NOAA REPORTS WET,
WARM YEAR FOR THE U.S. IN 2004
Hurricanes, Wildfires, Drought, Snowpack and Flooding All Notable
2004 ends, it will rank among the top 10 wettest years on record for
the contiguous United States, and is expected to be warmer than average,
according to scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s
National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. The findings are based
on preliminary data, and historical records dating back to 1895. While
parts of the West remained in drought, rainfall was above average in
33 states, especially in the South and East, partly due to the effects
of tropical storms and hurricanes, which impacted 20 states. NOAA, The
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is an agency of the
U.S. Department of Commerce.
year for temperature in the U.S.
scientists report that the average temperature for the contiguous
United States for 2004 (based on preliminary data) will likely be
approximately 53.5 degrees F (11.9 degrees C), which is 0.7 degrees
F (0.4 degrees C) above the 1895-2003 mean, and the 24th warmest year
on record. Based on data through the end of November, the mean annual
temperature in two states (Washington and Oregon) is expected to be
much above average, with 30 states being above average, 16 contiguous
states near average and no state below the long-term mean.
annual temperature is expected to be approximately 1.8 degrees F above
the 1971-2000 average for 2004, one of the 5 warmest years for the
state, since reliable records began in 1918. Alaska had a record warm
summer with a statewide temperature of 4.6 degrees F (2.6 degrees
C) above the 1971-2000 mean. May, June, July and August were all record
breaking for the state. Much of the west coast also had record or
near record temperatures for the summer of 2004. In contrast much
of remainder of the contiguous U.S. was relatively cool during June-August,
including several cities in the Upper Midwest that had afternoon high
temperatures in the low 50s during the middle of August.
temperatures across the U.S. were above average in all states, except
Florida, which was near normal for the season. Fall was warm across
much of the mid-section of the country, but the West remained near
average. Winter began relatively warm in November and early December
for states from the Upper Midwest to the East Coast.
in South and East
major feature of the climate in the U.S. in 2004 was the number of
landfalling tropical systems. Nine systems affected the U.S. including
six hurricanes, three of which were classified as major on the Saffir-Simpson
Scale of hurricane intensity. Four of the six hurricanes affected
Florida, making it the only state since 1886 to sustain the impact
of four hurricanes in one season (Texas also had four hurricanes in
1886). Hurricane Charley in August was the strongest hurricane (category
4 at landfall) to strike the U.S. since Andrew in 1992 and caused
an estimated $14 billion in damage. Hurricanes Frances, Ivan and Jeanne
quickly followed Charley in September.
Gaston also impacted the U.S. in August making landfall in South Carolina.
In total, the hurricane season cost the U.S. an estimated $42 billion,
the most costly season on record. That record has been calculated
back to 1900. While there was extensive wind damage in Florida and
other coastal locations, flooding was the major impact further inland.
Frances impacted the Southeast and southern Appalachians after a wetter-than-average
summer, causing millions of dollars in flood damage to the region.
Shortly thereafter Ivan traveled a similar path through the mountains
and led to widespread flooding, loss of power and landslides.
contrast to the excessive rainfall in the East, much of the West began
the year with a long-term rainfall deficit. A four-to-five-year drought
in parts of the West intensified during the first half of 2004 as
precipitation remained below average. Drier-than-average summer conditions
coupled with warmer than normal temperatures in the West exacerbated
the drought conditions still further during June-August. Short-term
drought relief occurred in the fall as two large storms impacted the
West during October. The first major snowfall of the season was associated
with these storms for the Sierra Nevada. As of early December, snowpack
is above average in Utah, Arizona and Nevada, but significantly below
average throughout much of the Northwest as well as the eastern slope
of the Rockies. Near year’s end, moderate to extreme drought
continued to affect large parts of the West, including Montana, Idaho,
Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, California, Arizona and Colorado.
the wildfire season got an early start in the western U.S., and record
warm temperatures combined with less-than-average precipitation raised
fire danger across the West through the summer, the season concluded
as below average for the contiguous U.S. However, a record number
of acres were burned in Alaska in 2004. Alaska and the adjacent Yukon
Territory of Canada saw a rapid increase in fire activity in June,
which was sustained through August consuming over 6.6 million acres
in Alaska. In Fairbanks, on 42 of the 92 days of summer, visibility
was reduced from smoke associated with the wildfires. This compares
to the previous record of 19 days in 1977.
average global temperature anomaly for combined land and ocean surfaces
from January-December 2004 (based on preliminary data) is expected
to be 0.55 degrees F (0.31 degrees C) above the 1880-2003 long-term
mean, making 2004 the 4th warmest year since 1880 (the beginning of
reliable instrumental records). Averaged over the year, land surface
temperatures were anomalously warm throughout western North America,
southern and western Asia and Europe. Boreal fall (September-November)
as well as November were warmest on record for combined land and ocean
notable climate events and anomalies across the world in 2004, include
an active tropical season in the Northwest Pacific, with Japan sustaining
ten tropical storm landfalls, exceeding the previous record of six;
below normal monsoon rainfall for India, especially in the Northwest
part of the country; flooding in Northeastern India from monsoon rains
in June-October; a rare hurricane in the South Atlantic in March;
and an extensive and severe heat wave in Australia during February.
temperatures in much of the central and east-central equatorial Pacific
increased during the latter half of 2004 as weak El Niño conditions
developed. Though global impacts have been slow to develop, NOAA’s
Climate Prediction Center expects the current El Niño to persist
through early 2005, bringing drier-than-average conditions to Indonesia,
northern Australia and southeastern Africa.
The National Climatic Data Center is part NOAA Satellite and Information
Services, America’s primary source of space-based oceanographic,
meteorological and climate data. NOAA Satellite and Information Services
operates the nation’s environmental satellites, which are used
for ocean and weather observation and forecasting, climate monitoring,
and other environmental applications. Some of the oceanographic applications
include sea-surface temperature for hurricane and weather forecasting
and sea-surface heights for El Niño prediction.
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the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and
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2004 data and graphics: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/2004/ann/ann04.html
hurricane summary: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/2004/hurricanes04.html