Near-average May closes out warm, wet spring for Lower 48

Alaska shatters heat records for spring and year to date

Springtime in Kenai, Alaska.

Springtime in Kenai, Alaska. (Image credit: NOAA iStock)

According to the calendar, summer doesn’t start until June 20.  But for many it felt like it had already arrived.

Spring 2016 was a warm and wet one. The March-to-May temperature average across the contiguous U.S. was 53.7 degrees F, which ranked as the sixth highest in the record. Every state had a spring temperature that was above average, and 15 states were much above average. It was also the the 18th wettest spring on record for the contiguous United States, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

The May average temperature for the Lower 48 states was 60.3 degrees F, putting it near the middle of the record. Above-average temperatures conditions prevailed across the nation’s northern tier, while below-average temperatures stretched from the portions of the mid-Atlantic, to the Southern Plains to Southern Rockies. For the nation, the precipitation total was near average at 3.04 inches, slightly above average.

Despite the near-average May, the first five months of the year turned out to be  the fourth warmest such period on record. Every state was warmer than average for the year to date, and Alaska continued to shatter records for warmth.

Notable climate events for spring and May 2016
Notable climate events for spring and May 2016

Notable events in May and spring include:

  • Alaska: For the first time in its modern climate history, Alaska’s average spring temperature hit 32.0 degrees F, breaking a record set in 1998. A new warm record was also set for the warmest year to date.  
  • Southeast: Tropical Storm Bonnie made landfall near Charleston, SC on May 29. The slow moving storm dumped several inches of rain in the area.

  • Texas: Several torrential local downpours and historic flooding in central and eastern Texas punctuated a wet spring.

  • U.S. Drought: In May, drought conditions improved in western Nevada, Northern California and parts of Hawaii, and expanded in portions of the Southeast. The area of drought in the contiguous U.S. decreased from 15.4 to 12.7 percent.

More: Find NOAA’s reports and download images by visiting the NCEI website.