[Credit: Roberto Mendez, NPS]
June officially marks the start to summer, a time to take advantage of the long days, short nights and balmy weather. Last month not only brought seasonal warmth to many parts of the U.S., but also provided a preview of what’s more typical in the dog days of late summer: scorching heat and fires in the Southwest, drought in the Northern Plains, heavy rainfall in Florida and landfall of the season’s first tropical storm along the Gulf Coast.
Here’s how June and the year to date fared in terms of the climate record:
Climate by the numbers
Last month, the average contiguous U.S. temperature was 70.3 degrees F, 1.9 degrees above the 20th-century average. June 2017 tied as the 20th warmest June in the 123-year period of record, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Much-above-average temperatures were observed across the Southwest, while parts of the Southeast, Lower Mississippi Valley and Ohio Valley were cooler than average.
The average precipitation total for June was 3.01 inches, a 0.08 inch above the 20th-century average,ranking near the middle of the record. Below-average precipitation in the Southwest, Central Rockies and Great Plains was offset by above-average precipitation in the Deep South and parts of the Great Lakes.
The year to date
The year-to-date (YTD, January through June 2017) average temperature was 50.9 degrees F, 3.4 degrees above the 20th-century average. This was the second warmest first-half of the year in the record, 1.2 degrees cooler than 2012. The YTD precipitation total for the Lower 48 states was 17.86 inches, 2.55 inches above average. This ranked as the sixth wettest YTD on record.
More notable climate events
Near-record number of billion-dollar disasters for year to date: From January to June, the U.S. experienced nine billion-dollar weather and climate disasters, including two floods, a freeze, and six severe storms, collectively causing 57 fatalities. This number trails the record of 10 events set in both 2011 and 2016.
Searing heat in the Southwest: In June, record high temperatures were broken throughout the Southwest, and several areas set or tied their all-time high, including Needles, Calif., at 125 degrees F. Arizona had its second warmest June on record. Heat contributed to numerous wildfires and caused several deaths.
Cindy makes landfall along the Gulf Coast: On June 22, Tropical Storm Cindy made landfall around the Texas/Louisiana border with sustained winds of 45 miles per hour. The storm dropped heavy rain and caused significant flooding across parts the Southeast to Midwest as the storm tracked northward.
Drought improves in Southeast, worsens in Northern Plains and Hawaii: According to the June 27 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 8.0 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up about 2.8 percent compared to the end of May. Drought improved across parts of the Southern Plains and Southeast. Drought conditions expanded and worsened across the Northern to Central Plains. North Dakota had its fourth driest year-to-date for the state, the driest since 1936. More than 34 percent of the Aloha State was experiencing drought conditions.
For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Mace Michaels