HAS FOURTH WARMEST SPRING, WIDESPREAD DROUGHT CONTINUES
June 19, 2006 — The contiguous United States experienced its fifth warmest May and fourth warmest spring since records began in 1895, while overall precipitation remained below average, according to scientists at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Also, the June 2005 - May 2006 period was the warmest on record for the contiguous U.S. The continuation of below-normal precipitation combined with much warmer than average temperatures led to persistent, or in some cases worsening, drought conditions in many parts of the nation. Meanwhile, portions of New England experienced flooding in May, as a series of storms set many local rainfall records. The global surface temperature was fifth warmest on record for May. (Click NOAA illustration for larger view of May 2006 weather. Please credit “NOAA.”)
Since the start of last summer, six months have been much warmer than average, including two months (January and April 2006), which were warmest on record. The 12-month period was the warmest on record. The anomalous warmth has covered all parts of the country, with statewide records established in Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin. For Alaska, eight of the past twelve months were warmer than average, and the June-May temperature was the 20th warmest since records began in 1918.
Spring 2006 also was drier than average for the contiguous United States, with the most anomalously dry conditions along the eastern seaboard from New Jersey to Florida. Areas from the Gulf Coast to Wyoming also were drier than average. Parts of the Far West, northern Rockies and Midwest, along with Vermont and New Hampshire were wetter than average.
Persistent drier-than-average conditions over the past several months, combined with much above average to record warmth, worsened drought conditions. By early June, moderate-to-severe drought was present throughout a large part of the south-central U.S., with extreme and exceptional drought occurring in the parts of the Desert Southwest, southern Plains and southeastern Louisiana, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Moderate drought developed in central Florida and grew to encompass parts of the southern Appalachian region. Fully 39 percent of the contiguous United States was in moderate-to-extreme drought, while 20 percent was in severe-to-extreme drought, as defined by the Palmer Drought Index, a widely-used measure of drought. Above average precipitation alleviated moderate drought conditions in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and conditions improved in areas that included eastern Oklahoma, southern Florida and parts of the Northeast.
This was the fifth warmest May globally since records began in 1880 (0.90 degrees F/0.50 degrees C above the 20th century mean) for global land and ocean surfaces, and sixth warmest boreal spring (March-May) (0.92 degrees F/0.51 degrees C). The warmest March-May occurred in 2005 (1.19 degrees F/0.66 degrees C above the 20th century mean). Land surface temperatures for May were above average across southern Europe and Scandinavia, eastern and southwestern Asia, and much of North America. Unseasonably cold May weather occurred in central South America, as well as in South Africa and Lesotho, where an uncommon mountain snowfall occurred. An early May heatwave produced temperatures over 104 degrees F (40 degrees C) across India, claiming more than 50 lives.
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