Environment News Service (ENS)

2006 Third Warmest Year on Record Across USA

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Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

ASHEVILLE, North Carolina - This year's average annual temperature for the lower 48 states is likely to be the third warmest on record, according to scientists at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center in Asheville. The only warmer years occurred in 1998 and 1934.

Based on preliminary data, NOAA scientists report that the 2006 annual average temperature for the contiguous United States is likely to be two degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) above the 20th century mean.

The annual global temperature for 2006 is expected to be sixth warmest since recordkeeping began in 1880, NOAA scientists said. Last year was the warmest on record for the globe.

The year is noted for widespread drought and record wildfires, as well as heavy precipitation and flooding in some parts of the country.

Three months - January, April and July - were either warmest or second warmest on record, while only September and October were cooler than average.

A July heat wave set all-time records in a number of locations across the central and western parts of the country, breaking records that had stood for decades in many places.

Drought coverage fell from the July peak to 25 percent by early December. Widespread severe drought remains over much of the southern Plains, the northern High Plains and northern Rockies, as well as parts of Arizona and Minnesota.

The warmer than average conditions affected residential energy demand across the United States in opposing ways as measured by the nation's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index.

NOAA scientists determined that the nation's residential energy demand was nine percent less during the winter and 13 percent higher during the summer than that which would have occurred under average climate conditions.

For the lower 48 states as a whole, five of the first seven months of the year were drier than average. Combined with unusually warm temperatures, drought conditions persisted in much of the country.

By late July, half of the country was in moderate to exceptional drought, as reported by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Above average precipitation from August through November helped end drought in many areas, although in places such as western Washington, record rainfall in November led to extensive flooding.

Drought and soaring temperatures contributed to a record wildfire season for the nation, with more than 9.5 million acres burned through early December, most of it in the lower 48 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

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