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Dryness re-emerges for Southeastern states, Global Temperatures Remain High

NOAA image of selected global significant events for May 2004.June 18, 2004 — All nine climate regions of the contiguous United States were warmer than average in spring (March-May) 2004, according to scientists at the NOAA Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. The global average temperature was also the fourth warmest on record for the same period. Additionally, the Southeast and parts of the West were unusually dry during spring, but precipitation was above average in the Great Lakes region. (Click NOAA image for larger view of selected global significant events for May 2004. Please credit “NOAA.”)

NOAA scientists report that the average temperature for the contiguous United States for March-May (based on preliminary data) was 54.7 degrees F (12.6 degrees C), which was 2.9 degrees F (1.6 degrees C) above the 1895-2003 mean, making it the third warmest spring on record. Florida was the only state in the contiguous United States with a near-normal temperature.

The mean temperature in 30 states was much above average, including Oklahoma and Kansas, which had their warmest spring on record. An additional 17 states were warmer than average. Alaska was also warmer than average for spring, with a statewide temperature of 2.7 degrees F (1.5 degrees C) above the 1971-2000 mean. However, May was the warmest on record for Alaska, with a temperature of 4.7 degrees F (2.6 degrees C) above the mean.

Precipitation across the contiguous United States was near average for spring, with much of the West and Southeast drier than normal. Wetter than average conditions occurred in parts of the Deep South and Northeast, as well as much of the Great Lakes region, with Michigan having its wettest spring on record. The East North Central region (consisting of states from Minnesota and Iowa, east to Michigan) had its second wettest spring on record. Dryness re-emerged in parts of the Southeast, in marked contrast to a much wetter than average year for much of the region in 2003.

Severe storm outbreaks in May led to several deaths from tornadoes and significant storm damage in parts of the Midwest and South. A preliminary estimate of tornado numbers from the NOAA Storm Prediction Center suggests approximately 500 occurred during the month. (The record of 543 was recorded in May 2003.)

Dry conditions in the Southeast during spring allowed moderate drought to re-emerge in parts of the region with some modest agricultural impacts beginning to be felt. Below average spring precipitation also occurred in many areas of the West, where drought has persisted for much of the past four to five years. The drier than average conditions, along with warmer than normal temperatures that contributed to rapid snowmelt, left mountain snowpack levels below average in most parts of the West.

Reservoir levels also remained below average in many areas. Sixty-seven percent of the western United States was in moderate to extreme drought at the end of spring, based on the Palmer Drought Index, a widely used measure of drought.

The average global temperature anomaly for combined land and ocean surfaces during March-May 2004, based on preliminary data, was 1.0 degrees F (0.6 degrees C) above the 1880-2003 long-term mean. This was the fourth warmest boreal spring since 1880, the beginning of reliable instrumental records. Land surface temperatures were unusually warm throughout most parts of the world, while ocean surface temperatures in much of the central and eastern equatorial Pacific were near average, as the neutral phase of ENSO (El Niño/Southern Oscillation) continued. The global ocean surface temperature was fifth warmest on record for March-May.

The NOAA Satellites and Information Service is the nation's primary source of space-based oceanographic, meteorological, and climate data. It operates the nation's environmental satellites, which are used for ocean and weather observation and forecasting, climate monitoring and other environmental applications. Some of the oceanographic applications include sea surface temperature for hurricane and weather forecasting and sea-surface heights for El Niño prediction.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nationís coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Relevant Web Sites
Climate of 2004: May in Historical Perspective

NOAA Climatic Data Center

Media Contact:
John Leslie, NOAA Satellites and Information Service, (301) 457-5005