NOAA 2004-111
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: John Leslie
11/16/04

NOAA News Releases 2004
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DRY CONDITIONS RETURN IN THE EAST, RECORD WETNESS IN PARTS OF THE WEST,
ABOVE AVERAGE TEMPERATURES IN THE SOUTH, NOAA REPORTS

Last month, the contiguous United States experienced its eighth wettest October on record, with wetter-than-average conditions across much of the nation, except the East Coast, according to scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Overall, NOAA reported, temperatures and precipitation were above average across the country in October. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

According to NOAA scientists, the average temperature for the contiguous United States for October (based on preliminary data) was 56.3°F (13.5°C), which was 1.5°F (0.8°C) above the 1895-2003 mean, and the 16th warmest October on record. The mean temperature in 18 states was significantly above average, with 7 southern states averaging much warmer than the long-term mean, including Louisiana, which had its third warmest October since at least 1895. Alaska, which experienced a record warm summer, was warmer than average in October, with a statewide temperature of 5.5°F (3.1°C) above the 1971-2000 mean.

After a parade of tropical systems brought record, or near-record, wetness for most East Coast states in September, October was drier than average for many of those same states. Louisville, Ky., had its longest dry stretch (39 days) on record. By contrast, record wet conditions were widespread across parts of the far West. Nevada had its wettest October on record and California had its second wettest.

The first major Pacific storm of the fall season hit California on October 19. Santa Ana received 3.15 inches of rain on October 20, more rain in one day than the previous October monthly record of 1.89 inches set in 1957. Rainfall amounts of 1-4 inches were common along much of California’s coastline and also into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where the precipitation fell as snow. A second large storm during the last week of October brought more rain and snow to California, allowing ski slopes to open early in parts of the Sierra Nevada. Wet conditions during October, resulting in part from Tropical Storm Matthew, also prevailed in the Mississippi Valley following a dry September.

Snowfall disrupted travel in Colorado and parts of the Rockies in October with areas of the Front Range receiving more than a foot of snow from October 31 to November 1. More than 2 inches of snow were recorded in Denver and approximately 4 inches in Boulder.

The precipitation in the West helped alleviate drought conditions that have persisted for six years in some locations. While the recent rain and snow will not eliminate the long-term drought in the region, it will help improve conditions, according to NOAA scientists. At the end of October, 18.4 percent of the western U.S. was in moderate-to-extreme drought, compared with 59.3 percent for September and 80.1 percent for last year at this time, based on a widely used measure of drought, the Palmer Drought Index.

The average global temperature anomaly for combined land and ocean surfaces during October 2004 (based on preliminary data) was 1.15°F (0.64°C) above the 1880-2003 long-term mean. This was the second warmest September since 1880 (the beginning of reliable instrumental records). Land surface temperatures ranked record warm for October and were anomalously warm throughout much of the globe, with notably cooler-than-average conditions in central Canada and northeastern Russia, while the global ocean surface temperature was the third warmest on record for October.

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On the Web:

NOAA: http://www.noaa.gov

NOAA’s National Climate Data Center: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov

Note to Editors: A digital version of the press release including links to data, graphics and analysis, in addition to further national and global data are online at: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/2004/oct/oct04.html