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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..............gee the whole east coast is getting it today
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71 I believe it is basically a smooth line because it's an average of the preceding 6 months so you don't readily see the month to month changes.But I could be wrong standing by for feedback.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

They have to upgrade the storm first..


I am thinking they will do both at 5:00 based on current satellite presentation.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
The big problem with political trolls is that some of them are "tropical experts" that likes to discuss politics as well. I just can't put them on ignored list in the case that this person is legal and not a troll.
[-] the posts. Works most of the time.

Quoting LargoFl:
..ive been watching that for days now, its a tropical wave that stalled there for what seems like a week now, there IS a watch for it there..still purple so far
It's only been there for a couple days, no matter how long it seems... lol

Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Last year "they" were saying they were excellent to eat... Now I have heard "please be careful eating them"
I thought they were poisonous...

Quoting xtremeweathertracker:
My forecast of TD7....NOT OFFICIAL!!!
img src="Photobucket">
How come it's only wrong to forecast a storm getting close to the Caymans when you're from the Caymans???

uh...
just sayin?
...
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

They have to upgrade the storm first..


No they don't, they issue TS warnings for current T.D's and Hurricane warnings for current Tropical storms all the time.
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Quoting LargoFl:
..on that im not sure, local mets say the wave is going to cross florida, but I dont know if that wave is what the models show in the gulf..could be, im watching that big blob below cuba, that could be it too, just dont know right now, tomorrow we should know better ok


Yea, I like the technical term Blob, it fits my weather knowledge perfectly. I've watching that too and to me it looks more impressive then the two numbered syst.
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Quoting keithneese:
I'm in Mobile, AL, and it just got really dark here. Thunder booming. This will be our second round today.
stay safe over there..alot of bad weather today all over the place
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Quoting CaribBoy:
Noboday sees the slight northward component with td7?


Looks to me like it is still moving along the 11:00 am forecast points for the moment.
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Quoting gordydunnot:
I don't know what 07 doing strength wise. But should be able to call someone on Barbados soon enough to find out. Look at the nhc floaters.


We are having a very sunny day with a breeze but hott
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Quoting weathermanwannabe:
NHC should be issuing TS watches and/or warnings for the Lesser Antilles at the 5:00 pm advisories and discussions.

They have to upgrade the storm first..
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Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Looks like Leesburg and to the northeast are getting hammered this afternoon
yes stormtracker in orlando should get it soon too
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Noboday sees the slight northward component with td7?
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Looks like Leesburg and to the northeast are getting hammered this afternoon
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NHC should be issuing TS watches and/or warnings for the Lesser Antilles at the 5:00 pm advisories and discussions.
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....................................whatever this is in the gulf..it comes into the gulf from the south, thru the florida straights..wish i could animate but cant
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Quoting VR46L:


Definitely better than early today....
Ranbow


Funktop you can see it coming together



and Visable

If not Gordon by 5p.m then 8p.m.
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I'm in Mobile, AL, and it just got really dark here. Thunder booming. This will be our second round today.
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Rounding up...

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Quoting Articuno:

Did you say Ban instead of Bad on purpose? xD


Haha yeah I did!
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The blood red lake beauty spot which is startling tourists in southern France

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 12:36 GMT, 9 August 2012 | UPDATED: 07:09 GMT, 10 August 2012

It might look like a scene from a horror film but this is the breathtaking natural phenomenon which has met tourists at a popular French beauty spot.

The stunning scenes in Camargue, southern France, may look very dramatic but are actually thought to be caused by the high levels of salt within the water.

The bizarre sight was captured by photographer, Sam Dobson, from Moscow in Russia.

Read more & more photos

Link



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TD 7 is like the little engine that could.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
T.D 7 looks really good on visible and rainbow IR.


Definitely better than early today....
Ranbow


Funktop you can see it coming together



and Visable

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I have a couple of questions about the data that Dr Masters presented in his blog today.

1. The Year to date temperature anomaly graph shows much greater departure from average early in the year when compared to later in the year. In fact the difference between the end December variation and the beginning January variation almost looks like the weather can read a calendar. Am I interpreting the data incorrectly?

2. It looks to me like the 2012 line (red) is showing record highs in March, April, May, June and July.
However in his narrative he says the following":
"So far in 2012, we've had the warmest March on record, 3rd warmest April, 2nd warmest May, and warmest July."
Doesn't the statement disagree with the chart?

FYI, I am not a GW denier, I just want to understand the data set. I am geophysicist who teaches Earth and Environmental Science at a distinctly Anti-GW school (many of our students parents are oil companty executives) so I want to be sure that I understand graph before I show them to my students.
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For those keeping an eye on the current tropical forecast points for TD7 per the loop below; it "should" be hitting TS status within the next 2-6 hours:


Link
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Quoting WxGeekVA:
From the last blog... Please don't keep this political talk here everyone, as there is plenty of weather to discuss.




