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May 2014 Global Weather Extremes Summary

By: Christopher C. Burt, 7:34 PM GMT on June 13, 2014

May 2014 Global Weather Extremes Summary

May featured record heat in portions of China, Japan, Korea, and Eastern Europe. Deadly floods occurred in China and the Baltics. The most intense tropical storm on record for May, Amanda, formed in the Eastern Pacific. The global temperature anomaly rankings for May have yet to be released by NOAA or NASA, but given the unusual warmth (at least over land) I would not be surprised if the month ends up ranking as among the warmest Mays on record.

Below are some of the month’s highlights.

NORTH AMERICA

Drought conditions in California worsened over the course of May following the warmest January-May period on record for the state. In contrast, Michigan and Wisconsin had their 4th coldest such period on record (since 1895). See map below:



The January-May period was the warmest on record (since 1895) for California and the 4th coldest such period for Wisconsin and Michigan. NOAA/NCDC map.

Early season wild fires erupted in the greater Los Angeles, San Diego regions. In Texas, New Mexico, and the Southern Plains heavy rain during the last week of the month alleviated drought conditions. A record early May heat wave briefly occurred in the western Plains with Wichita recording an all-time May monthly record of 102°F (38.9°C) on the 5th. Just days later an unusually intense late spring snowstorm plastered Wyoming and Colorado with over 3 feet (one meter) of snowfall. It was mild in Alaska, its 6th warmest May on record and, for Anchorage, the warmest May on record. Overall, however, precipitation and temperatures averaged fairly close to normal and it was a relatively quiet month tornado-wise. The hottest temperature measured during the month was 115°F (46.1°C) at Death Valley, California on May 18th and the coldest 6°F (-14.4°C) at Climax, Colorado on May 1st and also at Antero Reservoir, Colorado on May 13th (these minimum temperature figures exclude Alaska).





State-by-state ranking of precipitation (top map) and temperature (bottom map) for the contiguous U.S. during May. It was the 32nd warmest May (out 120) and 48th wettest (out of 120). NOAA/NCDC maps.

Of anecdotal interest, a rare heat burst hit Albert Lea, Minnesota on the night of May 7-8th. The temperature spiked from 68°F (20.0°C) to 82°F (27.8°C) in 20 minutes around 1 a.m. on May 8th.



Graphic above courtesy of NWS-Minneapolis.

The first tropical storm of the year to form in the Eastern Pacific, Amanda, also developed into the strongest in modern records (since at least 1966) for the month of May. Amanda deepened to 932 mb with sustained winds of 155 mph at one point on May 25th off the coast of Mexico. The storm never made landfall.

The coldest temperature observed in the northern hemisphere during May was -44.5°C (-48.1°F) at Summit GEO site in Greenland on May 6.

SOUTH AMERICA and CENTRAL AMERICA

A rare rainfall occurred in Chile’s Atacama Desert (driest place on Earth) on May 25th. Snow also occurred in higher elevations of the desert such as Calama at 2200 m (7300’).

Although Sao Paulo, Brazil saw some welcome rainfall (and an intense hailstorm in parts of the city) the drought situation worsened during May threatening the city’s water supply.

EUROPE

The two big European weather stories of the month were the floods in the Balkan nations of Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia and the unprecedented heat wave that affected Finland, Estonia, and Russia. Details about both events may be found in my blog of May 20th. Perhaps the most impressive figures from the heat wave of May 19-21 was the new all-time national heat record set in Estonia (33.1°C/91.6°F at Kunda on May 19th) and at St. Petersburg, Russia with 33.0°C (91.4°F) also on May 19th. Records in St. Petersburg date back to 1881 and the previous May record was just 30.9°C (87.6°F) set in 1958.



An intense hailstorm pounded Bucharest, Romania on May 4th causing some damage and washing into deep drifts on some city streets. Photographer not identified.

In the U.K. it was generally warmer and wetter than average and unusually cloudy. As the Met Office put it “it was the dullest(cloudiest) May for the U.K. since 1991” with just 82% of normal sunshine hours. The warmest temperature measured was 26.3°C (79.3°F) at Heathrow Airport (London) on May 19th and the coldest -5.0°C (23.0°F) at Cromdale, Moray on May 2nd. The heaviest 24-hour precipitation event netted 57.4 mm (2.26”) at Capel Curig, Conwy on May 10-11.

AFRICA

Gambia tied its all-time national heat record (for any month) on May 4th when the temperature rose to 45.5°C (113.9°F) at Kaur, the other occasion being observed at Basse Santa Su also on May 4th but in 2008.

The hottest temperature measured in the southern hemisphere was a 38.3°C (100.9°F) reading at Augrabies Falls, South Africa on May 2nd (this actually tied a similar reading on the same day at Bradshaw in Australia).

