Record flooding and drought part of range of extreme weather in the United States this summer
(NEW YORK) – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released its 2022 Summer Climate Report, which outlines extreme weather events from June to August in the United States
The report also outlines this year’s rankings compared to previous summers, using data from dozens of weather stations in every state.
Record temperatures in the United States
The summer of 2022 ranks as the third hottest record on record, with the average temperature across the contiguous United States at 73.9 degrees, according to the report. That’s 2.5 degrees above average, just 0.01 degrees behind 1936 (when the dust bowl was in full swing) for second place. The hottest summer on record was in 2021.
It wasn’t just the highs that were suffocating, it was often the lows. The average minimum temperature across the country hit a record high of 62.3 degrees in August, meaning there was not much relief overnight. Houston has broken multiple hottest low temperature records, hitting just 86 degrees after hitting highs above 100 degrees on multiple occasions. Without cooler temperatures at night, the accumulated heat can be dangerous.
Heat is the number one weather-related cause of death each year, and communities have recently taken it more seriously by opening cooling shelters to those most at risk during heat waves.
While some parts of the country have suffered from severe to exceptional droughts, others have had to deal with major floods. Considering the whole country, the rainfall turned out to be average, but the amount of rain you saw depended heavily on the region you were in. For example, Arizona had its seventh wettest summer, while Nebraska was the third driest, according to NOAA.
The monsoon season in the southwest is a typical event during the summer months, but it started earlier than normal this year and occasionally brought flash floods to heavily populated areas. Las Vegas experienced major flooding across the city in late July and again in early August, flooding casinos and killing two.
August also brought an unrelenting rush of rainfall to northern Louisiana and Mississippi.
The multi-day deluge caused major flash flooding in Jackson, Mississippi, where cars were submerged and people were left standing on their roofs waiting for help. More than 153,000 residents did not have access to clean water for weeks after the water treatment plant was shut down during the flooding.
A 1,000 year rainfall event means there is a 1 in 1,000 chance of a flood of this magnitude occurring in any given year. Three such events occurred in August.
On August 2, southern Illinois received one foot of rain in just 12 hours. Near Newtown, Illinois, an incredible 14 inches fell in those 12 hours, according to the National Weather Service.
Death Valley isn’t known for its rainfall, but on August 5, the national park was inundated with 1.70 inches of rain, leading to damaging flooding and trapped visitors. This rainfall broke a record that had lasted for more than 34 years.
Then, on the morning of August 22, the rain started in Dallas and didn’t stop. Heavy downpours caused catastrophic flooding across the city, with many nearby towns recording more than a foot of rainfall.
The governor has declared a disaster for 23 counties in Texas due to rainfall. Although it was destructive for many, it was bittersweet as it helped alleviate the exceptional drought that has plagued this region for months. Water reservoirs rose significantly after hitting record highs just a week earlier, and the US Drought Monitor noted a major improvement in its post-flood update.
Even though there were several bouts of drought-causing rain across the country, the United States ended the summer with 45.5% of its land mass in drought conditions, according to the NOAA report.
The northeast is a region that has seen intensified drought during the summer months. Lawns that were a healthy green hue in May were crisp and yellow in August as the rain stayed away for weeks. As a result, Massachusetts saw extreme drought spread through the eastern half of the state, and severe drought spread to Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York, according to the US Drought Monitor.
Meanwhile, the intense drought has set the stage for a supercharged wildfire season in the west. Gusty winds helped easily spread these fires that had no resistance over time.
In the tropical Atlantic, there was only one word to describe the situation: calm. From July 3 to September 1, there were no named storms in the Atlantic Basin. The 60-day period was the longest storm-free period since 1941, according to the National Hurricane Center.
In September, the tropics began to warm up. Several named storms have formed just around the historic peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. The strongest was Hurricane Fiona, which peaked as a Category 4 storm after bringing disastrous rains to Puerto Rico.
Roasting in Europe
Across the pond, records were just as rampant as they were in America this summer. Europe experienced its hottest summer on record, with several countries roasting in a midsummer heatwave that shattered long-standing records. It peaked on July 19, when dozens of weather stations across the UK exceeded 100 degrees. London soared to an incredible 104 degrees that day, according to the UK Met Office.
Around the world
Globally, the June-August period is tied for the fifth hottest record in 143 years.
“The five warmest June to August periods on record have occurred since 2015,” according to NOAA,
Both hemispheres were above average, and although June-August is winter in the southern hemisphere, temperatures were not as cold as they usually are. Antarctic sea ice during this period was at record lows, according to climatologists at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.
In terms of rain, Pakistan has had to deal with some of the worst flooding in recent history. Extreme monsoon rainfall in August is estimated to have killed more than 1,500 people and destroyed more than 1.7 million homes.
Link to climate change
While not all weather events can be attributed to climate change, some are undoubtedly enhanced by the warming of our world, as explained in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2022 assessment.
An example of this is extreme flooding rain events. With ocean temperatures well above average, there is more moisture in the air due to evaporation. Also, higher temperatures can hold more water, so the likelihood of heavy rain increases with temperature.
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