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Washington is unique for 2012 weather conditions

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

While much of the country suffered through record heat and extreme drought in 2012, Washington state was doing its own thing up in the corner of the map, according to an annual report from the National Climatic Data Center.

Source: National Climatic Data Center

Source: National Climatic Data Center

Across the contiguous United States, the average temperature last year was the highest ever recorded, with records going back to 1895. The yearly average of 55.3 degrees was 3.3 degrees above the 20th-Century average and 1 degree warmer than the previous high record set in 1998.

A map issued by NCDA, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows 19 states with all-time high temperatures for the year and 28 states with temperatures far above normal. Only Washington state came through the year with an average temperature “above normal,” as shown on the map.

Specifically, only 29 of the past 118 years were warmer than 2012 in this state, so conditions were by no means cool from a historical perspective. Check out historical temperature data for each state on the NCDA website.

When it came to rainfall, things were a little more mixed across the country, but again Washington — along with Oregon — stand out as anomalies, having some of the wettest conditions ever experienced.

Source: National Climatic Data Center

Source: National Climatic Data Center

Across the contiguous United States, precipitation averaged 26.57 inches, some 2.57 inches below the 20th-Century average. Overall, 2012 is considered the 15th driest year on record.

Nebraska and Wyoming broke their all-time record for lowest precipitation. Nebraska’s annual precipitation of 13.04 inches in 2012 was nearly 10 inches below average. Eight states experienced drought that placed 2012 among the ten driest years on record.

Overall, the footprint of summer drought across the midsection of the country was on par with the drought of the 1950s, in which 60 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in moderate to exceptionally dry conditions, according to the new report. As in the 1950s, farmers living in the Midwest, Plains and Mountain West states experienced severe problems, including crop failures.

On the other hand, Washington state nearly broke the record for heavy precipitation during the calendar year, according to the report. Only four out of the past 118 years were wetter. The statewide precipitation of 47.24 inches was 10.40 inches above average. For the spring season (March-May), only two years in recorded history were wetter.

Oregon also experienced precipitation well above average, with only 11 wetter years in the record book. Meanwhile, surrounding states — California, Nevada and Idaho — came in close to their annual average.

The full annual report, with lots of links to additional data, can be viewed on the page called “State of the Climate National Overview Annual 2012.”


Would you believe it was the warmest May on record?

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

You wouldn’t know it from recent weather along the West Coast, but the month of May this year was the warmest May ever recorded across the globe, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

NOAA graphic / Click to enlarge

Worldwide, the average land temperature for May was 1.87 degrees F. higher than May’s long-term average of 52 degrees. That makes it the warmest May ever recorded.

On the ocean, meanwhile, surface temperatures averaged .99 degree F. above the average of 61.3 degrees. That makes it the second warmest May on record, behind only May of 1998.

In Western Washington, we had a cool, wet May — the third coolest in the last 25 years, as Kitsap Sun reporter Ed Friedrich reported at the beginning of the month. That just goes to show again that regional weather may have little bearing on global climate.

According to NCDC, warm temperatures in May were present over most of the world’s land masses — the warmest areas being Eastern North America, Eastern Brazil, Eastern Europe, Southern Asia, Eastern Russia and Equatorial Africa. Numerous locations in Ontario, Canada, had their warmest May on record.

Besides the West Coast, cool areas in May included Northern Argentina, Interior Asia and Western Europe. Germany had its coolest May since 1991 and its 12th coolest May on record.

The period of March through May also brought record highs for the combined land and ocean surface temperatures across the Earth. See the news release for details.

Arctic sea ice was 3.7 percent below the 1979-2000 average and melted 50 percent faster than the average May melting rate, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Antarctic sea ice was 7.3 percent above the 1979-2000 average, resulting in the fourth largest extent on record for the month of May.


December was shivering cold across much of U.S.

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Climate data show that the month of December was indeed the winter monster that many people across the country believed it to be.

The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. in December was 30.2 degrees F, which is 3.2 degrees below the monthly average, according to a preliminary summary released this morning by NOAA’s National Climate Data Center. (No, this does not negate global warming.)

Precipitation was 2.88 inches, or 0.65 inch above the monthly long-term average (1901 to 2000).

For all of 2009, the contiguous U.S. was .3 degrees warmer than average, and precipitation was 2.33 inches above average. Temperatures were above normal in parts of the South, Southwest and West, while much of the Central Plains and Midwest were below normal.

December 2009 was the 11th wettest December on record. This is the fourth consecutive December that the contiguous U.S. has had above normal precipitation.

Washington was one of only four states with below average precipitation for December. The others were also Northwest states: Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming.

We kept hearing about snow in other regions. Satellite observations showed snow covering 4.1 million square kilometers in December — the largest extent of snow cover for any December since records began in 1966.

Several major cities, including Philadelphia, Washington, and Oklahoma City, had their snowiest Decembers on record.

Drought conditions improved in California and South Texas, but became worse in Arizona.

One can arrange the data on the NCDC site to look at trends in various ways.


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"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist

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