ASIA

Like Eastern Europe, the big weather story in Asia during May was an amazing heat wave that occurred in China, Japan, and the Koreas the last week of the month. Beijing saw its warmest May temperature on record with a 41.1°C (106.0°F) reading on May 30th. Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province set its all-time (any month) heat record with a 32.8°C (91.0°F) reading on May 25th. Kunming rests at 1,900 m (6,200’) elevation and at lower elevations in Yunnan a temperature as high as 44.5°C (112.1°F) was observed at Nansha on May 29th. If verified, this would be the hottest temperature ever measured in China during the month of May. The heat wave also broke South Korea’s all-time May heat record with a 37.4°C (99.3°F) reading at Taegu on May 31st. The heat wave pressed eastward and continued into early June. Amazingly, following a very late-season snowfall at sea level locations on Japan’s Hokkaido Island on May 22-23, all-time record heat (for any month) ensued for many locations there by late May and early June. For more about this see my blog of June 3rd and also my my blog of June 10th.

Along with the heat, China saw some devastating flooding on several occasions and different regions over the course of the month. A deluge of up to 482 mm (18.98”) fell in 48 hours in Guangdong Province near Hong Kong on May 17-18. At least 37 deaths were reported in southern China as a result of flooding in mid-May. Earlier in the month, heavy rains in Qingdao resulted in a wall collapse that killed 18 in a house for workers the Chinese state media reported.

Of anecdotal interest, a fall of fish from the sky during a rainstorm was observed in the Chilaw District of Sri Lanka on May 5th. The likely cause was a waterspout that sucked the fish up at sea before dissipating over land and allowing the fish to fall to earth. Some of the fish were 5 cm-8 cm (3”-5”) in length.



A local villager in Chilaw, Sri Lanka harvests one of the fish that fell in the district on May 5th. Photo from BBC.

The hottest temperature measured in the world during May was 50.0°C (122.0°F) at Moen Jo Daro, Pakistan on May 29th.

AUSTRALIA

Overall, it was the 3rd warmest May on record for Australia with several exceptional late fall heat events. The map below illustrates these well:



Map courtesy of ClimateCouncil.org.au

Precipitation was below normal (25% below average) for all but Western Australia where it was considerably above normal (132% of average).





Temperature (top map) and precipitation (bottom map) deciles for Australia during the past May. Maps courtesy of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

The hottest temperature for the month in Australia was 38.3°C (100.9°F) at Bradshaw, Northern Territory on May 2nd and the coldest -9.4°C (15.1°F) at Perisher Valley, New South Wales on May 8th. The greatest calendar day rainfall was 144.0 mm (5.67”) at Daradgee, Queensland on May 16th.

NEW ZEALAND

During May an anomalous westerly flow over most of the country resulted in considerable rainfall in the western and southern sections of the South Island, but relatively dry and sunny conditions for much of the North Island. Milford Sound on the South Island measured 1,337 mm (52.64”) of rainfall, its 2nd wettest May on record since 1929 (beginning of POR). On one day, May 22nd, 256 mm (10.08”) fell, also the 2nd greatest May calendar day rainfall on record. In contrast, no measurable rainfall at all was observed at Wairoa on the North Island, its driest May on record (POR since 1964).

The warmest temperature observed was 26.0°C (78.8°F) at Napier on May 6th and the coldest -7.4°C (18.7°F) at Middlemarch on May 30th. On May 28th, the Whenuapai site in Auckland (POR since 1945) measured its coldest May temperature on record with a -2.5°C (27.5°F) reading.

ANTARCTICA

The coldest temperature in the southern hemisphere and the world during May was –77.1°C (-106.8°F) recorded at Concordia on May 1st.

KUDOS Thanks to Maximiliano Herrera for global temperature extremes data and Jeremy Budd and NIWA for New Zealand data.


Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

The monthly global weather is always an interesting read. Thanks!
Interesting summary, thanks! We Texans are enjoying the rain (minus the fish...) and slightly lower temps while we can.
a heatburst like in Albert Lea, MN, was the cause of the highest temperature measured during winter in France, on February 29, in 1960 with 31.2°C (88.2°F)
Nearly 9 inches of rain fell in Natal from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Sunday alone, according to INMET, Brazil's governmental meteorological department. But those totals are higher since the rain began Friday, first shutting down a FIFA-sanctioned fan fest at Fortress Beach in Natal, and then soaking the city's opening match between Mexico and Cameroon, NBC Sports reports.

