NOAA: Weather Conditions In U.S. Cooler, Wetter Than Average In October

For the second consecutive month, temperatures across the continental United States were cooler than average, according to scientists at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Drought conditions improved in some areas, but large parts of the nation remained in moderate to extreme drought. October ranked as the 12th wettest October when compared with historical precipitation records for the month, according to a Nov. 15 announcement.

Last month's temperature for the contiguous United States (based on preliminary data) was 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 degrees Celsius) below the 20th-century average of 54.8 degrees Fahrenheit (12.7 degrees Celsius). After a record warm January through August period, this was the second consecutive month of below average temperatures.

The combination of a cooler-than-average September and October dropped the year-to-date national temperature from record warmest to third warmest for the January through October 2006 period. The record warmest January through October occurred in 1934.

Temperatures in October 2006 were below average across 24 states, concentrated from the Rocky Mountains to the Great Lakes and into the Northeast, while above-average temperatures occurred only in Texas and New Hampshire.

It was the sixth warmest October on record in Alaska, with temperatures 6.8 degrees Fahrenheit (3.8 degrees Celsius) above the 1971 to 2000 average. Despite the October warmth, January through October was the coolest such year-to-date period since 1999 for Alaska.

U.S. Precipitation

Above-average precipitation occurred across most of the East Coast, eastern Great Lakes, Mississippi Valley and the Southwest in October. Last month's precipitation in Maine was second wettest on record with 7.83 inches, Louisiana experienced its third wettest with 10.38 inches of precipitation. Fourteen states experienced their top-10 wettest Octobers on record.

The January through October period was the second driest on record for Florida and eighth driest for Georgia, resulting in an expansion of drought conditions in those states.

Wetter-than-average conditions across the Southwest and parts of the South during October allowed for some improvement in drought in these regions. However, severe-to-extreme drought remained across parts of Arizona, and the Oklahoma to South Texas areas.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly 30 percent of the continental United States was in moderate to exceptional drought by the end of October, a decrease of approximately 3 percent since the end of September.

NOAA National Climate Summary: October 2006: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/2006/oct/national.html

NOAA Drought Information Center: http://www.drought.noaa.gov

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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