Spring 2012: most extreme season in U.S. history

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:08 PM GMT on June 08, 2012

Spring 2012 in the contiguous U.S. demolished the old records for hottest spring and most extreme season of any kind, said NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) on Thursday. With the warmest March, third warmest April, and second warmest May, the March - April - May spring season was 5.2°F above average--the largest temperature departure from average of any season on record for the contiguous United States. What's truly remarkable is the margin the old record was broken by--spring 2012 temperatures were a full 1°F above the previous most extreme season, the winter of 1999 - 2000. All-time seasonal temperature records are very difficult to break, and are usually broken by only a tenth of a degree. To see the old record crushed by a full degree is a stunning and unparalleled event in U.S. meteorological history.


Figure 1. Temperature rankings for spring 2012 in the Contiguous U.S. Thirty-one states were record warm for the 3-month period, and an additional eleven states had top-ten warmth. Spring 2012 beat the previous record for hottest spring on record, set in 1910, by an remarkable 2°F. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.

U.S. heat over the past 12 months: a one in half-a-million event
The U.S. record for hottest 12-month period fell for the second straight month in May. The June 2011 - May 2012 temperatures smashed the previous record by a startling 0.4°F, which is a huge margin to break a record by for a 1-year period. The past twelve months have featured America's 2nd warmest summer, 4th warmest winter, and warmest spring on record. Thirty-two states were record warm for the 12-month period, and an additional ten states were top ten warm. Each of the 12 months from June 2011 through May 2012 ranked among the warmest third of their historical distribution for the first time in the 1895-present record. According to NCDC, the odds of this occurring randomly during any particular month are 1 in 531,441. Thus, we should only see one more 12-month period so warm between now and 46,298 AD--assuming the climate is staying the same as during the past 118 years. The unusual warmth was due, in part, to a La Niña event in the Pacific that altered jet stream patterns, keeping the polar jet stream much farther to the north than usual. However, it is highly unlikely that the extremity of the heat during the past 12 months could have occurred without a warming climate. Some critics have claimed that recent record warm temperatures measured in the U.S. are due to poor siting of a number of measurement stations. Even if true (and the best science we have says that these stations were actually reporting temperatures that were too cool), there is no way that measurement errors can account for the huge margin by which U.S. temperature records have been crushed during the past 12-month, 5-month, and 3-month periods.




Figure 2. Three of the top ten warmest 12-month periods in the contiguous U.S. since 1895 have occurred since April 2011. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.




Figure 3. The average temperature during January - May 2012 was the warmest on record: 5°F above the 20th century average for the period, and 1.3°F above the previous record set in 2000. January - May temperatures have been rising at about 1.8°F per century since 1895. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.

Second warmest May, warmest year-to-date period on record
May 2012 was the second warmest May in the contiguous U.S. since record keeping began in 1895. Twenty-six states had a top-ten warmest May, and no states had a top-ten coolest May. The January - May 2012 period was the warmest January - May period since record keeping began in 1895, with temperatures 5°F above the 20th century average for the period. This broke the previous record set in 2000 by an unusually large margin--1.3°F.



Figure 4. NOAA's U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI) for spring (March - April - May) shows that 2012 had the most extreme spring on record, with 44% of the contiguous U.S. experiencing top-10% extreme weather.

Most extreme spring and January - May period on record
NOAA's U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI), which tracks the percentage area of the contiguous U.S. experiencing top-10% and bottom-10% extremes in temperature, precipitation, and drought, was 44% during the spring March - April - May period. This is more than twice the average value, and spring 2012 was the most extreme season of any kind in U.S. history. A list of the top five most extreme seasons since 1910, as computed using the CEI, show that two of the three most extreme seasons in U.S. history occurred in the past 12 months:

Spring 2012: 44%
Winter 1979: 42%
Summer 2011: 39%
Fall 1985: 39%
Spring 1934: 38%

