out yet for TD 7 and/or 93L.
6z? Try 0z. And no, they aren't out yet.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

I'm pretty sure "ch" was removed as well.


Depends what dialect you are learning, Latin American/Cuban/Dominican Spanish is slightly different to European Spanish.

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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


its quite simple...when you aren't blogging...and telling others about how hard it is...

Telling somebody how to spend their time is a good way to waste yours. ;)
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Oh, sorry. I always mistake for you weatherh98 because you guys have such similar names and avatars.

Sadly I have done that once or twice, then I felt bad.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
ok guys look if tonight and tomorrow morning TD 7 can build on convection and organisation within then TD 7 maybe able to buy it's self some time and continue being a TS I know its a lond shot but look at it this way Ernesto did not have a well defind core at this location of 50W which this one seems to have it a bit better so if convection can build and buld up its core it can beat the dry air and the strong trades because Ernesto sure did so with strong convection and a kinda bad core this one can not only that but Ernesto had to deal with 30-40kts of shear as well but he concured it I know that you say this about me and that about me but just stop and look at what I am say for once TD 7 has a shot and he could take it if he does this will change and the whole story of TD 7/TS Gordon will change


Dont understand why the NHC has it dissipating as a TS
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
ok guys look if tonight and tomorrow morning TD 7 can build on convection and organisation within then TD 7 maybe able to buy it's self some time and continue being a TS I know its a lond shot but look at it this way Ernesto did not have a well defind core at this location of 50W which this one seems to have it a bit better so if convection can build and buld up its core it can beat the dry air and the strong trades because Ernesto sure did so with strong convection and a kinda bad core this one can not only that but Ernesto had to deal with 30-40kts of shear as well but he concured it I know that you say this about me and that about me but just stop and look at what I am say for once TD 7 has a shot and he could take it if he does this will change and the whole story of TD 7/TS Gordon will change


TD7 is also much smaller than Ernesto. There's that to consider.
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In case anyone's interested, here was the update for today.





Report is in Spanish and then follows in English.

just skip to 3:50 for english
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684. JLPR2
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

I'm pretty sure "ch" was removed as well.


Ah yes, forgot that one.

Ours is basically the same as in English with the exception of the n with the hat(~). XD
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


its quite simple...when you aren't blogging...and telling others about how hard it is...
LOLOLOL
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Quoting viman:
Anyone know anything about termite-casting??? Termites here are freaking out... They're everywhere...
Annoying really...



I just kill 'em.


Of course, I am the ORKIN man.
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just testing...
... my ancient weather blog
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Quoting Patrap:
Western Atlantic

Wet time in Florida. Hope it doesn't mess up my brewing session tomorrow am!
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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 Nio's effects on North America

Generally speaking El Nio 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 Nio.
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
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Quoting DavidHOUTX:


Yea it was pretty lame for the entire country. The last La Nina we had, it actually snowed in Houston and Chicago (and many other cities including NY and DC and other parts of the N.E) had some pretty wicked blizzards!
That was 2010 but through the winter it was a El nino and transitioned to a La nina in the spring.However for my area in 2011 we had snow but every time it was cold it was never no snow in the forecast.Mid west was hogging all the snow for them selves.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I can tell Spanish is going to be the hardest class this year, lol. Sitting here trying to memorize the alphabet in Spanish.


its quite simple...when you aren't blogging...and telling others about how hard it is...
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closer to PR

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Are the 6z models out yet for TD 7 and/or 93L.
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Quoting JLPR2:


Hmm interesting, here the double r was eliminated from the alphabet, as was as the double l.


No ch here and no ñ (in-yay)
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Quoting JLPR2:


Hmm interesting, here the double r was eliminated from the alphabet, as was as the double l.

I'm pretty sure "ch" was removed as well.
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Quoting Patrap:
TD 7 RGB to Night IR Loop

Thoses colder cold tops are forming right over the center, that's something TD 7 has never been able to do,until tonight
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Waycool radar loop Gaara!
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ok guys look if tonight and tomorrow morning TD 7 can build on convection and organisation within then TD 7 maybe able to buy it's self some time and continue being a TS I know its a lond shot but look at it this way Ernesto did not have a well defind core at this location of 50W which this one seems to have it a bit better so if convection can build and buld up its core it can beat the dry air and the strong trades because Ernesto sure did so with strong convection and a kinda bad core this one can not only that but Ernesto had to deal with 30-40kts of shear as well but he concured it I know that you say this about me and that about me but just stop and look at what I am saying for once TD 7 has a shot and he could take it if he does
this

will change
and the whole story of TD 7/TS Gordon will change
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I can tell Spanish is going to be the hardest class this year, lol. Sitting here trying to memorize the alphabet in Spanish.
That's why I took American Sign Language... it's natural to me since I'm deaf.
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Quoting viman:
Anyone know anything about termite-casting??? Termites here are freaking out... They're everywhere...
Annoying really...


