With the sun setting on 2013, we wanted to look back at some of the major climate and weather events across the U.S. this year.
Overall, this year is likely to come in as the 36th-warmest on record for the contiguous U.S out of 119 years of record keeping. Coming off of the hottest year on record, 2013 might have felt cool - and in some cases, was cool - but the average annual temperature for the contiguous U.S. was still 0.92°F above the 20th century average. Also, this was the first time in 20 years that record lows outpaced record highs.
Globally, the warmth continues. As of November, the Earth hasn’t experienced a month of temperatures below the 20th century average since February 1985 - that's 345 months straight.
In the graphic above, we computed the average 2013 temperature for your market. To put it in perspective with other years, we compared it to last year's record-breaker and the overall long-term average.
Another way in which 2013 differs from 2012 is precipitation. If 2012 was the year of drought, 2013 was the year of the downpour. Major rains drenched the Northeast and Southeast in the summer and Colorado’s Front Range in the fall - breaking all-time rainfall records. Heavy snow also buried parts of the country in February and April and a powerful October snowstorm dumped up to 4 feet of snow in the Dakotas - leaving the National Weather Service staff in Rapid City walking to work. However, even though the overall U.S. drought improved in 2013, California is wrapping up its driest year on record, and parts of Texas and Oklahoma still haven’t had significant relief after four years of severe drought.
The active monsoon season and lack of Santa Ana wind events helped keep wildfires down. This year saw 4.15 million acres burned, which is well below the 10-year average of 6.8 million acres. However, the Rim Fire in California was the state’s third largest in history and the Yarnell Hill Fire killed 19 firefighters in Arizona, making it the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. since 1933.
Tornadoes followed a similar narrative, with fewer tornadoes than average but a few monsters that stood out. An EF-5 tornado ripped through Moore, Okla. on May 20 - only the 59th F-5/EF-5 tornado to be recorded since 1953. Eleven days later, the El Reno tornado became the largest tornado ever measured at 2.6 miles wide. Then, a late season tornado outbreak ripped through the Midwest in November, unusually far north for that time of year.
In comparison, the Atlantic hurricane season was mild and had no outliers to note. Only two hurricanes formed in what was the sixth-quietest hurricane season since 1950. Neither of those was a major hurricanes, defined as a Category 3 or greater by the National Hurricane Center. It’s now been eight years since a major hurricane made landfall in the U.S., extending the record that was set last year.
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