Meteorological spring in the northern hemisphere is considered to be during the months of March, April, and May. During these three months, the average temperature across the United States was 57.1 degrees Fahrenheit, which was 5.2 degrees above the long term average. According to the latest information released by NOAA and the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), spring 2012 is officially the warmest spring ever recorded since records began in 1895. 2012 beat out the year 1910 by a remarkable 2.0 degrees in Fahrenheit in the United States. The period from January through May in the United States saw an average temperature of 49.2°, or 5 degrees above the average. Overall, the United States experienced the second warmest summer, fourth warmest winter, and the warmest spring on record.
The past 12 months in the United States:
There is no doubt the past 12 months across the United States has been unusually warm, especially east of the Rocky Mountains. The only areas across the United States that experienced below average temperatures were across the Pacific Northwest and across Alaska during the winter and early spring period. The June 2011 through May 2012 was the warmest 12 month period of any 12 months on record for the contiguous United States. According to NOAA, the nationally-averaged temperature of 56.0°F was 3.2°F above the long-term average, surpassing the previous record, set last month (May 2011-April 2012), by 0.4°F. Every state located east of the Rocky Mountains experienced a top five warmest 12 month period (June through May). In fact, 26 states had their warmest such period on record. It is important to note that while the United States experienced warm temperatures, other areas across the globe did experience extremely cold temperatures. In a warming climate, weather extremes can become more common.
January 2012 through May 2012 period in the contiguous United States:
With the United States experiencing the fourth warmest winter and the warmest spring on record, it is not at all surprising to see that the period from January 2012 through May 2012 was the warmest such record for the U.S. The average temperature from January 2012-May 2012 was 49.2°F, which is 5°F above the long-term average. In Alaska, NCDC reports that temperatures were cooler than average during this time period making it the 15th coolest January-May period. Alaska experienced temperatures 3.2°F below average.
May 2012 in the contiguous United States:
May 2012 was the second warmest May in the contiguous U.S. on record since record keeping began in 1895. The average temperature was around 64.3°F, which is 3.3° above average. Warmer than average temperatures were seen all throughout the contiguous U.S., with every state east of the Rocky Mountains experiencing above average temperatures. The Pacific Northwest experienced areas of low pressure and troughs in the region which provided the area to see below average temperatures (Washington/Oregon) for the month of May 2012. Rainfall was limited in the southwest United States where wildfires grew in parts of New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. Meanwhile, drought conditions did improve across the coastal areas of the Southeast as two early tropical systems formed across the region and provided beneficial rains. As of June 5, 2012, the biggest and most significant drought area is across central and southwest Georgia. Out of all statistics for the month of May, the most amazing one has to be the lack of severe weather experienced in the country. In fact, no tornado related deaths were reported in the United States for the month of May 2012. Statistically, May is one of the most active months for tornadoes, especially across the Central Plains. Instead, most of the damage by severe storms were wind or hail related.
Bottom line: The United States experienced the second warmest summer, fourth warmest winter, and the warmest spring on record since record keeping began in 1895. June 2011 through May 2012 was the warmest 12 month period ever recorded in the contiguous United States. May 2012 came in as the second warmest May in the contiguous United States. Snow cover was the third smallest on record in the contiguous United States. Overall, you can see that it has been rather warm across the United States for the past 12 months. What will the summer bring for the country? What was the global climate like the past few months? We will look into these details in later posts. Until then, don’t sweat too much!
Matt Daniel is weekend Meteorologist for 13WMAZ (CBS) in Macon, Georgia, and founder of the blog Athens GA Weather. He's a self-described "big weather and music geek" and has produced weather content for CNN, MSN Weather and EarthSky. He has a passion for helping to keep people safe when severe weather strikes and says if you don't have a NOAA Weather Radio ... you should get one.