They most likely swarming as they do it annually.

THE FACTS ABOUT TERMITE SWARMS
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666. JLPR2
Quoting weatherh98:


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


Hmm interesting, here the double r was eliminated from the alphabet, as was as the double l.
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665. viman
Anyone know anything about termite-casting??? Termites here are freaking out... They're everywhere...
Annoying really...
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Western Atlantic

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Quoting wxchaser97:

I'm in MI, el nino=warm winter so I could have a better chance see snow in the south:)


Oh, sorry. I always mistake for you weatherh98 because you guys have such similar names and avatars.
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Quoting Patrap:
Uploaded by wgbhstocksales on Jul 17, 2009

NOAA plane flies through the eye of hurricane Gilbert in 1988.

Dr. Jeff Masters was the NOAA Hurricane Hunter Flight Met on this Historic Flight.



The very day I was born :) Fantastic video!
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Quoting Bielle:


Do you mind saying where in Spain you are? Message me if you don't want it on the blog. Thanks.

Hi Biele,
I am about 60 miles south of Seville, I can see it from my office window and 80 miles north of Gibraltar,100 miles West of Granada, in a wild bush area that is in sight of the US air base of Moron de la Frontera, which you can search on WU underground.
My altitude is about 2000 ft and I have only solar,wind and natural water collection systems here.So this computer and the whole system here is solar and natural powered.
I worked for the owner of the property until 2 weeks ago when he unfortunately died of lung cancer, so I am now looking after his property alone in the hills.
He was from Oregon and his inheritors are from New York.He was the first person who told me as a recluse hill billy in the Andalusian mountains about you lot at the wunder blog, as I had a few of my own radial ideas about what might be going on, I signed up. that was about 1050 comments ago.
PlazaRed is our network, where we share information which might be of significance to the future of the physical planet.Its interpretation is Field(Plaza) Red (Network)
Truth and reality are paramount.Any kind of personal gain irrelevant.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Uh, what? El Nino creates colder winters here... Remember 2009? It snowed three times that winter in my area.

I'm in MI, el nino=warm winter so I could have a better chance see snow in the south:)
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Uh, what? El Nino creates colder winters here... Remember 2009? It snowed three times that winter in my area.


i remember jan 20ll tons of snow, and we got snow december 2010, crazy early in winter for snow.... a lot of snow goes to TX/LA and then lifts north of GA... MS TN and N AL got snow this past winter and GA got not a flurry.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I can tell Spanish is going to be the hardest class this year, lol. Sitting here trying to memorize the alphabet in Spanish.


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
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Well we had some torrential rains this morning so that help with it.When El nino fully develops I expect a wet fall/winter with some good snows this upcoming winter hopefully.

Rain is nice.But they don't need it all at once though :).

The opposite happens, it is warm in the north during el nino.
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TD 7 RGB to Night IR Loop

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Quoting KoritheMan:


Sure.


Excellent. See you soon:P
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Quoting washingtonian115:
This past winter was so lame.I mean instead of some good winter storms we got lame thunderstorms...I mean what was all that about?.We had I think three inches for this whole winter and each occasion was really far apart...


Yea it was pretty lame for the entire country. The last El Nino we had, it actually snowed in Houston and Chicago (and many other cities including NY and DC and other parts of the N.E) had some pretty wicked blizzards!
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Quoting wxchaser97:

If it's an el nino winter can you take me as well? jk, I want to see snow and el nino kills winter here.


Uh, what? El Nino creates colder winters here... Remember 2009? It snowed three times that winter in my area.
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Uploaded by wgbhstocksales on Jul 17, 2009

NOAA plane flies through the eye of hurricane Gilbert in 1988.

Dr. Jeff Masters was the NOAA Hurricane Hunter Flight Met on this Historic Flight.

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I can tell Spanish is going to be the hardest class this year, lol. Sitting here trying to memorize the alphabet in Spanish.
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Quoting weatherh98:
wanna come pick me up?


Sure.
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Quoting DavidHOUTX:


.....and "Warm" during the winter for the NE isn't 60 degree weather. More like 25-30 degree weather compared to 10 degree weather. There will be snow fall regardless. I personally love El Nino winters here in Houston. It is cold (to our standards, I lived in Chicago and know what real cold is) and gloomy/wet during winter. Last winter we didn't even have a freeze lol!
This past winter was so lame.I mean instead of some good winter storms we got lame thunderstorms...I mean what was all that about?.We had I think three inches for this whole winter and each occasion was really far apart...
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Quoting Gaara:
For those interested, I snagged a few loops of the MCV that caused a confirmed tornado in Suffolk County and a probable tournado in Glastonbury, CT.

...great pics there..ty
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Quoting KoritheMan:


As I said the other day, if I'm not allowed to chase a hurricane, it will either be tornadoes or snowstorms. Hell to the yeah!

If it's an el nino winter can you take me as well? jk, I want to see snow and el nino kills winter here.
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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