Remarkably, 81% of the contiguous U.S. had maximum temperatures that were in the warmest 10% historically during spring 2012, and 71% of the U.S. of the U.S. had warm minimum temperatures in the top 10%. The percentage area of the U.S. experiencing top-10% drought conditions during spring was 18%, which was the 19th greatest since 1910. Extremes in 1-day spring heavy precipitation events were the 8th largest on record. The year-to-date January - May period was also the most extreme such period in U.S. history, with a CEI of 43%. Climate change theory predicts that, in general, the climate should warm, wet areas should get wetter, and dry areas should get drier. The spring 2012 Climate Extremes Index reflects this pattern.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and I'll be back Monday with a new post. None of the computer models is predicting tropical cyclone formation in the Atlantic through June 15.

Jeff Masters

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685. hydrus
2:37 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
GOES Imager Cloud Top Pressure
June 08, 2012 - 23:45 UTCGOES Imager Spectral Difference
June 08, 2012 - 23:45 UTC
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 28490
683. CybrTeddy
2:33 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting hydrus:
240 Euro..


That's the 00z, the 12z had a cyclone in the Gulf.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 26118
682. pcola57
2:33 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
.
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 7058
681. hydrus
2:31 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
240 Euro..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 28490
680. RitaEvac
2:31 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Actually its this song by Madonna that I remember when I was a kid back in the good ol days


Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 10684
679. CybrTeddy
2:29 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting Jedkins01:



1.87 today so far here in Central Pinellas, I finally got some more significant activity today! However if you add up all the rain since Tuesday we have had nearly 5 inches. That puts at nearly 6.50 for the month of June, amazing, from drought to a jungle! This is more like the Florida I have come to know and love lol.


Looks like another round of rain is moving in from the southeast, remember that with deep tropical moisture in place rainfall is heavier than the radar seems to think, especially with embedded convection which there is some approaching Pinellas tonight.


Looks like southwest Florida is finally getting their share tonight as well! I think tomorrow will mean big rains setting up on the west coast of Florida with an easterly wind developing, more heating and sea breeze collisions. Rainfall could be quite impressive yet again. Stronger thunderstorms will likely be possible along the sea breeze line, some 4 and 5 inch totals on top of what is already fallen can't be ruled out for a few areas when you have heating sea breeze convergence, and just as much moisture in place.


It's very tropical rain that's for sure. But still, I find the big time thunderstorms generally more enjoyable and exciting than this constant drizzle and heavy rain. Looks like we'll be getting into that pattern this week once this clears out tomorrow (?) or on Sunday.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 26118
678. AtHomeInTX
2:27 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


tune for ya rita



I keep hearing this one. To everyone wanting some rain. :)

Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 591
677. RitaEvac
2:26 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Nice lightning to the NE
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 10684
676. Jedkins01
2:22 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting WxGeekVA:


I had over 4 inches of rain in 2 hours from that. I've never seen that much flooding in my life. We had a day off of school (the only one of the whole year) from that!



One time we had 15 inches of rain in 3 to 4 hours, imagine that, surprisingly the flooding wasn't that bad considering the totals, that's because it is Pinellas county and it's a mini peninsula, it pretty much can only flood so much from rainfall before it drains into the ocean. It definitely did flood quite a bit, my entire neighborhood had nearly a foot deep of water in the street though.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 10452
675. RitaEvac
2:19 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting DavidHOUTX:


Yea I got a little over an inch last night.... I just noticed that outflow boundary as well. The atmosphere is worked over so that outflow boundary will likely just fizzle out.. I hope we get some moderate rain out of it though. We will likely not have any for a good week after this weekend.


Actually the sun was out all day over chambers/galveston counties, and the bay, and we had an outflow boundary over me that I thought the heavens were gonna open up it was so black and stationary. That same boundary fizzled and did nothing....but its signature is still there in the atmosphere even though we can't see or pick up on it. So something has gotta give when that new boundary plows into it wherever it is.
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 10684
674. WxGeekVA
2:18 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting WDEmobmet:


Really where are you located


Fairfax. They let off school for an inch of snow sometimes...


Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


4 in in 2 hours and you get school off?
It take 20 inches in a day to get school off here, which did happen in 2009.


Yep, we did!

I took this on the bus on the way back when they let us out early the day before. This is Rt. 50 and it has never flooded before or since:

Member Since: September 3, 2011 Posts: 13 Comments: 3486
673. Jedkins01
2:18 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting TampaBayStormChaser:
The FL West Coast is getting slammed this evening with multiple rounds of heavy rain squalls. The heaviest cells are moving south down the FL West Coast.




1.87 today so far here in Central Pinellas, I finally got some more significant activity today! However if you add up all the rain since Tuesday we have had nearly 5 inches. That puts at nearly 6.50 for the month of June, amazing, from drought to a jungle! This is more like the Florida I have come to know and love lol.


Looks like another round of rain is moving in from the southeast, remember that with deep tropical moisture in place rainfall is heavier than the radar seems to think, especially with embedded convection which there is some approaching Pinellas tonight.


Looks like southwest Florida is finally getting their share tonight as well! I think tomorrow will mean big rains setting up on the west coast of Florida with an easterly wind developing, more heating and sea breeze collisions. Rainfall could be quite impressive yet again. Stronger thunderstorms will likely be possible along the sea breeze line, some 4 and 5 inch totals on top of what is already fallen can't be ruled out for a few areas when you have heating sea breeze convergence, and just as much moisture in place.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 10452
672. DavidHOUTX
2:17 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Rita, I think we should get something out of this... I will be shocked if it doesn't at least sprinkle lol


Link
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671. CaicosRetiredSailor
2:14 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Member Since: July 12, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6126
670. WDEmobmet
2:11 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting WxGeekVA:


I had over 4 inches of rain in 2 hours from that. I've never seen that much flooding in my life. We had a day off of school (the only one of the whole year) from that!


Really where are you located
Member Since: February 3, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 841
669. DavidHOUTX
2:11 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting RitaEvac:


You got some last night right? outflow boundary coming outta the complex, means its gonna fall apart, new cells will have to form ahead of it


Yea I got a little over an inch last night.... I just noticed that outflow boundary as well. The atmosphere is worked over so that outflow boundary will likely just fizzle out.. I hope we get some moderate rain out of it though. We will likely not have any for a good week after this weekend.
Member Since: August 18, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 806
667. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
2:10 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting RitaEvac:
Will it hold? that is the million dollar question



tune for ya rita

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 200 Comments: 66292
666. GeorgiaStormz
2:09 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting WxGeekVA:


I had over 4 inches of rain in 2 hours from that. I've never seen that much flooding in my life. We had a day off of school (the only one of the whole year) from that!


4 in in 2 hours and you get school off?
It take 20 inches in a day to get school off here, which did happen in 2009.
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665. WDEmobmet
2:09 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
it looks like a good portion did
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664. HurricaneHunterJoe
2:09 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Member Since: September 18, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 7771
663. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
2:06 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 200 Comments: 66292
661. WxGeekVA
2:05 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting WDEmobmet:


yea I don't recall ever seeing anything like it



I had over 4 inches of rain in 2 hours from that. I've never seen that much flooding in my life. We had a day off of school (the only one of the whole year) from that!
Member Since: September 3, 2011 Posts: 13 Comments: 3486
660. RitaEvac
2:03 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting DavidHOUTX:


I have been watching this since it started and honestly, I think it will hold together. I could be wrong but this is just what we needed and hopefully we get it.


