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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I'm not writing a full blog for it, but just to let you know, I've revised my numbers for the remainder of the hurricane season. The total count of named storms has been raised slightly to 15, while the number of hurricanes and major hurricanes has been lowered to 6 and 3, respectively.

There is a below average chance of a major hurricane landfall in the Caribbean and along the Gulf Coast, with a slightly above average chance of a major hurricane landfall on the East Coast.

My previous forecasts are as follows...

May 8, 2012: 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, 3 major hurricanes.
June 1, 2012: 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, 4 major hurricanes.
August 10, 2012: 15 named storms, 6 hurricanes, 3 major hurricanes.
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Quoting KoritheMan:

Non-sequitur.


Geez. You going to take that kind of abuse from TA? I see he edited his post, but it was too late.
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:



idk, i want to get hit by an EF-5 tornado....just me
nobody else..and survive.


Good luck with that.
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.................................that wave off east florida is turning blue, guess we need to watch there also
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
Yep it's trucking along don't stand in its way or you'll get ran over.
The steering flow has been really fast for storms moving west into the caribbean so far this year.Thus causing them to not organize as much.Dry air has also been a killer with these systems.I still believe T.D 7 will at least make it to Gordon before getting ripped apart by shear/dry air when it enters the eastern caribbean.
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Quoting MississippiWx:




I'm not sure whether its me or not, but at the beginning of that loop that mesolow moving through Mass had a bit of an eye.
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YOLO = Carpe Diem for idiots.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Yes. I'm obviously jealous of an aging man that works at Walmart. Lol.
Non-sequitur.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Yes. I'm obviously jealous of an aging man that works at Walmart. Lol.


Walmart?

Walgreens is where its at:P
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536. JLPR2
Quoting washingtonian115:
Well T.D 7 is moving at a good clip...


Definitely its biggest problem, if it only slowed down, then again if it slowed down it could get blasted by the ULL to the north.

But it seems that slowing down is not an option.

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Anyone saying this is going to be a quiet season is wrong based on the number of named storms we've already had. Wrong, based on it's too early to make that definitive statement. Wrong, based on the conclusion reached recently by the experts that this will be an above average season. There is no evidence that this season is or will be a bust. I've been predicting 15+ for some time. With the wave train spewing named storms out now one after another and the homegrown potential still strong, I don't see how anyone could conclude this is going to be a slow season. Keep hearing the Gulf and Caribbean is closed for business. Long season, we shall see. I still think it's 65/35 we see a major make landfall along the Gulf Coast and/or Florida.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Well T.D 7 is moving at a good clip...
Yep it's trucking along don't stand in its way or you'll get ran over.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


You're just jealous I'm more gutsy than you.

That's totally it.
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Quoting LargoFl:
.whew..yes your right though..somehow the weather is different this year, records being broken all over the world....but we must see what happens NEXT year and the year after to see if indeed..the weather IS really changing

Thanks for your optimism but its not somehow the weather is different this year!
Its somehow the weather is different from NOW ON!
Maybe I'm just an old sentimentalist but then again we always have Grother!
I see that the ugly duckling Ernesto managed to stagger across the isthmus and may yet make it to China just to wind up Levi on his 2 month storm plot marathon!
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Sweetie, I had WKC on ignore for several years before now because of that fact. I certainly never disagreed with you. Lol.

I took a lot of people off ignore this year just because I like to give people second chances. WKC has been ok. He's no troll, he just likes to have storms come his way.
Exactly. As long as he isn't working for the NHC, we're okay. lol
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Quoting MississippiWx:


It's not retreating, but TD7 is trying its best to outrun the approaching trough. With it moving so fast, it has a chance to miss the worst shear.


well, is trying but can TD#7 make it ? that's the main question.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


It's not retreating, but TD7 is trying its best to outrun the approaching trough. With it moving so fast, it has a chance to miss the worst shear.

lol that because TD7 has commons sence

Quoting SLU:
BREAKING NEWS
Sustained winds of 36mph at NOAA buoy 41040.


yeah soon TD 7 will be TS Gordon

btw TD 7 is looking good at this PM
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:


I have seen TD turn to TS and TS turn to hurricanes in bad conditions so yeah it doesn't take much for a storm to do so

So is that what you use to tell yourself every night that you're going to wake up to a hurricane?
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Quoting washingtonian115:
I told people WKC was a wishcaster in disguise.But no one believed me...


