Meteorological summer is coming to a close this weekend, which makes it a good time to take a look back at the season. In this week's graphic, we show where your city stands compared to average with temperatures and rainfall.
**Note: we know that there are a few days left in the month, but we used the latest possible data at the release of these graphics - August 27. If you are getting rain or experiencing extreme heat and would like to use this graphic on air with the latest numbers for your city, please contact us (email@example.com) and we will get an updated graphic to you.
In the eastern half of the country, the story this summer was the rain. For years, climate scientists have predicted that the planet’s warming atmosphere will be able to hold onto more and more water vapor. When that vapor condenses and falls as rain, the downpours will be heavier than they used to be. That now seems to be happening.
Cities including Philadelphia, PA; Asheville, N.C.; Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.; and Miami set all-time rainfall records for July. Philly also set a new one-day record of 8.02” in late July — shattering the old record that was set during Tropical Storm Floyd — and the wettest July came on the heels of the wettest June on record. So it's no surprise that Philly had its wettest meteorological summer since records began in 1872. Meanwhile, Atlanta surpassed it's average rainfall for the entire year as of mid-August.
All of that rain did hold daytime temperatures down from recent summers, but it also stopped overnight low temperatures from dropping. Since overnight lows and daytime highs are both an equal part of the average temperature equation, many of the soaked towns still experienced an average to above average summer temperature-wise. In fact, Hartford, CT had its warmest July on record without setting one daytime record high temperature.
Out West, it was a story of different extremes. Temperatures soared while drought spread and intensified in many places. An active monsoon lead to pockets of heavy rain (that created a few deadly flooding events), but most of the West baked under some level of drought - with drought conditions expanding into the Northwest and intensifying across California and Texas. As for temperatures, Death Valley tied the all time U.S. June temperature record on June 30 at 129 degrees. That record was the peak of an extended stretch of intense heat that really dug in across much of the West. Warm air even made its way to the Pacific Northwest Coast this summer, where temperatures are running above average for the season. This is all being capped by the current record breaking heat wave that has now taken hold across the Upper Midwest.
The heat and drought across the West contributed to devastating wildfires in several states, which are still ongoing (find more wildfire information below in our special section). However, the summer tornado count is running way below average and we haven't had a single hurricane yet this season - which has only happened 25 times since records began in 1851.
Climate change is influencing the growing number and size of wildfires across the West. Rising temperatures and changing snowpack trends since the 1970s have made the Western U.S. more vulnerable to wildfires. As temperatures rise, mountain snowpack is shrinking and melting earlier in the spring. This leaves forests drier and more likely to burn. Last year's Climate Central analysis shows that the number of larger fires burning on federal land in the West has doubled since 1970. And in some states, including Arizona and Idaho, have tripled or even quadrupled.
We have listed a variety of multimedia content below for you to explore.
1) Interactive Wildfire Tracker
2) Latest Wildfire Stories:
3) Our Previous Wildfire Graphic
4) NASA: Nighttime View of California's Rim Fire
5) NOAA: Rim Fire Threatens Yosemite