You got some last night right? outflow boundary coming outta the complex, means its gonna fall apart, new cells will have to form ahead of it
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 10684
659. WDEmobmet
2:02 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting RitaEvac:


That was insanity



yea I don't recall ever seeing anything like it

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658. DavidHOUTX
2:02 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting RitaEvac:
Will it hold? that is the million dollar question



I have been watching this since it started and honestly, I think it will hold together. I could be wrong but this is just what we needed and hopefully we get it.
Member Since: August 18, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 806
657. RitaEvac
1:56 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Will it hold? that is the million dollar question

Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 10684
656. RitaEvac
1:54 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting WDEmobmet:


Yea I doubt that we will see this type of inhibition this year


That was insanity

Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 10684
655. WDEmobmet
1:53 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Yeah it was dry. A met in east Texas said the soil was so dry here last year that it made our climate like that of the desert southwest. Moisture content a lot higher this year so fingers crossed that won't happen again.


Yea I doubt that we will see this type of inhibition this year
Member Since: February 3, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 841
654. AtHomeInTX
1:50 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting WDEmobmet:


No doubt, I remember it seemed as if it was the driest air I had ever seen on water vapor. A black Hole if you will


Yeah it was dry. A met in east Texas said the soil was so dry here last year that it made our climate like that of the desert southwest. Moisture content a lot higher this year so fingers crossed that won't happen again.
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653. HurricaneHunterJoe
1:49 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Member Since: September 18, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 7771
652. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
1:49 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 200 Comments: 66292
651. WDEmobmet
1:45 AM GMT on June 09, 2012
Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Except that there IS rain over Texas. :)


No doubt, I remember it seemed as if it was the driest air I had ever seen on water vapor. A black Hole if you will
Member Since: February 3, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 841
There are:
11 days, 21 hours, 24 minutes, 51 seconds
until the summer solstice.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9897
Quoting WDEmobmet:


Kind of looks like Lee with much less convection

Lee 2011



Except that there IS rain over Texas. :)
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 591
as the sayin goes
just cause you cannot see them
does not mean they are not there
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 200 Comments: 66292
646. skook
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Completely normal, African storms don't get going until late July usually.

most traverse across the atlantic as sleeper cells
and may reform once they enter the western carb
8 to 10 days after coming off of africa
as we get into mid july onward
then they could or can maintain themselves
and form into tropical cyclones
before entering the carb.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 200 Comments: 66292


Kind of looks like Lee with much less convection

Lee 2011

Member Since: February 3, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 841
Oh that was his name.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Zack.


i think it was zack and cody, but i do my best not to watch disney
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9897
Quoting washingtonian115:
I'm looking forward to seeing how Kirk behaves this year.Will he be a 4? or a minimal tropical storm.Lol.This reminds me so much of two years ago when everyone was looking forward/waiting for Igor to form.It downgraded to a T.D and people were all ready throwing in the towel.But he came back.

Reminds me of that show my kids use to watch with the twins on Disney channel I do k now one of them was named Cody.What was the other one?.

Zack.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 128 Comments: 35756


Nice thunderstorm picture I found on Reddit
Member Since: September 3, 2011 Posts: 13 Comments: 3486


Saturday-Sunday Total
Member Since: February 3, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 841
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


kirk mellish is our main local radio met.
He is excited about the name Kirk being used, he just hopes it is not destructive.
I'm looking forward to seeing how Kirk behaves this year.Will he be a 4? or a minimal tropical storm.Lol.This reminds me so much of two years ago when everyone was looking forward/waiting for Igor to form.It downgraded to a T.D and people were all ready throwing in the towel.But he came back.

Reminds me of that show my kids use to watch with the twins on Disney channel I do k now one of them was named Cody.What was the other one?.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Jessiej:
African storms have dissipated. Is this odd or normal for this time of year?

Still early for them to hang together over water.
July Aug is a better time for them.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Drakoen25:


Kori, woman! The Pokemon fanatic; the Walmart employee! HIM!!

Uhh...Kori=KoritheMan. Cody=Me.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 128 Comments: 35756

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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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