Weather extremes 2011: U.S. has second-warmest summer on record
When it comes to U.S. weather, Mother Nature seems to be having control issues. Or, rather, lack-of-control issues.
For some folks, depending on where they live, summer 2011 was either the driest summer on record -- or the wettest. Even as record-breaking drought fueled wildfires in Texas, for example, Pennsylvania was experiencing the most serious flooding since Hurricane Agnes hit the region in 1972.
A report released Thursday by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center confirms what many people have suspected, offering statistical proof that this summer's weather has not quite been, shall we say, normal.
Let's start with the heat.
For most Americans, summer 2011 has been, in a word, hot. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the June-to-August period was the second-hottest summer on record, with an average temperature across the continental U.S. of 74.5 degrees. That is just 0.1 degrees cooler than the actual hottest summer on record, back in 1936 when the average temperature was 74.6 degrees.
Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana played a big hand in pushing the national average up. Each of these states recorded their hottest summers ever. The average summer temperature in Texas was 86.8 degrees. In Oklahoma, the average was 86.5 degrees.
Those numbers didn't just set state records, they set national records.
Now, moving on to rainfall...
Americans on the East Coast who are still dealing with overflowing rivers and high water tables in the wake of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee may have trouble believing that, nationwide, average summer rainfall was actually an inch below average.
Although NOAA scientists concede in something of an understatement that, in August, "wetter-than-normal conditions were widespread across the Northeastern United States," they also note that drought "covered about one-third of the contiguous United States" during that same month.
Still not convinced that Mother Nature is having issues of one sort or another? Consider this: New Jersey, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire had their wettest August on record. But the limited rain in Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, Illinois, Washington and Alabama left those states with Augusts that were among the their 10-driest on record.
Talk about extremes.
-- Deborah Netburn
Photo: A statue of a woman holding a water bucket stands in front of the remnants of a burned home on the east side of Lake Bastrop in Texas where several large wildfires have raged for days. Credit: Erich Schlegel / Getty Images