Sweetie, I had WKC on ignore for several years before now because of that fact. I certainly never disagreed with you. Lol.

I took a lot of people off ignore this year just because I like to give people second chances. WKC has been ok. He's no troll, he just likes to have storms come his way.
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Quoting JLPR2:
Hmm, as Keeper said on his blog, that ULL is dropping.





But its little leg of shear in front of TD 7 is diminishing.

So this will all depend on timing.
Well T.D 7 is moving at a good clip...
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525. JLPR2
Hmm, as Keeper said on his blog, that ULL is dropping.





But its little leg of shear in front of TD 7 is diminishing.

So this will all depend on timing.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

OLOY.

Only Losers Obey YOLO.


You're just jealous I'm more gutsy than you.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Ladies and gentleman, we have a tropical depression. Repeating, we have a tropical depression.


...Oh...wait...
LOL must be friday Night!!
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Ladies and gentleman, we have a tropical depression. Repeating, we have a tropical depression.


...Oh...wait...
You want a microphone so you can shout louder? :P
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I told people WKC was a wishcaster in disguise.But no one believed me...
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Ladies and gentleman, we have a tropical depression. Repeating, we have a tropical depression.


...Oh...wait...

Lol.
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one teeny weeny tiny funktop lime spot...

With whose name on it????
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000
WTNT22 KNHC 102031
TCMAT2

TROPICAL DEPRESSION SEVEN FORECAST/ADVISORY NUMBER 5
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL072012
2100 UTC FRI AUG 10 2012

CHANGES IN WATCHES AND WARNINGS WITH THIS ADVISORY...

THE GOVERNMENT OF FRANCE HAS ISSUED A TROPICAL STORM WATCH FOR
GUADELOUPE AND MARTINIQUE.

THE GOVERNMENT OF BARBADOS HAS ISSUED A TROPICAL STORM WATCH FOR
BARBADOS...ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES...AND DOMINICA.

THE GOVERNMENT OF ST. LUCIA HAS ISSUED A TROPICAL STORM WATCH FOR
ST. LUCIA.

SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT...

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* GUADELOUPE AND MARTINIQUE
* DOMINICA
* ST. LUCIA
* BARBADOS
* ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE
POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA...IN THIS CASE IN 24 TO 48 HOURS.

TROPICAL DEPRESSION CENTER LOCATED NEAR 13.7N 51.9W AT 10/2100Z
POSITION ACCURATE WITHIN 30 NM

PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE WEST OR 270 DEGREES AT 21 KT

ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 1009 MB
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 30 KT WITH GUSTS TO 40 KT.
WINDS AND SEAS VARY GREATLY IN EACH QUADRANT. RADII IN NAUTICAL
MILES ARE THE LARGEST RADII EXPECTED ANYWHERE IN THAT QUADRANT.

REPEAT...CENTER LOCATED NEAR 13.7N 51.9W AT 10/2100Z
AT 10/1800Z CENTER WAS LOCATED NEAR 13.7N 50.9W

FORECAST VALID 11/0600Z 13.9N 54.8W
MAX WIND 30 KT...GUSTS 40 KT.

FORECAST VALID 11/1800Z 14.2N 58.5W
MAX WIND 35 KT...GUSTS 45 KT.
34 KT... 40NE 0SE 0SW 40NW.

FORECAST VALID 12/0600Z 14.5N 62.3W
MAX WIND 35 KT...GUSTS 45 KT.
34 KT... 40NE 0SE 0SW 40NW.

