2017 will be remembered as a year of extremes for the U.S. as floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, drought, fires and freezes claimed hundreds of lives and visited economic hardship upon the nation. Recovery from the ravages of three major Atlantic hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. and an extreme and ongoing wildfire season in the West is expected to continue well into the new year.
Climate by the numbers
Full year 2017 | January-December
The average U.S. temperature in 2017 was 54.6 degrees F (2.6 degrees F above average), making 2017 third warmest year in 123 years of record-keeping, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. In fact, the five warmest years on record for the U.S. all have occurred since 2006.
2017 was also was the 21st consecutive year that the annual average temperature exceeded the average. For the third consecutive year, every state across the contiguous U.S. and Alaska experienced above-average annual temperatures.
Precipitation for the year totaled 32.21 inches (2.27 inches above the long-term average) ranking 2017 as the 20th wettest year and the fifth consecutive year with above-average precipitation. The national drought footprint (total area) began and ended with about one quarter of the Lower 48 states in drought. The drought footprint reached a low of 4.5 percent in May, the smallest drought footprint in the 18-year period of the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The month of December ranked near the warmest third of the record, with an average temperature across the contiguous U.S. of 34.8 degrees F, 2.1 degrees above average. Much-above-average temperatures were observed across the Southwest with record warmth in parts of California and Arizona, while near- to below-average temperatures were observed across parts of the Great Plains, Midwest and Northeast. The month ended with record and near-record cold temperatures for many locations in the East. The precipitation total for the month was 1.55 inches (0.80 of an inch below normal), making it the ninth driest December on record and the driest in nearly three decades.
Billion-dollar disasters in 2017
Last year, the U.S. experienced 16 weather and climate disasters each with losses exceeding $1 billion, totaling approximately $306 billion — a new U.S. record.
Far more tragic was the human toll. At least 362 people died and many more were injured during the course of the disasters that included:
1 drought (affected multiple areas);
1 wildfire (affected multiple areas);
3 major hurricanes (Harvey, Irma and Maria); and
8 severe storms.
The biggest newsmakers include the western U.S. wildfires that caused damages tallying $18 billion — triple the previous U.S. record. Losses from Hurricane Harvey exceeded $125 billion, which ranked second only to Hurricane Katrina, the costliest storm in the 38-year period of record. Hurricanes Maria and Irma had total damages of $90 billion and $50 billion, respectively. Hurricane Maria now ranks as third costliest weather and climate disaster on record for the nation, with Irma coming in close behind as fifth costliest.
Since 1980, the U.S. has sustained 219 weather and climate disasters that have exceeded $1.5 trillion in overall damages to date.
Edited for WeatherNation by Meteorologist Mace Michaels
It was a cloudy and wet day in Portland for the start to the work week. Rain continues today! https://t.co/J31mFyM12Q10 minutes ago by WeatherNation
Wind alerts for the High Plains and the Northern Rockies through Thursday. Here is the very latest --->… https://t.co/el3s3u1XwB26 minutes ago by WeatherNation
If you need some Christmas spirit to go along with those chilly temps, check out this scene in Duluth as the sun wa… https://t.co/boJBxyZil96 hours ago by WeatherNation
We love when all the pets can get in on the snow fun! 😍 https://t.co/CVhR1DdtQn6 hours ago by WeatherNation
DO YOU SEE WHAT WE SEE? Wave clouds rolling through the sky in this time lapse, also known as Kelvin Helmholtz clou… https://t.co/pLbAiGwpVu8 hours ago by WeatherNation
Here's another look at the stormy seas along the Carolina coast on Monday as the last of the powerful storm system… https://t.co/eRUbmgEAn29 hours ago by WeatherNation
NEW: A blizzard warning has been issued for northwest Montana in advance of the next, strong winter storm. Wind gus… https://t.co/MTi43ZO1Cq11 hours ago by WeatherNation
ANGRY SEAS - Whoa, look at these waves crashing off the Carolina coast! A gale warning continues through tonight… https://t.co/xRcStYByuq12 hours ago by WeatherNation
The sea along the North Carolina coast is turning foamy as the current system continues its trek east. https://t.co/M1KP2Vnjvh13 hours ago by WeatherNation
**JUST IN** TWO tornadoes confirmed near Tampa Bay, FL on Sunday, wind damage across Pasco County...here's the late… https://t.co/PgIk3SY6iJ14 hours ago by WeatherNation