El Niño Brings Wet Summer to Plains; Western Drought Continues
by Becky Oskin, Senior Writer | May 21, 2015
Forecasts for June, July and August in the United States suggest temperatures will be cooler than usual in the central Plains.
The West can expect its warm and dry weather to continue through the summer, while the central Plains will be relatively cool and wet, according to a summer forecast released today (May 21).
The East will be slightly warmer than average, and drought will intensify in the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest, a pattern that’s typical of El Niño summers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
Texas and Oklahoma have already felt the force of El Niño-influenced weather, NOAA said in a briefing today. Both states were in a severe drought last year, but this spring, drenching rainstorms refilled the states’ parched reservoirs to near capacity. Kentucky also saw a soaking spring, recording its second wettest April on record. “This pattern is partially the effect of El Niño conditions,” said David Unger, a forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
The Texas drought began in October 2010 and was the second-driest spell in the state’s history, said Victor Murphy, a program manager for the National Weather Service’s Southern Region. “It looks like the Texas drought is pretty much over,” Murphy said. [The 5 Worst Droughts in US History]
In summer, a strong El Niño often steers heavy rainstorms toward the southern Plains states and the intermountain West, including Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. However, the summer forecast calls for dry conditions in the West and Alaska, Unger said.
An El Niño also tends to tamp down Atlantic hurricane activity and boost Pacific hurricanes; NOAA plans to release its hurricane forecast on May 27.
The El Niño is a cyclic climate phenomenon that involves both the ocean and the atmosphere. One of its hallmarks is warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Although the El Niño fizzled last winter, the pool of warm water stuck around this spring and strengthened into a full-blown event.
With an El Niño brewing in the Pacific, the warm tropical ocean surface has been helping set new global heat records this year. Global temperatures in April 2015 were the fourth warmest on record since 1880, said Jake Crouch, a NOAA climatologist. And the first four months of 2015 shattered old heat records.
During January through April, the average temperature across land and ocean surfaces was 1.44 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius) above the 20th-century average. This surpassed the previous record, set in 2010, by 0.13 F (0.07 C).
“2015 is very warm compared to other years,” Crouch said. “It has been really quite a bit ahead of the pack.”
It was another notable year for all-time heat records in 2013, with six nations and three territories tying or setting records for hottest temperature on record. No nations set an all-time cold record in 2013. For comparison, five countries and two territories set all-time hottest temperature records in 2012, and the most all-time national heat records in a year was twenty nations and one territory in 2010. Since 2010, 45 nations or territories have set or tied all-time heat records, but only one nation has set an all-time cold temperature record. Since each of those years ranked as one of the top eleven warmest years in Earth’s history, and 2010 was the warmest year on record, this sort of disparity in national heat and cold records is to be expected. Most nations do not maintain official databases of extreme temperature records, the national temperature records I report here are in many cases not official. I use as my source for international weather records Maximiliano Herrera, one of the world’s top climatologists, who maintains a comprehensive list of extreme temperature records for every nation in the world on his website. If you reproduce this list of extremes, please cite Maximiliano Herrera as the primary source of the weather records. Wunderground’s weather historian Christopher C. Burt maintains a database of these national heat and cold records, for 235 nations and territories, on wunderground.com’s extremes page.
Figure 1. A moose takes a dip to cool off in a backyard pool in this photo taken in Big Lake, Alaska on June 17, 2013, by Lonea Moore McGowen (Courtesy KTUU-TV.) Bentalit Lodge, Alaska hit 36.7°C (98°F) on June 17, tying the mark set in Richardson on 15 June 1969 for hottest undisputed temperature in Alaska history. The official heat record for Alaska remains the 100°F registered at Fort Yukon on June 27, 1915. However, there are questions concerning this figure as outlined by our weather historian, Christopher C. Burt.
New all-time national heat records set in 2013
Heard and McDonald Islands (uninhabited territory of Australia) set a new all-time heat record of 26.1°C (79°F) at Split Bay on 1 March. Previous record: 21.6°C set at the same station in April 1992.
Ghana tied its all time highest temperature record with 43.0°C (109.4°F) at Navrongo on 6 March; the same value had also been recorded on 25 February 2010 and 19 April 2010 at the same location.