FORECAST VALID 12/1800Z 14.7N 66.3W
MAX WIND 35 KT...GUSTS 45 KT.
34 KT... 40NE 0SE 0SW 40NW.

FORECAST VALID 13/1800Z...DISSIPATED

REQUEST FOR 3 HOURLY SHIP REPORTS WITHIN 300 MILES OF 13.7N 51.9W

NEXT ADVISORY AT 11/0300Z

$$
FORECASTER BERG/BRENNAN

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Quoting SLU:
BREAKING NEWS
Sustained winds of 36mph at NOAA buoy 41040.


Ladies and gentleman, we have a tropical depression. Repeating, we have a tropical depression.


...Oh...wait...
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

OLOY.

Only Losers Obey YOLO.


You
Obviously
Lack
Originality
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
Look if and when TD 7 passes through the windwards and is on the verge of death beyond death they I will call hime dissipating until that time and for the time being I will leave my forecast as is

you guys like to go with things too quickly what would happen if TD 7 enters the caribbean and is decently developing so stop being so quick to kill it as I said wait till it passes the windward the let look at the conditions and then we will go on from there

There's very little chance this TD is going to be decently developing...if you want some action around the Caymans it seems like the only slim chance here would be for TD7 to dissipate, and then maybe have some leftover energy that you can sort of track as a zombie storm for 10-20 degrees or so before it blooms suddenly. I've blogged before on the subject of zombie waves.
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Quoting SLU:
BREAKING NEWS
Sustained winds of 36mph at NOAA buoy 41040.


Why is that breaking news?
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Quoting KoritheMan:


I've always wanted one because I live inland. I'm pretty sure it'd be different if I was on the coast, though.

Besides, you only live once, right? Gotta take risks, bro. ;)

OLOY.

Only Losers Obey YOLO.
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Quoting PlazaRed:
Moan of the day!
So now that as most of the blog has forgotten what its about I can only add that:-
Here in Southern Europe, another part of the planet, the temps today were around 45/c, work it out for yourselves but about 107/F. Not as high as you are getting in the Mid USA but heading that way and a few Spanish temps records were broken today!
I went out on to my roof at about 8am to witness the first forest fire of the day some 7 miles away and noted how well the helicopters targeted the flames. Later the dust storms whipping round the hillsides were a delight to see until the realisation of their significance dawned.
Later I went to a nearby village and noted first goats, then cows, then horses, in what were once fields digging for roots to sustain their existence.
Back at home the wasps and dragonflies held no threat as they collected and carried water away from one of our water buts, some of the wasps even settled on my arms as if to have a rest before they flew back to their scorched nests.
Man, if this is Hell! I am glad I was chosen as an observer!Heat 2012.
.whew..yes your right though..somehow the weather is different this year, records being broken all over the world....but we must see what happens NEXT year and the year after to see if indeed..the weather IS really changing
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Quoting jascott1967:
I'll never, ever understand why anyone would want to get hit by a hurricane. I've been through 3, one of which was a Cat 3 that hit Destin where my grandparents lived and because I was a child I was at the mercy of the storm and my grandfathers arrogance. I've never felt so terrified and helpless in my life. That's how anyone living on an island will feel when they get hit by a moderate or major storm.




idk, i want to get hit by an EF-5 tornado....just me
nobody else..and survive.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

I said...

"No use trying to reason with him. He always finds a way to say conditions are favorable for a storm and that it will strengthen."

