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 jascott1967:


Not yet but like I was inferring yesterday or the day before, it's very difficult to calculate how a land based African wave will respond once it hit water. It certainly does not look good at the moment.
I wonder how the SSTs are over there if anyone has a map.
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Quoting JLPR2:


That's one interesting, key word.

Demon = D-min XD
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Night Seven.

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Hard to believe we're already at 6-2-0 in an El Nino year.


Considering the fast starts of most El Nino years, not really. Add on the hybrid features (3), not that surprising...
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Quoting hurrtracker1994:


Yes, thank you. I touched on the forecast for "Ernesto" a bit in my latest blog entry. Link

Yeah, I just read it. You did a nice job.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
93L go bye bye?.


Not yet but like I was inferring yesterday or the day before, it's very difficult to calculate how a land based African wave will respond once it hit water. It certainly does not look good at the moment.
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339. JLPR2
Quoting MississippiWx:
Doing fairly well headed into d-min. If it can hang on, we'll get a good look at it tomorrow on Barbados radar.



That's one interesting, key word.
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TD 7 is more TC trash form the Atlantic.
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Quoting Ameister12:
I Don't know if anyone mentioned this, but the floater for 94E (ex-Ernesto) is up.


Yes, thank you. I touched on the forecast for "Ernesto" a bit in my latest blog entry. Link
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Hard to believe we're already at 6-2-0 in an El Nino year.
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Doing fairly well headed into d-min. If it can hang on, we'll get a good look at it tomorrow on Barbados radar.

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Quoting MrMixon:


Looks like it is weakening. Does anyone else see the same?
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Quoting washingtonian115:
93L go bye bye?.
For now, but GFS develops it down the road Link
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92L's in previous years have gone on to break more dreams than most L's. Some develop, but for some reason, most dissipate or never amount to much. next.
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Quoting hericane96:
colder cloudtops now being seen more.


That convection is a bit decoupled from the LLC right now. Not by a whole lot, but the trade winds are trying to kick whatever convection TD07 develops out in front of the LLC.
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Quoting Ameister12:
Very cool, yet dangerous! These things are known as 'Landphoons', or 'Tornadocanes'. They are a rather rare weather phenomenon.




Very strange, I've always been intrigued by weather events like this, based on what I know, rainfall with that should be unusually intense in convective activity because it is mimicking a tropical system to an extent, interesting though.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


The sad part is, with the exception of Irene, that is the closest the lower 48 has come to a hurricane in many years.


hmmmm...interesting comment. I shall refrain from a rant.
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Some of the flooding going on in Connecticut. Link.
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I Don't know if anyone mentioned this, but the floater for 94E (ex-Ernesto) is up.
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Wind shear is going to shred TD 7.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


So you agree with it, then?

no I do not I say it will last longer look at my last post on pg 6 of this blog my track model and intensity though I think I am being a little too nice with the intensity
my cone coming soon
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Areas of 3 inch + in an hour between Providence RI, and Fall River, out to Taunton.
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93L go bye bye?.
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colder cloudtops now being seen more.
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Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:
Cuba Radar

...be patient

http://www.insmet.cu/asp/genesis.asp?TB0=PLANTILL AS&TB1=RADARES




No kidding patient. They aren't real time or even close. It was the same one Largo sent me a while ago with the local time stopping at 6am. Maybe I should try the Yucatan???
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318. JLPR2
Quoting MississippiWx:


Seems promising, been dropping for awhile, more than yesterday's buoy reports. Might be stronger or at least deeper.
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Quoting JLPR2:
Nighty night TD 7, lets see what happens tonight.



Probably not going to be too much change with the overall structure. Maybe by DMAX we may see a bit more convection, but trade winds are just going to have a TD7 feast.
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Quoting wxwonder1:


I have noticed some of the ads on the upper right hand side of the page now have audio. I usually just hit the pause button or turn down my speakers.


thanks.
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315. JLPR2
Nighty night TD 7, lets see what happens tonight.

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314. Inyo
Hey, anyone know what just kicked through the Hartford, CT area? It had the look of a small hurricane (with eye!) on radar - not a normal hook echo - but also had a tornado warning. Never seen this before...
I have family there and they said there was quite a windstorm.
ar

According to the nws discussion it had hurricane like characteristics:


TORNADO WATCH 571 IN EFFECT ACROSS E/SE NEW ENGLAND. STRONG SHRTWV
DISTURBANCE ASSOCIATED WITH ROBUST CYCLONIC FLOW IS RESULTING IN
BRIEF SPIN-UPS ALONG THE S SHORELINE OF NEW ENGLAND. ALREADY...
TORNADO WARNINGS HAVE BEEN ISSUED ACROSS LONG ISLAND AND ADJACENT
WATERS AS WSR-88D HAS INDICATED DISCREET ROTATION ALONG THE S
PERIPHERY OF APPROACHING RAIN.

A TRAIN OF THOUGHT IS TO TREAT THE ONSHORE BANDING SIMILAR TO
TROPICAL RAINBANDS COMING ASHORE AHEAD OF A LAND FALLING
HURRICANE.
STRONG CYCLONIC FLOW WITHIN THE SYS INTERACTING WITH
FRICTIONAL EFFECTS OF TOPOGRAPHY NETS BRIEF ISOLATED SPIN UPS.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:

thats because the NHC has it disipating in day 3 how ever I concour to that forecast


So you agree with it, then?
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Quoting 954FtLCane:
has anyone f5'd this site and starting hearing investment news? It's happened to me 4 x's today. I've never had this happen before


I have noticed some of the ads on the upper right hand side of the page now have audio. I usually just hit the pause button or turn down my speakers.
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Quoting stormpetrol:
I don"t see any 5 day cone, maybe the NHC is expecting TD7/Gordon to dissipate after it enters the eastern Caribbean.

thats because the NHC has it disipating in day 3 how ever I disagree to that forecast
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has anyone f5'd this site and starting hearing investment news? It's happened to me 4 x's today. I've never had this happen before
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Quoting stormpetrol:
I don"t see any 5 day cone, maybe the NHC is expecting TD7/Gordon to dissipate after it enters the eastern Caribbean.


