As Category 4 hurricane at landfall, Harvey caused record, catastrophic flooding in Texas and Louisiana
From record heat, fires and floods to hurricanes, tropical storms and even an eclipse, August brought a dramatic and — for those along the Gulf Coast — devastating end to summer as Mother Nature demonstrated her power and ability to awe.
Here’s how the summer, last month and the year to date fared in terms of the climate record:
Climate by the numbers
The average summer U.S. temperature was 72.7 degrees F, 1.3 degrees above average, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Above-average temperatures spanned the western third of the country, while nine states in the South and Midwest observed a cooler-than-average summer. Precipitation totaled 0.87 of an inch above average, making it the 16th wettest summer on record.
The month of August tied with 1921 as the 53rd coolest August on record, with an average temperature across the Lower 48 states of 72 degrees F, 0.1 degree below average. California, Oregon and Washington each had their warmest August on record, while parts of the High Plains and Midwest saw below-average temperatures during the month. The precipitation total for the month was 0.7 of an inch above average, making this August the seventh wettest on record.
The year to date
The year to date (January–August) for the contiguous U.S. was the third warmest on record, with an average temperature of 56.7 degrees F (2.8 degrees above average). All of the Lower 48 states and Alaska observed above-average temperatures during this eight-month period.
Other notable climate events:
Hurricane Harvey makes landfall in Texas: On August 25, Harvey developed rapidly and made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near Rockport, Texas, with winds of 130 miles per hour. This was the first major hurricane, (Category 3 or higher) to hit the U.S. in 12 years. The storm stalled over Texas for five days, dropping extreme rainfall over 40 inches in some areas; it caused catastrophic and life-threatening flooding in parts of Texas and Louisiana.
Record heat in the West: California, Oregon and Washington were record-warm in August. Several large wildfires occurred in the West; however nationally, the area burned by wildfires was near the 21st-century average for August.
Average-to-below-average temperatures in the High Plains and Midwest: Six states had top 10 coolest Augusts on record. Much of this was due to much cooler-than-average afternoon temperatures in the region.
Summer increases in drought: Hawaii saw drought expand to cover 63.5 percent of the islands during the summer. In Montana, drought coverage ballooned from 0.0 percent to 90.2 percent during the season, with nearly one-quarter of the state in the most severe classification.
Brady Phillips, 202-407-1298