The truth hurts.

well tahts all a lie and so yes teh lie does hurt

I don't always where conditions seem to have some favoriblity for the conditions then I make it noted and if I see it good enough then I'll say it will strengthen and it doen't need really really good conditions for storm to develop I have seen TD turn to TS and TS turn to hurricanes in bad conditions so yeah it doesn't take much for a storm to do so


Quoting hunkerdown:

Don't all storms develop into hypercanes and pass over a portion of the Caymans, WKC's portion that is??? Now where is that darn shower curtain...


a good amount of CV storm and Caribbean trackers and Oct/Nov storm do end up on or near the Cayman Islands and a good amount of them tend to be Hurricanes that is just the reality of living in Cayman Islands
useally its the location High THPC or conditions that make it the way it is
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting jascott1967:
I'll never, ever understand why anyone would want to get hit by a hurricane. I've been through 3, one of which was a Cat 3 that hit Destin where my grandparents lived and because I was a child I was at the mercy of the storm and my grandfathers arrogance. I've never felt so terrified and helpless in my life. That's how anyone living on an island will feel when they get hit by a moderate or major storm.



I've always wanted one because I live inland. I'm pretty sure it'd be different if I was on the coast, though.

Besides, you only live once, right? Gotta take risks, bro. ;)
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507. SLU
BREAKING NEWS
Sustained winds of 36mph at NOAA buoy 41040.
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Quoting WeatherfanPR:



umm, are you sure about retreating northward ?

take a look at this Link


It's not retreating, but TD7 is trying its best to outrun the approaching trough. With it moving so fast, it has a chance to miss the worst shear.
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Dissipation at the end of 3 day period.


Now that's more like an El Nino year, despite lack of shear.
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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Moan of the day!
So now that as most of the blog has forgotten what its about I can only add that:-
Here in Southern Europe, another part of the planet, the temps today were around 45/c, work it out for yourselves but about 107/F. Not as high as you are getting in the Mid USA but heading that way and a few Spanish temps records were broken today!
I went out on to my roof at about 8am to witness the first forest fire of the day some 7 miles away and noted how well the helicopters targeted the flames. Later the dust storms whipping round the hillsides were a delight to see until the realisation of their significance dawned.
Later I went to a nearby village and noted first goats, then cows, then horses, in what were once fields digging for roots to sustain their existence.
Back at home the wasps and dragonflies held no threat as they collected and carried water away from one of our water buts, some of the wasps even settled on my arms as if to have a rest before they flew back to their scorched nests.
Man, if this is Hell! I am glad I was chosen as an observer!Heat 2012.
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Quoting LargoFl:
..yes we have time to watch this storm, so far so good with its track, the islands need the rains


I think his point went just a little over your head... lol :P
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I'll never, ever understand why anyone would want to get hit by a hurricane. I've been through 3, one of which was a Cat 3 that hit Destin where my grandparents lived and because I was a child I was at the mercy of the storm and my grandfathers arrogance. I've never felt so terrified and helpless in my life. That's how anyone living on an island will feel when they get hit by a moderate or major storm.

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Quoting MississippiWx:


No. It says paying members can send people a free 1 year membership to WU. I tried to do it, but I guess they didn't want you to have it. Lol.


oh...lol..well i hope you still get it back to give to someone

I dont need it anymore i think...now that i have 40 frames of radar...i can deal with ads and i dont think there is anything else a paid membership gives you..
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499. JLPR2
Quoting KoritheMan:


Winds don't really say anything about the structure though.


That is true, it seems to have stronger winds.
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


What Kori said, doesn't work, and thats just the way it is. Right KORI?!


Yes sir. I dunno what I was thinking. Must be all that forecasting!
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some are this too lazy too go too the nhc site
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Quoting Msdrown:


The cady shack priest with his best game. Bill Murrey just walked away. Ha!

Just saw a piece on ABC about some scientist with special equipment chasing lightening storms to photo and gather data. He's got a 1600lb gadget that does this. Can you imagine if man could tap into the energy of lightening? We would have all the power anyone could ever need.


I think the heavy stuff isn't going to come down for a while.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting Msdrown:


The cady shack priest with his best game. Bill Murrey just walked away. Ha!

Just saw a piece on ABC about some scientist with special equipment chasing lightening storms to photo and gather data. He's got a 1600lb gadget that does this. Can you imagine if man could tap into the energy of lightening? We would have all the power anyone could ever need.
oh yes, amazing how much voltage is in one bolt..whew
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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