NOAA: 2004 U.S. weather warm and wet
Hurricanes, wildfires, drought, snowpack and
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[DEC. 18, 2004]
When 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 on historical records dating back to
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 affected 20 states.
A variable year for temperature in the
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists report that,
based on preliminary data, the average temperature for the
contiguous United States for 2004 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 is 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
annual temperature is expected to be approximately 1.8 degrees F
above the 1971-2000 average for 2004, making this one of the five
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.
contrast, much of remainder of the contiguous United States 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 country were above average in all states
except Florida, which was near normal for the season. Fall was
warm across much of the midsection 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
Hurricanes in South and East
feature of the climate in the United States in 2004 was the number
of landfalling tropical systems. Nine systems that affected the
country included six hurricanes, three of which were classified as
major on the Saffir-Simpson Scale of hurricane intensity.
the six hurricanes affected Florida, making it the only state
since 1886 to sustain the impact of four hurricanes in one season.
Texas had four hurricanes in 1886.
Hurricane Charley, rated as Category 4 at landfall in August, was
the strongest hurricane to strike the United States since Andrew
in 1992 and caused an estimated $14 billion in damage. Hurricane
Gaston also affected the country in August, making landfall in
South Carolina. Hurricanes Frances, Ivan and Jeanne quickly
followed Charley in September.
total, the hurricane season cost the United States 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 farther inland. Frances affected 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
affected the West during October. The first major snowfall of the
season associated with these storms was for the Sierra Nevada.
early December, snowpack was 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.
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the wildfire season got an early start in the western part of the
country, 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 United States.
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 and
consumed 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 with the previous
record of 19 days in 1977.
average global temperature anomaly for combined land and ocean
surfaces from January to 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 fourth-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, which is September through November, as
well as November were warmest on record for combined land and
notable climate events and anomalies across the world in 2004 were
an active tropical season in the Northwest Pacific, with Japan
sustaining 10 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.
Sea-surface temperatures in much of the central and east-central
equatorial Pacific increased during the latter half of 2004 as
weak El Niņo conditions developed. Though global effects have been
slow to develop, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center expects the
current El Niņo to persist through early 2005, bringing
drier-than-average conditions to Indonesia, northern Australia and
The National Climatic Data Center is
part of 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 Niņo prediction.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is
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