Yes, according to the NHC discussion. They expect it to dissipate into a trough over the Caribbean by day 3.
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Quoting Saltydogbwi1:
img src="">

Convection popping close to center again its trying to hang on lol

if TD7 can grow enough to develop a decent moisture field and sustain most of it convection or at least half it could survive the hostilitys coming to it
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Quoting JLPR2:


I'm considering joining wunderkid's camp. XD


I do think it has a shot down the road, but I'm not sure there will be much left of it at that point. I'm just being a little more conservative after my enormous failure with Ernesto.
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Quoting stormpetrol:
I don"t see any 5 day cone, maybe the NHC is expecting TD7/Gordon to dissipate after it enters the eastern Caribbean.


They are...

FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INIT 10/2100Z 13.7N 51.9W 30 KT 35 MPH
12H 11/0600Z 13.9N 54.8W 30 KT 35 MPH
24H 11/1800Z 14.2N 58.5W 35 KT 40 MPH
36H 12/0600Z 14.5N 62.3W 35 KT 40 MPH
48H 12/1800Z 14.7N 66.3W 35 KT 40 MPH
72H 13/1800Z...DISSIPATED

$$
FORECASTER BERG/BRENNAN
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Quoting Methurricanes:
Lots of damage in the Glastonbury CT. area.
Link play the video it really does look like a landfalling tropical system.
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303. JLPR2
Quoting KoritheMan:


Uh, don't kill me, but I'm in the dissipation camp for now. :P


I'm considering joining wunderkid's camp. XD
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10August12pmGMT's 13.7n480w was re-evaluated&altered at ~1pmGMT
10August06pmGMT's 13.6n48.6w-13.7n50.9w are now the most recent positions
(Vectors and straightline projections have been corrected on this and the previous mapping)
Derived from (NHC) ATCF data for TropicalDepressionSeven for 10August6pmGMT:
MinimumPressure remained 1009millibars
MaxSusWinds held at 30knots(35mph)56km/h
Vector changed from 270.3*West@25.8mph(41.5km/h) to 272.8*West@25.8mph(41.5km/h)

POS-Trinidad :: GND-Grenada :: BGI-Barbados :: SLU-St.Lucia

The easternmost dot on the connected lines is where 92L became AL07
The next dot to the right is where AL07 became TD.7
The easternmost dot on the longest line is TD.7's most recent position

The longest line is a straightline projection through TD.7's 2 most recent positions to its closest approach (within 18miles or 29 kilometres) to a coastline
9August6pmGMT: TD.7 had been headed for passage over GrantleyAdamsInternationalAirport (bottomBGIblob)
10August12amGMT: TD.7 had been headed for passage over Bathsheba (middleBGIblob)
10August6amGMT: TD.7 had been headed for passage over HighCliffPoint (topGNDdumbbell)
10August12pmGMT: 10August12pmGMT: TD.7 was heading for passage over LittleBay (topBGIblob)
10August6pmGMT: TD.7 was heading for passage over LinnisPoint near Dennery(town) in ~22hours from now (when this comment was posted)

Copy&paste pos-10.595n61.023w, bgi, 13.09n59.457w, 13.198n59.488w, 13.31n59.579w, gnd-12.191n61.602w, slu, axa, 13.7n41.7w-13.7n42.9w, 13.7n42.9w-13.7n44.6w, 13.7n44.6w-13.6n46.3w, 13.6n46.3w-13.6n48.6w, 13.6n48.6w-13.7n50.9w, 13.6n48.6w-13.89n60.883w into the GreatCircleMapper for a larger-scale map and other information
The previous mapping for comparison
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I don"t see any 5 day cone, maybe the NHC is expecting TD7/Gordon to dissipate after it enters the eastern Caribbean.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
right here is my model track it is dark Brown



and no it is not coming to Cayman it it SW of Grand Cayman about 170-250 Miles off moving WNW maybe leaning on a N baias but still S of my last run

and here is the intensity
it follows the OFCI for the first 24 hours and continues on generally the same as the SHIPS and the DSHP


forecast cone coming soon


and that intensity forecast I am being really nice to it but I would kinda go with the LGEM on the intensity but I trust the SHIPS a little too much
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img src="">

Convection popping close to center again its trying to hang on lol
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Quoting JLPR2:


Not, it's doing decently, holding on.


Uh, don't kill me, but I'm in the dissipation camp for now. :P
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Quoting palmasdelrio:


What does the 925vort do to the TD??


The higher the vortex number, IE: 750mb, 850mb, 925mb, shows the vortex signature at different altitudes. For example: 850 mb is 2,498 feet. The stronger the vortex signature at 850 mb, the more likely you will have a closed low level circulation.
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296. JLPR2
Quoting palmasdelrio:

Thanks. That means that TD7 is not weakening yet.


Not, it's doing decently, holding on.
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Lots of damage in the Glastonbury CT. area.
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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