The Washington Post

Warmest period in U.S. records carries on

Warmest 12 month periods on record in the Lower 48. The last three 12-month periods have been the warmest such periods on record. View big. (NCDC)

The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) released its State of the Climate update through the month of June today. Once again, warm weather records dominate the headlines.

The June temperature itself, 2.0 degrees above normal, ranked just 14th warmest on record. Comparatively speaking, it was not as warm as April and May, which ranked 3rd and 2nd warmest, respectively. But it was warm enough such that the Lower 48 established a new record for warmest consecutive 12 month period for the 3rd straight month.

June’s heat was enhanced by expanding drought conditions which, by the end of the month, covered 56 percent of the country - the greatest extent in 12 years of records. As the drought intensified, unfathomable number of heat records started to fall. Writes NOAA:

Over 170 all-time warm temperature records and were broken or tied during the month. Temperatures in South Carolina (113°F) and Georgia (112°F) are currently under review by the U.S. State Climate Extremes Committee as possible all-time statewide temperature records.

Some of the cities which set all-time marks include: Colorado Springs, Dodge City, Huntsville, Columbus (GA), Atlanta, Athens and Chattanooga.

The extreme heat in late June was concentrated from the eastern Rockies through the Plains into the Southeast U.S. On June 28, Norton Dam, Kansas soared to 118 blistering degrees, a monthly temperature extreme in the U.S. only topped by temperatures in Death Valley, Ca. (119 on June 1 and 18, and 121 on June 19).

About 3,300 daily record highs were tied or set in June, comparable to Dust-Bowl era heat extremes reports Climate Central’s Andrew Freedman:

“...the total number of daily records this June were about the same as occurred during the month of June during two of America’s hottest summers — 1936 and 1934, both of which occurred during the Dust Bowl,” Freedman said.

Year-to-date, nearly 25,000 record highs have been set or matched compared to just 2,500 record lows.

NCDC reports its climate extremes index, which tracks the highest and lowest 10 percent of extremes in temperature, precipitation, drought, and tropical storms, was at a record high level of 44 percent for the first half of this year. That’s twice the average and mostly attributable to all of the record warm days and nights.

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.


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