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Record rainfall in Sioux Falls causes flooding problems

Sioux Falls received 4.68 inches of rain in the last 24-hours, breaking the previous record of 4.59 inches set on August 1, 1957. That makes it the 3rd wettest June on record, Kyle Wiser of The National Weather Service said…………………. Luverne resident Gary Holmgren said the 6.6 inches of rain in the last 30 hours has washed out several additional roads north of the area near Hardwick, Minnesota.

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NWS-Sioux Falls says the total was 4.65". This is an all-time 24-hour precip record for the city beating the 4.59" set on Aug. 1, 1975 (not 1957). With over 9.00" already this month it is almost a sure thing the city will also break its all-time monthly (any month) precip record of 9.42" set in May 1898. Precip records go back to 1890 in Sioux Falls.

Quoting 5. ColoradoBob1:

Record rainfall in Sioux Falls causes flooding problems

Sioux Falls received 4.68 inches of rain in the last 24-hours, breaking the previous record of 4.59 inches set on August 1, 1957. That makes it the 3rd wettest June on record, Kyle Wiser of The National Weather Service said…………………. Luverne resident Gary Holmgren said the 6.6 inches of rain in the last 30 hours has washed out several additional roads north of the area near Hardwick, Minnesota.

Link
It's official. Sioux Falls now with 9.97" for the month, wettest on record (any month). POR back to 1890, so this is a significant record.

Quoting 6. weatherhistorian:

NWS-Sioux Falls says the total was 4.65". This is an all-time 24-hour precip record for the city beating the 4.59" set on Aug. 1, 1975 (not 1957). With over 9.00" already this month it is almost a sure thing the city will also break its all-time monthly (any month) precip record of 9.42" set in May 1898. Precip records go back to 1890 in Sioux Falls.


Quoting 6. weatherhistorian:

NWS-Sioux Falls says the total was 4.65". This is an all-time 24-hour precip record for the city beating the 4.59" set on Aug. 1, 1975 (not 1957). With over 9.00" already this month it is almost a sure thing the city will also break its all-time monthly (any month) precip record of 9.42" set in May 1898. Precip records go back to 1890 in Sioux Falls.




Brits have been urged to save water ahead of a 14-day dry spell – even though 2014 has been the WETTEST year since records began, reports the Sunday People.

The environment chiefs’ plea came as hundreds of homes lost power today in torrential flooding.


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I just saw that the normal amount of precipitation for the city of Las Vegas, NV by this time of year is 2.05 inches, but the almanac for today says that all they've had so far has been 0.30 inches. Does a drought count when it's in a desert?
What a great question Daisyworld!

Putting Las Vegas aside but looking at the California Drought Monitor it is interesting that even though no rainfall has fallen statewide (with a few minor exceptions) for the past two months there has been no increase in the D 4-5 category (extreme or exceptional drought) coverage of such conditions so far as the monitor is concerned. Of course, normally little rainfall would be expected during this period so, I guess, if no rain falls even until next October, the drought monitor status will not change (since no rainfall until then would be normal). Thus, even though the drought will get worse and worse month by month until the rain falls again next fall (hopefully), the official drought monitor status will likely not change.

Hmm..I'm not sure I really understand how this drought monitor works for places like California and the deserts of the Southwest.



Quoting 9. Daisyworld:

I just saw that the normal amount of precipitation for the city of Las Vegas, NV by this time of year is 2.05 inches, but the almanac for today says that all they've had so far has been 0.30 inches. Does a drought count when it's in a desert?
I would think a drought worsens as its impacts intensify. If plants and animals go dormant or otherwise cope with no rainfall, then there is no impact on them. I think some lungfish do that. Of course, there would be a limit to what can be tolerated.

With all the varied kinds of impacts, answers to the question of whether a drought is getting worse could be quite disparate depending on what impacts you talk about.

Where I live in SE Texas one of the most pernicious impacts is via the shrink-swell clays in the ground. Houston had hundreds of broken water pipes reported each day at the height of the 2011 drought. Even though we have had some decent rains since, the ground where I live has not recovered fully. We are still being affected by that drought.
Quoting 7. weatherhistorian:

It's official. Sioux Falls now with 9.97" for the month, wettest on record (any month). POR back to 1890, so this is a significant record.




Still rewriting the record books at Sioux Falls -

The heaviest storms began around 3 p.m. on Monday, working their way eastward and dropping 3 inches of rain at Sioux Falls Regional Airport. Lincoln County had more rain, and the National Weather Service unofficially reported 7 inches in Worthing.
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TOTAL FOR MONTH: 12.97 inches

THIS IS ALSO THE WETTEST MONTH ON RECORD
BEATING 9.42 INCHES SET IN MAY OF 1898.


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weatherhistorian has created a new entry.
May has come in as the warmest on record in the Japan Meteorological Agency's global data set. Haven't seen anything from NCDC, NASA or the Hadley Centre yet.