NOAA: Summer Ends with Record Heat in the South; Widespread Drought Continues

The June through August 2007 summer season ended with a long-lasting heat wave that set more than 2,000 new daily high temperature records across the southern and central United States, according to scientists at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. The record heat helped make this the second warmest August and the sixth warmest summer on record for the contiguous United States, based on preliminary data that was announced on Sept. 12. At the end of August, drought affected almost half of the continental United States. The global surface temperature was seventh warmest on record for the June through August period.

U.S. Temperature Highlights for Summer

  • For summer 2007 (June through August), the average temperature for the continental United States, based on preliminary data, was 73.8 degrees Fahrenheit (23.2 degrees Celsius), which was 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.0 degrees Celsius) above the 20th century mean and the sixth warmest summer since national records began in 1895.
  • This was the warmest summer for Utah and Nevada and it ranked in the top 10 warmest summers on record for 11 other states. Alaska had its fourth warmest summer on record. Only Texas and Oklahoma were cooler than average.
  • The much warmer-than-average conditions in the Southeast and throughout the West contributed to above average residential energy demand for the nation. Using the Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI - an index developed at NOAA to relate energy usage to climate), the nation's residential energy demand was approximately 8 percent higher than what would have occurred under average climate conditions for the season.

U.S. Temperature Highlights for August

  • For the contiguous United States, the average temperature for August was 75.4 degrees Fahrenheit (24.1 degrees Celsius), which was 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above the 20th century mean and the second warmest August on record, based on preliminary data.
  • A severe heat wave persisted throughout much of the month across southern and central parts of the nation. More than 30 all-time high temperature records were tied or broken and more than 2,000 new daily high temperature records were established.
  • Raleigh-Durham, N.C., equaled its all-time high of 105 degrees Fahrenheit Aug. 21. Columbia, S.C., had 14 days in August with temperatures more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which broke the record of 12 set in 1900. Cincinnati, Ohio, reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit five days during August, a new record for the city.
  • This was the warmest August in the 113-year record for West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Utah. For the Southeast, the length, severity and area of the heat wave led to comparisons with events in 1983 and 1954.

U.S. Precipitation Highlights for Summer

  • Overall, the summer was drier than average for the nation. Rainfall was below average in the Southeast, mid-Atlantic, Ohio Valley, the northern Plains and Northern Rockies.
  • Texas had its wettest summer on record and Oklahoma its fourth wettest. The unusually wet period was punctuated by heavy and persistent rains in June and July that produced devastating flooding in the region. In the Southeast, this was the driest summer since records began in 1895 for North Carolina and the second driest for Tennessee.
  • A hot and dry July in the Northern Rockies contributed to a fast start to the wildfire season, and August remained very active as warmer and drier-than-average conditions persisted in many areas. By early September, more than 7 million acres had burned across the nation, most of it in the western United States.

U.S. Precipitation Highlights for August

  • The record warmth and below-average rainfall in August led to an expansion of drought in the Southeast and parts of the mid-Atlantic and Ohio Valley. At the end of August, drought affected approximately 83 percent of the Southeast and 46 percent of the contiguous U.S., according to the federal U.S. Drought Monitor.
  • Severe drought persisted throughout much of the West and an area that stretched from northern Minnesota to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
  • Part of the Midwest received record precipitation in August, as a persistent frontal system provided a focus for heavy rain and thunderstorms. Precipitation was two to three times normal for the month in a wide band across the central Midwest, and major flooding occurred in parts of a region that stretched from southeastern Minnesota to central Ohio. Iowa had its wettest August on record.
  • Tropical Storm Erin made landfall near Lamar, Texas, Aug. 16, bringing heavy rains to areas already much wetter than normal for the year. Widespread flooding ensued in southern Texas and Oklahoma.

For more information, contact NOAA's National Climate Data Center at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/ncdc.html.

Check out the archives of Environmental Protection magazine Web site for additional articles related to NOAA, including: "NOAA Report Finds Efforts to Protect Earth's Ozone Layer Also Helped Slow Climate Change."

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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