The United States tied its highest undisputed temperature at the Furnace Creek Visitors Center, Death Valley California, with 53.9°C (129°F) on 30 June. The only higher temperatures ever recorded on the planet occurred in Death Valley on July 10, 12, and 13, 1913, when readings of 134°F, 130°F, and 131°F were recorded. These 100-year-old official hottest temperatures in Earth’s history have many doubters, though, including Mr. Burt, who noted in a 2010 blog post that “The record has been scrutinized perhaps more than any other in the United States. I don’t have much more to add to the debate aside from my belief it is most likely not a valid reading when one looks at all the evidence.
St. Pierre et Miquelon, a French territory off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, set its all time highest temperature record with 28.3°C (82.9°F) at the St. Pierre Airport on 6 July. Previous record: 28.0°C at St. Pierre town in August 1876 and August 1935.
Greenland, a territory of Denmark, set a new all time highest temperature with 25.9°C (78.6°F) at Maniitsoq Airport on 30 July. Previous record: 25.5°C at Kangerlussuaq on 27 July 1990. There is a claimed 30.1°C measurement at Ivigtut on 23 June 1915, but this is almost certainly a mistake, since the reading doesn’t fit at all with the hourly data of that day, and the station in over a century has never recorded any temperature above 24°C.
Austria set a new national record of highest temperature with 39.9°C (103.8°F) at Dellach im Drautal on 3 August, which beat the old record of 39.7°C set at the same location on 27 July 1983. The 3 August 2013 record was beaten again on 8 August 2013, with a 40.5°C (104.9°F) reading recorded at Bad Deutsch-Altenburg.
Slovenia also set a new all time heat record on 8 August, with 40.8°C at Cerklje Ob krki. Previous record: 40.6°C set at Crnomelj on 5 July 1950.
Japan set a new all-time heat record with 41.0°C (105.8°F) at Shimanto on 12 August. Previous record: 40.9°C at Tajimi and at Kumagaya on 16 August 2007.
Comoros tied its national record of highest temperature at the Hahaya Int. Airport with 35.6°C (96.1°F) on 19 November; the same value was recorded at the former Moroni Airport (its location looks to have been very close of the current international airport) on 31 December 1960.
Figure 2. The official Furnace Creek, Death Valley maximum recording thermometer for the maximum temperature measured on June 30th, 2013. The 129.2°F (54.0°C) reading was the highest June temperature ever measured on Earth. Photo courtesy of Death Valley National Park and NWS-Las Vegas. Note, though, since only whole Fahrenheit figures are official in the U.S., the value was registered as 129°F.
Notable global heat and cold records set in 2013
Hottest temperature in the world in 2013: 53.9°C (129°F) at Death Valley, California, June 30
Coldest temperature in the world in 2013: -81.7°C (-115°F) at Dome A, Antarctica, July 31
Hottest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 49.6°C (121.3°F) at Moomba Aero, Australia, January 12
Coldest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: -64.2°C (-83.6°F) at Summit GEO, Greenland, March 4
Number of major world stations which set their all time highest temperature in 2013: 389
Number of major world stations which set their all time lowest temperature in 2013: 12
On 27 February, 2013, a new February all-time heat record for the Northern Hemisphere was set with 44.5°C (112.1°F) at Abu Na’ Ama (Sudan). Previous record: 44.4°C with two former record holders: Kayes in Mali, and Kiffa in Mauritania.
A day for the history books: European heat wave of 8 August 2013
An incredible heat wave over Central Europe on 8 August 2013 was a day for the history books of world climatology, with two nations and three world capitals setting all-time heat records on the same day. Dozens of stations in six European countries also set all-time heat records that day. The three capitals that set new all-time heat records on 8 August:
Vienna, Austria reached 39.5°C (103.1°F), beating the previous city record of 38.9°C which was recorded in July 1957.
Bratislava, Slovakia reached 39.4°C (102.9°F), beating the previous city record of 38.9°C set in July 2007.
Ljubljana, Slovenia reached as high as 40.2°C (104.4°F), beating for the FIFTH TIME IN SIX DAYS the old record of 38.0°C set in June 1935. This is particularly amazing, since the city has about 150 years of data. This is the sequence:
3 August 38.3°C
4 August 38.4°C
6 August 38.6°C
7 August 39.5°C
8 August 40.2°C
One other world capital set an all-time heat record in 2013: Bangkok, Thailand, which reached 40.1°C (104.2°F) in the Metropolis Station on 26 March, beating the previous record of 40.0°C set in April 1979 and April 2012.
A big thanks goes to Maximiliano Herrera for providing the information in this post.