Thanks for the new blog too Dr. M. My 89 year old grandfather was talking about the Dust Bowl and he says he's never see it be this abnormally warm for this long in his life.

Did you say Ban instead of Bad on purpose? xD
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Well, lets see what happens from here.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
TD 7 looking better:

JSL Loop:

moving real fast too
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64. 7544
Quoting KoritheMan:


A 4.0 raw? lawl


looks like td7 is going to make for now
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Quoting MississippiWx:
ADT is still impressed with TD7 (most likely a little too impressed).

CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
3.1 /1003.5mb/ 47.0kt


Final T# Adj T# Raw T#
3.1 / 3.4 / 4.0
Could have TS Gordon at 5P based on those numbers?
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Bizarre rock 'ice shelf' found in Pacific
AFPAFP – 8 hrs ago

A huge cluster of floating volcanic rocks covering almost 26,000 square kilometres (10,000 square miles) has been found drifting in the Pacific, the New Zealand navy said Friday.

The strange phenomenon, which witnesses said resembled a polar ice shelf, was made up of lightweight pumice expelled from an underwater volcano, the navy said.

An air force plane spotted the rocks on Thursday about 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) offshore from New Zealand and warned a navy warship that it was heading towards them.

Lieutenant Tim Oscar said that while he knew his ship the HMNZS Canterbury was in no danger from the pumice, which is solidified lava filled with air bubbles, it was still "the weirdest thing I've seen in 18 years at sea".

"As far ahead as I could observe was a raft of pumice moving up and down with the swell," he said.

"The rock looked to be sitting two foot (half a metre) above the surface of the waves and lit up a brilliant while colour in the spotlight. It looked exactly like the edge of an ice shelf."

Scientists aboard the ship said the pumice probably came from an underwater volcano called Monowai, which has been active recently.

They said the phenomenon was unrelated to increased volcanic activity in New Zealand this week, including an eruption at Mount Tongariro that sent an ash cloud 20,000 feet into the atmosphere.




Link
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Quoting MississippiWx:
ADT is still impressed with TD7 (most likely a little too impressed).

CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
3.1 /1003.5mb/ 47.0kt


Final T# Adj T# Raw T#
3.1 / 3.4 / 4.0


pretty much...
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Quoting Msdrown:


Largo, you showed radar from Miami a while ago with much thunderstorms coming looking to the NW I think. Is that the system you mentioned earlier that your local mets said would go into the GOM??
..on that im not sure, local mets say the wave is going to cross florida, but I dont know if that wave is what the models show in the gulf..could be, im watching that big blob below cuba, that could be it too, just dont know right now, tomorrow we should know better ok
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Quoting LargoFl:
..near anchorage they had a 5.something yesterday, it happens alot up there, same with california..the continent is moving slowly but surely, they all are
Many years ago my ex was stationed at Eielson AFB as a weather forecaster... I got to go with him.. Many times I can remember feeling the ground shake with quakes... I have always heard that there were over 1,000 quakes a year in Alaska. Anchorage has an Earthquake park from the 1967 quake... I was near Fairbanks. I will talk about the -60 degree weather , and dark most of the time at a later date... Not my idea of a tropical vacation. LOL
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I don't know what 07 doing strength wise. But should be able to call someone on Barbados soon enough to find out. Look at the nhc floaters.
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TD 7 looking better:

JSL Loop:

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Thank You Dr. 2012 will be a memorable, and devastating, weather related year for the US due to these now historic drought conditions and impact on lives, agriculture and livelihoods.

We can only hope that the Atlantic Hurricane season will be a little kindler for US (as well as the Caribbean) this year and that the upcoming Spring "El Nino" severe weather season in 2013 will not be too devastating either.

Man is not in control of these current issues; we can only try to prepare accordingly and/or react to the consequences.
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TD 7 RGB Loop

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Quoting MississippiWx:
ADT is still impressed with TD7 (most likely a little too impressed).

CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
3.1 /1003.5mb/ 47.0kt


Final T# Adj T# Raw T#
3.1 / 3.4 / 4.0


A 4.0 raw? lawl
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Quoting LargoFl:


Largo, you showed radar from Miami a while ago with much thunderstorms coming looking to the NW I think. Is that the system you mentioned earlier that your local mets said would go into the GOM??
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Quoting Patrap:
18z Early Cycle NHC model tracks
TD #7

Statistical/Simple Models (CLIPER,BAMs,LBAR,other Statistical Models)




Dynamic Models (More sophisticated models)





Early Model Wind Forecasts

Sheesh...a lot of straight line forecasts...
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There's a swirl at 14.6N 52W
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T.D 7 looks really good on visible and rainbow IR.
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..............looks like there is going to be alot of wind with this wave passing over us this weekend
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18z Early Cycle NHC model tracks
TD #7

Statistical/Simple Models (CLIPER,BAMs,LBAR,other Statistical Models)




Dynamic Models (More sophisticated models)





Early Model Wind Forecasts

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

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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